If you had asked me before this year if I was good at waiting, I would have said that while it wasn’t always fun, I was pretty good at it. After all, life is full of waiting—from waiting in line to waiting to grow up to waiting to get the support to go serve overseas, etc. At 36 and single, I’m still waiting for marriage. So, I’d like to think I’m pretty good at waiting.
Then the coronavirus came, and along with it, lockdowns, quarantines and closed borders.
My personal situation is that I completed my first two-year overseas commitment in March, left for a three-month furlough in my home country and planned to return to the field in June. However, I couldn’t go back because of closed borders. And because I planned on changing fields in 2021, it was decided to do that six months earlier, on September 1.
Only, I’m writing this in November and the borders of my future service country haven’t opened. They actually went back into lockdown. I’ve joined prayer meetings and conversations online, but it isn’t the same as being there in person. In my home country, I have had to wait for things to open up so I could see my friends, family, supporters and church community.
I’ve never been so clearly stuck in a season of waiting like this—ever. And while I am safe ‘at home’ (such a complicated word for an overseas worker), it’s still a displacement with no end in sight.
At first, I was ‘good’ at it, because I thought it would only be for a month or so. Now, nine months later, I’m tired of waiting. I’m ready to go; the only thing holding me back is that the country I’m supposed to go to is still closed… and can't say when it will open.
It’s only recently that I realised I was angry with God. I’ve also felt stuck, displaced, frustrated, sad, afraid and disappointed. Oh, disappointment. It definitely makes the heart sick.
I’m sad over not being able to say good-bye to those I left overseas. After all, I didn’t leave because of COVID-19; it was a planned break, and I had a return ticket. I had an apartment; I had friends and a church there, a great team, ministry and purpose. I left it all with a “see you in June!” Instead, I lost a home, the things I left there, a new language, beautiful relationships and the closure of finishing my first long-term commitment well.
This extended time in my home country has been a gift. After all, how often in our lives as overseas workers does this happen? I truly am thankful for it, even as I long to be overseas. I live in the in-between, and it is a tension I live with every day. Honestly, I spent too many months assuming I’d be leaving quickly that I didn’t settle in here. After all, it was only temporary. Now, the “limbo” of nine months is catching up to me.
In all the unknowns right now, I know this: the absolute, unchanging truth is that God is still in control, still in charge and is still trustworthy. He is still sovereign, still all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present. He has not changed and will not change; and after living in a time where literally everything everywhere in the world has changed, that is the most comforting thing I could know to be true.
What’s also comforting is knowing that God hasn’t forgotten me. He knows where I am. He knows where I will be next month (something I don’t even know) and He’s here with me now.
When I first moved overseas, I asked a friend for advice on how not to let homesickness overwhelm me. She suggested that in those moments, to thank God for the people, places, activities, food—whatever I was missing in that moment). When I tried it, I discovered something powerful: by offering praise to God in pain, as feeble as it felt at the beginning, it changed everything. Praising God through my pain changed my perspective, my attitude and my walk with Him. It helped me see the power of praise that comes from a lament, from an expression of faith, trust and gratitude in the midst of loss and sacrifice—an exclamation that says: “I will praise you even if, and even though, because You are good and trustworthy.”
As I look back over these last nine months of being ‘in-between,’ there’s so much to be thankful for. Each and every moment is an opportunity to praise Him, even in the waiting, the unknown and the pain of loss. Honestly, it’s a choice I am still learning to make, but the times I have, I’ve experienced His peace in a greater way.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” – Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV)
Kate loves to tell stories about what God is doing in the world and cannot wait to go back overseas. Until then, she's savouring time with her friends, family and puppy.