My friendship with Shannon started with an email about how and where to get your hair highlighted in Uganda — you know, the important details about missionary life. We started emailing each other as her family prepared to move to Uganda at a similar phase of life as we did. They seamlessly connected to the people and culture, and continue to live and work within a ministry they are passionate about. Any length of time living in another culture changes the way you experience your culture of origin. There’s an awkwardness, a re-adjusting, a frustration, a comfort, as you engage everything you’ve always known with new perspective. Many missionaries feel out of place in the very place that should feel like home. Environments of grace are critical to missionaries who live as new people in old places.
We had been in Uganda for 16 months and the 6 weeks back “home” were so anticipated! We didn’t expect the emotions that came though. Feeling like we didn’t belong, overwhelmed by the streets that were too clean, the clothes that were too nice, the stores that were too stocked, and everything being so readily available.
We couldn’t have gotten through that time without the haven we were given. Friends opened their home to the 6 of us, we were given a space of our own, and all of theirs. When we stepped in through those doors it was a sigh of relief, and when we were out we craved being back. It wasn’t just that there home was beautiful, comfortable, and spacious, it was the attitude of the family that made it truly a gift. They were an inspiration to us, the way they are so hospitable, giving, and focused on their family.
We never felt obligated to be a certain way, or say certain things, we felt loved no matter what, safe to be us. We could let our guards down and share stories, we laughed so hard our stomachs hurt, and we watched our kids playing, laughing, being good, being bad, and just feeling at home.
We felt totally included, like an addition to their family, never like visitors. Whether it was a casual family meal, or a special occasion with extended family, like we too belonged. I found myself praying that I would also extend this hospitality when I share my home!
The more I watched our friend’s just living normal life the more amazed I was. They put each other first, always. It was obvious in the little things; dinner conversations, turning the TV off, being outside together, watching a movie, and casually saying no to social things that came up that would have taken time away from each other.
Seeing their lives made me reevaluate some decisions we’d made in our own family, change the way I saw certain things. I know God intended for us to be there for that season, and without their environment of grace I would not have taken this with me.
Feel free to respond to Shannon here. Let’s encourage each other in our stories!