This month I had a chance to travel to Japan, along with the 27 other Global Mission Fellows that are placed internationally, to attend our Midterm event.
In August of 2014 we left each other after our training, ready to be sent into the world to engage, connect, and grow in our selected placement sites. This Midterm event stood as a marker, a light at the end of the tunnel, something to look forward to amidst the challenges of engaging in new cultures and the pressure of our jobs. As much as I was excited to pack my bags and head to Japan to reunite with my GMF family, there was resistance in my heart. All activities were up and running at school, but I had to put aside these obligations and leave the classroom and my students for two weeks. I’m not going to lie, it felt inconvenient to drop everything and stressful to prepare for my absence, but I was excited to travel. Despite that piece of resistance in my heart, there was nothing better than reuniting as the international class of Global Mission Fellows!
Our week was filled with sessions that provided space to process our experience, our placement sites, and our spiritual journey. We worshiped in song and prayer. We learned about the social justice issues in Japan and analyzed and dialogued about the issues in our placement contexts. We set goals for the next 9 months of our service and began the process of vocational discernment for after the program. But most importantly we shared stories and we listened intently, realizing that our experiences have more similarities than differences. It was a time of reconnecting, of renewal, and of laughter.
Amidst all of this, a small pain formed in my stomach. I missed my students, deeply. This pain came with a sense of joy at first. Missing them validated that my place is in Guyuan right now! I feel at peace in Guyuan, it has become a “home,” and I know that the Lord is using me intently! This pain was a good indicator that I hadn’t wasted a year of my life. But this pain was also a reality check. If I was missing my students after being absent for two weeks, what would it feel like to leave for…well, forever?
There is a beauty in the Global Mission Fellow timeline – two years of service in another country, at first, seems long and daunting. But one year is NOT enough. That first year is spent in the ups and downs of culture shock. It takes time to build relationships; it takes time to understand a culture; it takes time to find a niche within a community. Now, with only six months left in my placement site I wonder, is two years really long enough?
As Global Mission Fellows we now have to reflect on the temporary nature of our positions. How do we continue to engage in our communities while making plans for the future? How do we find closure in our communities?
I invite you to join us in prayer as we search for these answers while continuing to engage in our communities!