I just wrote the first update for our adoption care ministry in over a month. That certainly never happened while I was in Nicaragua. I remember feeling so wrapped up in the day-to-day activities of the project that the rest of the world seemed light years away. But I knew the need for fervent prayer was so great that I sometimes sent two or three updates in just as many weeks. The work was exhausting, but so rewarding.
I felt so useful. I loved being the boots-on-the-ground for such a worthy cause.
Now, I’m on the other side of it all. I’m back “home” working in a very behind-the-scenes manner. It’s the same worthy cause, and yet somehow the administration of it all doesn’t *feel* quite as useful or rewarding. I was telling someone about this recently when she stopped me mid-sentence to ask, “Yes, but tell me again the problem with your new role?”
I was speaking with an 88-year-young pillar of wisdom in our church, so I knew immediately where this was headed. “Uh, it doesn’t make me *feel* very fulfilled,” I gulped. She didn’t even need to say the next sentence. The words just hung in the air as I considered my almost six-month pity party.
Oh that’s right… because it’s all about how you feel.
That conversation was exactly what I needed to snap me back to attention! It’s not all about me. It’s not all about how I feel. There’s a great Martin Luther King, Jr. quote that goes something like this: “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
Yes, I know all the Christian statements that apply here:
God can use you anywhere.
Grow wherever you are planted.
Be a missionary no matter where you are.
Blah blah blah. The problem with those statements is that they don’t give you the whole story. Sure, God can use us anywhere. But what about when he takes us one place and then, just when we get comfortable there, he takes us somewhere else? What then?
It seems we have to look at the bigger picture. We have to take a step back—outside of our precious selves and our feelings—and consider who and what is affected around us.
I’ve often heard it said that sometimes God needs you to just get out of the way. Us leaving Nicaragua, in many ways, is a great example of that principle. He brought us there to show us a missing link in the international adoption process, and have us create something to fill that need. After that, we had to get out of the way.
The missionary couple who took over for us wasn’t like us. In fact, they are quite different. The husband is a native Nicaraguan who married a North American. They met while she was there serving at a local school. They ended up marrying and are now raising their bilingual, and bi-cultural four children in Managua. They love Nicaragua, and are dedicated to the people, the culture, and the land. They also love Jesus and, when we met them, were desperately seeking ways to earn a living in their home country while also serving God there. They had never been involved in foster care or adoption, nor did they have any real context for how international adoption works.
We connected because we initially hired them to help with driving and translating for some of the adopting families. But when we realized God was moving us on, and started praying about replacements, they were the very first family who came to mind. Indeed, they are perfect for the job in ways we never could be. They have strong, life-long ties to the country, and know the language and culture way better than we do. They have beautiful hearts of service… but only needed funding.
My husband and I still laugh about the fact that we initially went to Nicaragua as self-supported (“tent-maker”) missionaries primarily because we were too afraid to try and raise money… and now we’re back in the U.S., still working, but raising money for someone else. Not only that, we’re in administrative roles that offer few opportunities for those feel-good moments you get so often when you’re on the front lines… stuff like witnessing the judge tell a beaming child he is an orphan-no-more, or watching new parents meet their long-prayed-for-daughter for the very first time.
The back seat doesn’t *feel* very good sometimes.
From the back seat, I now get to experience the scenery in a totally different way than the front. I am able to watch—and rejoice—as those in front grow in their new roles. I have the opportunity to broaden my view, and work with families whose path hasn’t yet brought them in front of the boots-on-the-ground folks who are getting the in-country families from point A to point B.
And, perhaps most importantly, I can take a rest from the front lines, to refocus on how we got here in the first place… and prepare for what’s up ahead.