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Friday, July 26, 2013

Landing Apollo: Making a Smooth Transition from the Mission Field to Home

I almost missed my flight. Almost. My ticket said I had to be at Gate G, and I was barely making it through gates A and B with only ten to fifteen minutes left before my flight boarded. After minutes of frantic running and wheezing, I safely got onto the plane. The layover from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the pristine Incheon to Tyson-McGhee was easy and seamless. And, at the conclusion of my destination I felt happy to be back, but things didn't feel the same. One of my initial thoughts on 
the drive back was how green everything was compared to the concrete jungle that is Bangkok. A flood of thoughts came streaming through my mind and I lost it. How was it that the place I called home for 20+ years felt so foreign to me in that moment?

It's been almost two months since I've arrived home. I feel like the transition's been fairly successful, but then I also feel like there are still some re-adjustments that haven't come full circle yet. I'm not an expert on this subject, but I do know what the re-entry experience is like. So, I've come up with some tips that will hopefully help make your transition a lot smoother.

1. Talk About It

I still struggle with this one, which I find to be dangerous. I say this because, let's say one day you go to Walmart and for the life of you cannot understand why the bagels you want have to be in the refrigerated section. Not only that, but you don't like how there are also two different types of Soymilk in two different areas, the self-check out never works, you hate the way people park their cars...the list goes on. In short, if you don't talk to a few trusted people about what you're going through, there's a chance you'll overreact to things that don't bother other people around you because the small dissimilarities have built up and you haven't had a chance to vent and process.

2. It Takes Time

The re-entry process is a process and it doesn't happen overnight. I was in an urban area with many foreigners so I didn't think that my re-entry experience would be that bad, and it hasn't been for the most part, but because I invested in my environment and adapted there are new traits that are unique to Thailand and to my mission assignment that they will remain parts of me forever. It also takes time to heal wounds and let go of problems that you faced. I encountered a whole slew of them (but I also promised myself to leave on a good note) and I would say that I'm still in the healing process. Don't beat yourself up over this one.

3. Eliminate Expectations

Before you left to serve abroad, you were probably told not to have expectations. The same is true  when you come back. It's not just the newness of a place that messes us up, but also how we expect things to bend to our wants and standards.

4. Set Goals, Make A Plan

One of my biggest fears before leaving Thailand was that I would backslide in my growth. I had gone through so many changes, and I knew that at home things would feel familiar again and there would be fewer situations to challenge me. Thankfully (or maybe not) I am a person who likes to have a plan. I like certainty, I don't like to leave room for doubt. To avoid being completely sucked into lazy summer mode, I mapped out some goals and objectives. I started tutoring a refugee mother. I took up a samba dance program with my sister. I even learned a few Chinese words. My heart is set on returning overseas for good, but I know I'll have to be a certified teacher before I do that. So, I set a long-term goal to return to school next fall.

5. Don't Despair

The information I've posted here are mere guidelines. Your experience might be radically different from mine, and you might not agree with everything I've written. But, when you find that life isn't turning out the way you planned, don't give up. I know it's hard. I've been there. As someone once told me, "You're not the first, and you won't be the last," and there is always a way out.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Final Blog Post in Thailand

Hello dear readers, I hope you are all doing well. I know it's been forever since I've last posted.
The feedback that I've been receiving has been positive and encouraging. It sounds like you guys want me to continue writing, so I will do just that. Even after I leave Thailand. Before working on my latest post, I scrolled through and read my old ones. I have three different blogs that I've created for different reasons. My first one was created for a botany assignment I had sophomore year, and boy was it fun to look back on all of my micro-aquarium posts and pictures. I'm such a nerd! I can't help it but I'm also proud. :)

My experience in Thailand has been, well.... an experience. Externally, a lot has happened during my ten-month duration, but there has also been a heck of a lot of growth. I praise the Lord.
He has put me through the fire, refining me all the while, and He has also gotten me through some very hard moments. Dear readers, I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I wanted to pack up and go home. There was one point where I asked to be transferred to a different mission field, but in the end I stayed in Bangkok and stuck it out. I'm glad I did.

Recently, I had been so angry at God. I was just thinking about all of the circumstances I've endured, and I kept asking the question, "why?" and how so many things seemed so unfair. I didn't understand a lot of things. I still don't. I felt like it seemed so unfair for God to put me through such a difficult ordeal here in Thailand and letting that experience be my only experience. Yet, He has revealed His love and protection for and towards me; and He didn't have to either. I don't know. I just get so frustrated sometimes, but God is so kind and loving and patient.

I have never gone into the full details of all that's happened to me in this blog, but I will.
Currently, I am in the beginnings of a new writing project and that is guaranteed to have specific details of my encounters and the problems that this mission field holds. The reason why I stopped blogging for so many months, among other reasons, was the fact that so many negative things were becoming a part of my daily life and to continually write about it would have put me in a state of despair. Not only that, but people have this image of what missionary work is supposed to look like. When people have expectations of your current situation, and it ends up being something different,
it becomes a huge letdown. And, at least for me, I didn't have the heart to tell people how it really was, the reality of it all. Plus, I didn't want to feel like I was complaining all the time. So I kept most everything to myself. Even my mom didn't know everything. There are a select number of people in my environment who know exactly what I have been through. I think in a way God placed them as guardian angels in my life. I will miss them. I could not have survived without them.

Oh, I'm getting really excited about my essay now. The main thing I'm scared of is that in the process of recollecting my experiences and remembering every detail I will begin to feel all the hurt and anger again, and I've really been praying a lot and talking to God about this. I promised myself a long time ago that I would not leave this place jaded, even though I am justified and many others before me have left feeling this way. But I just can't. I won't. So I'm asking God to heal my heart, my brokenness, and to forgive. And I guess I am also asking you, readers, to pray for me as well. Let us all pray for each other, always.

Much love,


Sunday, January 13, 2013

When Things Go from Bad To Worse

Hello all! Happy New Year! This is my first post that I've blogged in a long time; I figured it's a new start, so why not try it again? I'll probably be posting bi-monthly or monthly rather than weekly for the remainder of my stay.

How was your Christmas and New Year? I had a great time spending the holidays with my family. I stayed in the Philippines for sixteen days, and it was lovely. I miss being in the Philippines. A lot. And I want to go back. Now. Returning to Thailand was exhausting because of my flight schedule and the proceeding events didn't help to make my welcome feel any better. Quite honestly, you really shouldn't trust yourself when you've constantly been sleep deprived and your body and mind are re-adjusting to another environment. I spent a good deal of time this afternoon in reflection, prayer, and scripture reading. I needed it. Ever since I've been back I feel like I've been performing, going through the motions. And that sucks. On the one hand, I can perform, or keep an appearance, because certain life-long expectations have led me to build up an image that I can wear whenever it's needed. On the other hand, it sucks because it would be nice to make a decision without thinking about how it will affect other people.

I mean to say all of this because I had recently reached a point to where I didn't like the character I had become. I began to see my selfishness, pride, greed, angst, negativity. And none of that is holy. God was showing signs that He still needed me here, but I was already at a place where I didn't really care anymore. Even still, I didn't dare verbalize my situation because I didn't want to seem like I was complaining all the time (which I probably do anyways). Dear readers, please pray for me. Having faith doesn't always come naturally to me. My mom has said time and time again that I am a doubting Thomas, a Jonah. I'd like to believe that I have enough faith because that's what brought me here, and that's what will keep sustaining me up until the very last moment of my mission in Thailand. So please, pray that God will renew my heart, because I can't keep serving Him if I keep feeding self instead of surrendering everything down at His feet. I'll close with a thought that will hopefully be a source of inspiration for your walk with God as it is for me.

An Invitation to Abundant Life

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts....

For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall slap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the Lord for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

~Isaiah 55~