We arrived at Big Woods (FMC) last Saturday evening and have just completed our first week of formation. Part of formation this week was a series of talks introducing us to life in missions. Such as what our relationship with God is, what our identity is, how much God loves us and how we have chosen to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. We have also been doing lots of praise and worship and prayer and reflection. One of the reflections was based on the bible reading of Romans 12 in that we are many parts, but we are all one body. I have often thought of the missionary vocation as being the part of the feet.
In the beautiful adoration chapel at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in Fargo, there is a larger than life depiction of the last supper as stained- glass windows behind our Lord in the monstrance. I used to stare at the feet of Jesus wrapped up in his sandals and I used to long to wear those same sandals. I sketched a picture of those feet in my prayer journal. I knew that the longing came from the Holy Spirit and that it didn’t make much sense outside of this calling to missions. Although, if we rightly see missions as the calling of every Christian, then it should make sense to everyone, that we would want to follow in Christ’s footsteps. But the way we follow in his footsteps is so unique to everyone. We all can’t just be the feet or the hands or the mind or the heart. God created each of us to be our own specific part of the body of Christ on earth. You were created to do something that NO one else can do. If you choose not to seek out the purpose of your life in God’s eyes, and what he wants you to do, then he will choose someone else to work through, but he has to do it in an entirely new way, unique to the gifts that he has given them.
I have developed an increased awareness of being the feet in the past three years of discernment into foreign missions. When we were in Haiti, I was wearing a pair of Chacos on my feet. In meeting a long-term fellow missionary with FMC, I was sitting next to her on the bus that was taking us to L’Asile. She said, “I like your sandals. I always heard you have to be a missionary to wear Chacos.” I looked down at my feet, proud to be sitting among lots of missionaries for the first time in my life, and to be counted among them for a second, even if I was at that point just a week-long mission-tripper.
Later in the week we had what they call a “Desert Day,” where we go out into nature or somewhere quiet and reflect on God’s word and what he is speaking to us. I was frustrated and crabby that day because it was super-hot and buggy, and I was dealing with some back pain. Right when we got there two of our kids had to “use” the bathroom and so I had to figure that out alone, since Brad and I were switching off going alone to pray, and he was first.
When it was my turn, my irritableness upped a notch when I couldn’t find anywhere that someone else was, and when I did it was a path full of goat poop with nowhere to sit down. But, I found a tiny uncomfortable rock to sit on and tried to read my bible. It was a dry time. Nothing stood out to me and I felt like God had left me. I was SO looking forward to desert day from reading other missionaries’ blogs and this was so anti-climactic. I got nothing. I felt like I was on a date with God and he was just staring into his phone. I put the book down and looked out at the amazingly beautiful mountain hills that reached up to the clear blue sky, and tried to just be with God. Sometimes it’s not the profound Holy Spirit-filled encounters that say the most. Sometimes it’s the simplest thing that speaks to our hearts. And if we’re not carefully listening, we would miss them altogether. So here I was begging God to shout something to my heart, you know, like “I want you guys to be foreign missionaries!” and again, nothing. Then I looked down at my feet and here’s what I hear. “You’ve got to be a missionary to wear Chacos.” I smiled. Who would’ve thought a silly little statement seemingly without any weight to it would mean so much to me in that instant. That moment has been one of the most meaningful moments of my discernment life. And it was far beyond anything I had been hoping for. And it wasn’t a shout, but a whisper.
Fast forward to this first week at Big Woods. It has been a hard adjustment. The trip went pretty quick and was pretty painless, but when we arrived here we found out we were staying in one of the trailers furthest away from the community house. We had to walk through swampy grass to get to it. I was pretty bummed that weren’t staying near the other families or closer to the community house. I was trying to make the best of it and trying not to complain according to the guidelines of having a missionary heart. After all, we gave it all up to follow Jesus into missions. We don’t get to choose where we live any more or have the funds to decorate as we’d normally like. Someone had to stay in the last trailer, as my dear husband pointed out, why not us? So, I’m organizing and putting things away, and trying to get settled that first night and I’m in our new bedroom of this newly added old oil rig trailer and all of a sudden, my toe is screaming to me in pain. I look down and think I saw some sort of bug, but it’s nowhere to be seen now and I have no idea what bit me. If I had to guess I’d say it’s some sort of gigantic mosquito that hurts like a bee sting. So, I nurse my toe with some essential oils and move on. Later that night I see a cockroach scurrying across our kitchen floor. Brad tries to conquer it, but it is faster than we know yet, and it goes off somewhere to laugh at his efforts. My feet are now timid to walk amid the trailer at night. We just aren’t used to this. Later on, as we are walking back and forth to the community house, my feet are getting hammered by these larger than normal size mosquito bites. Did you know that bites hurt worse on the feet than anywhere else on the body? Maybe not enough flesh? I don’t know… I do know I hadn’t been sleeping very well due to the bites on my feet. Then last night we went to a pool party that some locals host every year for all the missionaries at intake. I’m sitting at a table just eating my dinner and chatting away and all of a sudden, my feet are stinging on fire. I look down. Fire ants.
I’m thinking of this verse again, “How beautiful are the feet on the mountain of those who bring the good news.” I cherish the image I have in my head of Mother Teresa’s feet. They are most precious in all their glory of love and broken-ness. The brokenness for Christ. The brokenness of giving up her life, of denying herself and taking up her cross and following Jesus, despite the cost. Because Jesus gave his life to be brutally tortured for the sake of love, despite the cost. And he’d choose to do it again if he had to, for the sake of his love for you and for me. My feet are still hurting as I write this. A constant reminder of what I’ve chosen to do. But I can only hope that I can continue to tread on this path that leads me to the broken and unreached with these poor feet of mine. In hopes that I won’t weary of trying to follow in Christ’s footsteps and be the part of the body of Christ that God had planned for me since before I was born. There is a part you were born for that God envisioned for you. How beautiful it would be to see all our parts played out in the way they were meant to be! I pray that we will all be open to carrying out His most perfect plan for us in the way it was meant to be.
“…and we boast of our hope for the glory of God. But not only that – we even boast of our afflictions! We know that affliction makes for endurance, and endurance for tested virtue, and tested virtue for hope. And this hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” –Romans 5: 2-5
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect” ~Romans 12:2