Some days I just want to throw my hands up and scream. Some days I do. I was sincerely encouraged by a blog I read called “Debunking 5 Myths about expat life” http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com/journey/debunking-5-myths-expat-life/ If you have a few extra minutes, it is a very good read. Though we are in a developing country, we experience much of the same stresses. The most appropriate analogy I can think of for culture shock came while I was having one of these days. Culture shock isn’t like the flu, a lingering and exhausting sickness. Rather, it is more similar to electricity. It comes in huge waves that are way more powerful than any preparation can prepare you for. Sometimes it really does feel like we are being electrocuted with culture. It can make you angry, depressed, anxious, fearful, or even just simply exhausted. I, being coined by a friend as “obnoxiously optimistic” gave every effort to somehow “break the circuit” of “culture shock”. Yet it is entirely unavoidable. We praise God daily for the prayers that have rallied up around us during some of the hardest days here in France. Last week I heard my son say “I want to go back to the states and never ever come back here” Five different times. That was NEVER. EVER. An immeasurably powerful statement from a 4 year old. This normally occurs after something frustrating happens that is out of his control…just as it does for me. Something such as his toy getting broken at the playground. For he and I both it is the constant smell of cigarette smoke in our daily life, or the inability to freely be noisy in our 4th floor apartment (it bothers the neighbors). Some days I would love to buy something for my kids without having to think about how it will fit in a suitcase or whom we are going to give it to when we have to leave here. I just want to speak French and have someone not tell me “I don’t speak Spanish” in return. Understand, I’m not whining. This is not a blog of complaint that can be appeased by simple “Hang in there’s”. This is me coping with the calling that God has laid before us. Hundreds of miles from family during both of our kids’ birthdays, during the challenges and trials of close friends and family, we keep in touch via email, or Face book. We have it much nicer than many missionaries; we can Facetime at our convenience, we can make calls to friends and family from our home phone. We can walk to a grocery store or order pizza. I say nicer because there is no such thing as “easy” culture shock, or even an “easy” calling for that matter.
Some days I almost feel like I am stateside. Today was one of them….for about an hour. Flyers were handed out at Lucas’ school for a small Farmers Fair about 4 blocks from us. Lyon is a big city, especially for us mid-western farm landers. It makes us laugh often because our team mates don’t see how Lyon is so vastly huge to us and are amused by how awed I (Andi) am at the number of people here. Anywhoo, I digress. The Farmers Fair had 2 milk cows, 3 sheep, 2 goats, 8 or 9 rabbits, 2 pigs, some chickens and many venders selling fresh food. It was hosted by people that were a part of the “ Le Jeunes Agriculteurs” or “The Young Farmers”. We watched the farmer hook a milking machine up to a cow and milk the cow. He then shared fresh warm milk with the people who were around. Seeing the animals and the small fair atmosphere made me feel like we were back in Indiana. The kids had a blast, as we don’t get to see these animals often here. We do have friends who live in the more rural area outside of Lyon and we get to see the beautiful countryside when we visit them. During these visits the throb of electricity lessens. We breathe a little easier. As we came home from the fair I licked my “Chocolat Menthe glase” “Mint chocolate ice cream” and smiled. For the moment the kids were ecstatic. It topped out at 70 degrees today and though I had some good French interaction, it was brief and I was okay with that. We arrived home, and it made me smile that Lucas is so confident on how to get home from our normal routes. Then we hopped on the elevator and joined the lady who lives below us who has previously commented on our noise level. She was so excited to see the kids and gave them a squeeze. This also brought me peace. Then it happened. The small, stupid interaction that happens at least ten times a week to me, but to no one else on our team. Yes, I know, comparison is equal to unhappiness, but it’s impossible to avoid when it’s this obvious. The neighbor turned to me and said in French “I don’t speak English, I’m sorry I can’t understand you.” She then told me how unhappy it makes her because she wants to interact with us. I understood everything she said, but when I responded in French, she couldn’t understand me. I have been spending time praying that God would give me peace, and that He would give me a supernatural ability to learn French and that His purpose would be fulfilled in me here. I have asked Him to lead me, and show me what it is He wants me to see while I am here. I ask Him over and over. Because I know He can. I ask great things of God because He is a God of greatness. I have no doubt in our calling, or in the obedience it requires. My Lord is big enough. These burdens, the shock, the doubt, the inability, are not things that frighten or overwhelm Him. He is my God of peace. He has given me great joy in building a relationship with my teammate Melissa, and through the challenges we have experienced during our time here our friendship has grown tremendously. He has allowed us to become a part of a church here, and the people have been very encouraging and loving to us.
This next month will be a whirlwind for our teammates as they travel to the States for a brief time and then return with visitors! Our kiddos have grown very close to Eric, Melissa and Sophia and I am sure we all will miss them while they travel. Would you please be praying for us? For our team and for language learning? Also, please pray that God’s grace would be ever present in the hard times of culture shock. Please ask God to direct you in the part you might take in the adventure He has set before us! Would you like to be a regular prayer partner? Is there a chance you might be willing to join us on the field? Perhaps you would like to support us financially as we work with Pioneer Bible Translators preparing for our journey to West Africa. We would love to share more information with you!
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