Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slow Down

I am not having the best day today.  I think it is expected on missions that you will have some days that just aren’t great.  Today is one of those days.  It hasn’t been all bad, but I’m just not feeling it today.  There are things that I have been struggling with all week and I believe the feelings have culminated into a bit of a funk. 

Despite the encouraging devotion this morning, the reassurance that it is about relationships and not about accomplishments, I am feeling a bit useless.  Before we left for Mwandi we were asked by so many what our tasks would be.  We would answer with what seems to be the motto of the trip: “it is about the relationships not the tasks.”

I hear it, I understand it, but I am having trouble with it.  Though I spend many hours at the OVC, time at the hospital, time at the farm, I question how useful my time is.  I wonder if anyone is finding value in my help.  Or am I just in the way? 

Although I am feeling discouraged and my emotions are getting away from me, I understand the reality.  First, my time is valued.  Even if I don’t accomplish much in a day, I know that I am appreciated.  Just my presence shows support and love for this mission. 

Second, it is a positive thing that I am not needed much.  It shows that the mission is sustainable.  The OVC can afford to hire staff to watch over and feed the children.  Volunteers are useful, but the staff has the system under control.  It is wonderful to travel to a remote village in Africa and find a successful program implemented.   Once I better understand those systems, I will become more and more useful.

Lastly, I have been away from home for a full week now, and not just away from home, but in a third-world country on the other side of the world.  It is true in any situation, travelers become weary.  Although our living conditions are very comfortable, being away from the familiarity of home is beginning to take a toll on me and I believe this is feeding my anxiety about the mission.  There have been moments today where I just wanted to get up and run.  Run away.  Rather, I have decided to allow myself to experience the emotions, take the time to process them, and realize why I am feeling the way I am.  After recognizing what I have been experiencing, I have been mindful to not allow my attitude to effect the people around me or the work that is being done, while also vowing to have a more positive mind-set tomorrow.  

The hardest part about being an American in a village in Africa is not having enough to do.  I have no to-do list, and no checklist, just an obligation to help where ever I am needed.  I struggle with downtime and quiet time.  At home I fill those gaps in my day with television, internet, magazines, etc.  Here I must fill those moments with my own thoughts and prayers.  And perhaps I am driving myself bonkers in my own head.  I think that when I get over this funk, I will feel refreshed and renewed and hopefully appreciate the slow pace and way of life in Mwandi.  It is so different than my pace at home and I am obviously struggling to adapt. 

The funny thing about it all is that we were fully warned.  I cannot tell you how many times we were told that the pace was slow and nothing starts on time.  We were told that it is quiet and we will find ourselves overwhelmed.  And yet, as I experience all these things first-hand, nothing could have prepared me.  I suppose that is the thing about mission, you just have to experience it yourself!

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