I was sitting on the couch in our apartment, going through my mental checklists. There was so much to do to prepare for our home assignment as well as complete our ministry and language learning tasks in the Czech Republic. Despite the difficult circumstances we were experiencing with dissolving the current ministry partnership, I feel really proud that we were able to finish strong. As excited as I was to come visit friends, family, and have some relief from the tight COVID restrictions, I was also wondering, how would home assignment be for us? How would we experience reverse culture shock? Would I get overwhelmed going into Walmart, like I’ve heard so many other missionaries or those who have lived overseas?
Right when we landed in the Chicago airport, we were struck by the fact that we could hear English! Everyone was speaking English! It was unbelievable! While we were sitting in the restaurant waiting for our order of boneless buffalo wings, we could understand the other diners’ conversations. How strange.
During the first weeks, we had a lot of errands to run. With our borrowed car, we were zipping around town, enjoying the wide streets and street signs we easily understood. Zack said he felt guilty that things were so easy. The biggest shock for me was going into stores and having store employees be polite and helpful! They didn’t make me feel like a nuisance just because I needed something. Sorry Czech friends. Your country isn’t known for its’ stellar customer service, but I can see how Americans’ friendliness could be unnerving as it makes it difficult to tell who is being genuine. For my shopping experience, however, it was great!
A few days after arrival, we did have a moment where we were both overwhelmed after entering Target. I stood there, near the entrance, not knowing where to start. There were so many options! So many colorful and fun things to look at! Eventually, I made my way through the store, my eyes soaking up all the tie-dye scrunchies, watermelon face masks, and summer-scented candles along the way.
At the beginning of April, while we were still in the Czech Republic, Zack and I stood on the old city wall overlooking a park. I felt like I was bumbling through life, making a total mess of things while I was surrounded by other people bumbling through life making an even bigger mess. We never would have imagined the way things turned out with our ministry partners or our sending agency. We came back hurt and weary. Zack was uninvited to lead worship at one of our former supporting churches. There has been a lot of tears and frustration. These past three months, we have been received by many of you for lunch or dinner, tea on your couch, or for chats around your kitchen island. What a gift it has been to us to be seen, to be heard. I‘ve sat at Eastwind Community Church, tearing up because I was surrounded by people who care about me, who are kind to me. Having this time has allowed for some processing and the healing process to begin.
A lot of our first home assignment has been typical. It is a strange thing to be living between two worlds, but some of what we have experienced has been out of the norm. While we are processing our first term as global workers, we are now deciding will we return to a different ministry in the Czech Republic, or will we transition back to the States? We will still be learning how this experience has changed us for some time. I find myself trying to decide how I want to hold my silverware. Over in the Czech Republic, you hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right. After nearly two years overseas, that’s how I was eating. Now I find myself switching back and forth. But more important than cultural dining etiquette, what has this experience done to my soul and relationship with God? How has it affected our marriage? How has it changed the course of our future? Perhaps, we can sort out the answers in a year or two. Maybe not. Some questions in life, just don’t have simple answers. One thing I am glad for is that God sees it all and knows our pain, and he also allows for seasons of rest and healing. For those of you who have met with us and those who we haven’t yet met with, but have been supporting us and praying for us, you have been like a cold drink of water on a hot 106 degree day in Idaho.