I sit at home, my parents’ home, at the kitchen table. The coffee pot clicks and gurgles, sputtering out liquid focus. The dryer tumbles clumps of damp clothes in a heartbeat melody—bum bump, bum bump, bum bump—then switches gears to a low, steady, wind tunnel rumble, the zippers and buttons clanging against the dryer wall.
My Prayer for Moving Abroad
I look out the kitchen window past the back porch to the needly pine branches and gnarled, mossy trunks.
My belongings are strewn about the house, awaiting the verdict: will they go with me on the plane to Guatemala or will they be bundled up and forgotten for a life-changing year?
How can I possibly know what I will want to wear for an entire year? Will my new favorite striped v-neck make me cringe just three months in to my adventure in downsizing?
Yesterday I read a raw, honest post by Ann Voskamp about her return from visiting Haiti with Compassion International. In her post, she is angry about poverty, mostly at herself. I remember my return from Central America six years ago. I remember that anger. I remember seething, lashing out. I remember vowing to never let the poor out of my thoughts, my life, my dreaming.
But I sit here six years later and the anger has subsided. The fight, while not totally gone, lies dormant within me.
I think of the plane that will take me to Guatemala in less than two weeks and I wonder if I have what it takes to go through it all again. To be angry again. To be passionate again. I wonder if I have what it takes to feel with and suffer with not just my friends and family but with people who have endured genocide, lost brothers, fathers, uncles, who haven’t finished the third grade.
I believe I am called to be a voice for voiceless, to speak on behalf of the marginalized and forgotten. But that is only part of my calling. In order to speak kindly and wisely and compassionately, in order to do no harm with my words and my advocacy, I must first listen.
How can you love someone if you don’t know him?
And so I am moving away from the life I know toward the life God has called me to. Not so that I can speak on behalf of these new people I will meet, but so that I learn from them, share life with them in all its complexities.
I used to be scared that I would develop a white savior complex with the poor. If I had moved to Guatemala four years ago, bright eyed and seething with righteous indignation, I’m sure my God-complex would have reared its serpentine head.
But today as I pack my things-stuff underwear into my suitcase side pocket with no help from the cat, cull my clothing down to the must-haves, and agonize over which precious books to bring “in the flesh” and which to purchase on my Nook—I am painfully aware of my own brokenness. My own frailty. Today I’m under no illusions of poverty fighting grandeur.
I am going to Guatemala not to fix the broken systems and broken people, but to experience healing myself. If I do any good, offer any help, shape any lives, speak on behalf of the voiceless, it will not be of my own doing, but will be the work of God, of Love, in me.
And so, God, I say to you, I know you have good things planned for me. I ask for the courage to be open to your will. I ask for an open heart and open ears to hear the stories of those you will place in my life. I pray for the courage to be honest with myself about my feelings—whether I’m trapped in apathy, overcome with fear, or trembling in anger. I ask for the courage to be angry, to be passionate. I ask for eyes to see the hurting, and with the same eyes to see your transformative, your good and holy, work in me. I pray for empathy, for outward focus. To rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn—in San Diego, in Guatemala, and wherever my tush has happened to plant itself.
Father, you know what I need. Allow me to rest in that truth. To really rest and trust and release my anxieties to you. To trust that you will use me, that you will grow me, that you will never leave me.
I thank you for the opportunity you have given me to go back to the country where I first learned to yearn for justice, where I first sought your compassionate face. I thank you for the opportunity you have given me, a broken person, to live with and learn from other broken people. I pray that we would see your justice, your mercy, and your compassion peak through the pain and that we may experience and share your love together.