“Are you having fun?! Do you love it there?” These are the messages I get on a regular basis from friends and acquaintances checking in on how things are going. Honestly, I am loving things here and I am having fun, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. I love it here. I consider it my second home. But, there is absolutely nothing easy about being here. There is probably a very large difference between what people think I do, and what I actually do. I visit the sick, cook for the elderly, hang out with my friends, occasionally take a break to watch a movie, celebrate a birthday, etc. But there are many other things people don’t think about. If anything happens to anyone remotely affiliated with us, we get a call, and are expected to respond. Brennan and I are seen as leaders and public figures in the community so our presence is expected at anything that happens. We are looked to for direction and guidance when things start to fall apart, no matter in what form.
It can be anything from when elderly man became very sick and too weak to leave his bed that he soiled his sheets. Since he lives basically alone, we go often to check on him. We cleane him up, changed the bedding, and spent time with him. There are days like that, and then there are the days that devastate us all. A young girl within the community took her own life at home at the beginning of the week. She could no longer handle the situation of her family, and the depression that filled her. She took her life into her own hands.
News spreads quickly here and shortly after the news was posted on Facebook. I received a call asking for me to go check in with the family. I arrived at the house shortly after the young girl had been taken by the public ministry to ensure it wasn’t a homicide, and found a family in shock. Their daughter had suffered with depression for many years and had attempted to take her life three times in the prior. Unfortunately, this culture doesn’t accept anything as an illness unless you can physically see it. If you ask people here, mental illness doesn’t exist. It is a made-up concept. This poor girl had cried out for help so many times and never found the help she needed. It breaks my heart. Beyond this, suicide is seen as the greatest of evils here. This meant that hardly anyone showed up to mourn this young girl as is normally the custom here.
There I was, consoling this family I didn’t know at the time, who have just lost their daughter in an exceptionally difficult way. I spent a good part of my day with them and pushed aside the other tasks I had planned. Ran errands for them and did everything I could to make sure they didn’t feel alone in their darkest moments. I returned later that evening with the traditional offering of maize (corn) for the family on the night of a death. I, along with our volunteers went to be with the family. Their daughter’s life was precious and valuable. It is so important to show up for people, even if no one else does.
After that, we threw a party. We had just recently moved, and it had been planned that Brennan and I were going to throw a party for our volunteers and staff as a thank you. We had decided earlier in the week that Saturday was the day that worked best for them. So even though I had spent the majority of my day running around trying to sort out a tragedy, I quickly ran to the store, went home to cook, and decorate. By the time everyone left it was very late and I was exhausted. If we are being honest, I would say exhausted is the number one thing Brennan and I feel here.
You may be thinking, man what an unusually difficult day she had. The thing is, I didn’t see my day as unusual. In fact, I didn’t even think about writing anything about it until I was talking to Brennan about my day and she suggested I should. Each day here is filled with its own challenges; they just come in different forms. When I say it wasn’t an unusual day, I don’t mean to say it wasn’t hard. I never becomes easier want to sit with a family who has lost a child. It never becomes easier to serve in a broken world. Tears trickle down the side of my face daily. Although heartbreak are a part of my everyday life here, I never want to be numb to them.
Am I having fun? Do I love it here? Yes and yes. Is it easy? Absolutely not. This country and the job that Brennan and I have been called to has made us both stronger people than we thought possible. As I look back, feel extremely humbled that God gave me the strength and chose me to be the person present in that moment. What an honor it is to be taking into such vulnerable moments with those in crisis and trusted enough to be allowed to share in their suffering.