A fellow missionary friend described the crossing of cultures like walking into a different dimension. Judging motives and understanding rationales in our host culture require a different filter to comprehend. Everything feels warped; even the same temperature “feels” different.
Those differences are like virtual speed bumps that shake the whole mind and body to remind us to slow down and shift to a different way of thinking. If you know a speed bump is ahead, you can adjust your speed and minimize the impact. But if you hit it at full speed, watch out—passengers are going to get bruised.
I was supposed to be familiar with this road. I wasn't supposed to have “forgotten” so quickly that speed bumps were just around the corner. The United States was supposed to be our “home,” but I had already stood motionless in my kitchen trying to remember where to find a cereal spoon. But it wasn’t just a matter of misplaced silverware. I couldn’t figure out why it felt like everyone was disappointing me and acting contrary to my expectations.
We were asked by friends on both sides of the Atlantic about our time in America. How does one answer?
- Our nieces and nephews still remembered us.
- Air conditioning is amazing.
- Sweet corn was even better than I remembered.
By the time we hit the one-month mark of our homeland ministry assignment though, I was ready to return to Albania. I missed my friends, my routine, our ministry, and my own bedroom. But as time passed, I got subtly lulled back into our old American life. I could drive a car again. I could share my thoughts exactly the way I wanted without having to pick and choose from a limited pool of vocabulary in a second language. I could do all of my shopping with a minimum of stops, no stressing for parking, and 99 percent of the time I could find the product I wanted on the shelves (or available online).
Oh, did I mention air conditioning? And soft, fluffy towels?
So after the heartache of some goodbyes that are probably the last this side of eternity, not to mention the stress of an international trip and poor sleep for several consecutive nights, I might have hit some speed bumps upon landing here in good “ole” Shqiperia (Albania).
I had been so concerned with watching out for my children's transition that I didn't have my headlights pointed in front of me.
Thankfully we're hitting our stride now. I'm feeling a bit more like myself again and the bruises aren't so tender.
PRAY: As a family, gather together this week and pray for the missionary you partner with. Ask God to help them if they feel the bruises of transition and for continued blessing and peace if the speed bumps of transition seem small right now.