A decade in my heart : 10 years a missionaryFebruary 17, 2019
It’s mid February and I’m cleaning garden furniture as my son draws a rainbow waterfall on the concrete. Today is unseasonably balmy. Today is also 10 years since I stepped onto Serbian soil for the first time, landed to a much cooler February where the world was monochrome with snow. Life today is nothing like I expected, far from what I envisioned as I stepped off that BA plane. I had firmly nailed my colours to the mast when it came to what I felt called to be and do – and mission was an intentional hiccup in the plan, never a long term life choice.
Over the last decade God has redefined “my colours”, reshaped my expected dreams, and teased out the cultural expectation lies. He has lead me through corporate un-uttered answers to prayer and heart-wrenching personal loss. He’s allowed me to watch a city find it’s own feet, shake off the memories of how the world knew it and walk into a new definition. It is of no surprise that this year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Nato bombing of the city, is the year the city holds the title of “European Youth Capital 2019”.
I try and grasp this past decade’s worth but it slips from me. The achievement laden ‘mores’ turns to ‘less’ as I try to articulate them in the old grey matter. I’m less sure of how I define myself, less sure of what I know or even believe, I’m less sure of my ‘home-land’ and how culture and heritage intertwine. I’m less loud, less ‘on the ground’, see myself as less extraordinary, less free, less isolated, less naive perhaps. I may be more qualified to talk about this land but I’m less eager to lay any judgement. I’m 100% certain I’m less than equipped to do so much of what I expected mission would be like.
All those classical missionary stereotypes feel as unreal as the Easter bunny in my everyday life. I see them in others. Mission work marked by bums in seats, believers and baptisms. The foreigner worship, the crafted poverty images or the sometimes more sinister drive to instill ‘correct’ (read my) theological understanding – because scripture needs a rich western lens? Then you have the mindset of ‘voluntourism’ (volunteer tourism) and those ‘called not qualified’, the ‘white savoir complex’, the ‘unintentional (but it still is) racism’ – good intentions that give more burden than aid. I’m not immune, especially to that last sentence. In truth, I’d rather be less, it somehow fits my faltering theology more. None really fit my scene as I look out today.
I’m not the quintessential proselytizing spokeswoman, I’m not sure I ever was or ever really wanted to be. Perhaps this foreign calling is heavily tinted by who I fell in love with, arguably as much as how God equipped me to serve – it makes my service nothing less valid and I’m not afraid to admit the possibility. Just maybe, when I stepped back from face to face work and reached out to equip the wider church online it was a fulfilling of God’s plan, a plan I could not have sustained elsewhere. What is sure in my heart is that this is where God has placed me right now. It’s the place my son took his first steps, the place he’ll know as home, the place where I have family, friends, community and work to fill my hours. It’s a lifestyle, on the most secular level, that I wouldn’t willingly exchange, however irreverent that may seem.
Here’s to another decade stumbling through my everyday, mundane, beautifully unexpected life.