The following letter was handwritten by Pam, and sent to her sister, Jen, about a month ago. I, Matt, had looked at it prior to it going in the mail—it was very well written. After Jen received it, I asked her and Pam if they wouldn’t mind if we post it on our website:
Well…Silas just went to bed, Matt is out watching a soccer game with the guys, and I thought it would be a perfect time to write my sis! I’ve been wanting to write you for a while ‘cause I’ve been missing you so much. What I would really like is to be sitting with you at a Starbucks right about now, drinking Frappucinos and just talking…but I guess I’ll have to wait a bit for that! I love catching up on life when we get to talk on the phone. The time just goes too fast though and it’s all we can do to just catch up! So I’ve been wanting to write you to be able to tell you more about life here, what I’ve been learning, etc, etc. Sometimes I feel such a distance between us because it’s just difficult to explain what life is like here, but my hope is that by writing I can close that gap a bit.
Oh…where to begin? The past five months have been some of the most humbling days of my life. Since being here, my desire to be like Christ, to walk as He walked, has continued to deepen—yet so has my realization of how far I really am from being like Him. Thankfully though, God does not give up on us and his Spirit continues to mold and refine us. The first couple months we were here, I was really struggling with frustration, bitterness and was having a difficult time loving others. May seem strange after finally getting here after years of preparation, but nonetheless, I struggled. After our whole shipping fiasco I was (we were) feeling cheated, lied to, abused and taken advantage of. Then, on a smaller scale, the ceaseless interruptions throughout the day—people needing this or that—furthered kindled my frustrations. (I don’t know if any of this is making sense, but I’ll just keep rambling and hopefully by the end you can make some sense of it.) Thankfully, God gently reminded me of His infinite love and our responsibility to be ambassadors of His love and grace to a dying world. We are to model His love by loving as He loved, despite ourselves, our feeling or struggles.
Since we’ve been here, I’ve realized how it is easy (easier) to love when people’s physical needs are met. But…what about when you live among the poorest of the poor? When, not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask you for money? When, ten kids are standing outside your door asking for food. When, someone asks you to be the “godparent” for their wedding—which really means they are asking you to pay for the wedding. When, you sometimes wonder if people are just trying to be friends in hopes to get something out of you. When (you feel that) people think you have an endless amount of money…and everyone needs something. When you feel used and taken advantage of. These things, and more, can begin to wear on you…and I have at times found myself frustrated and annoyed, and most of all…all the more challenged by the life of Christ our King, desiring to be like Him! In the midst of these difficulties, He gives us Himself. Christ, who was pressed on every side with the physical needs of others. Christ, who was used, abused and crucified by the very ones He came to save. I have to believe at times He felt taken advantage of, and yet He loved so deeply. His compassion never ceased. Even on the cross, in the midst of unfathomable pain, unspeakable grief, He has compassion for the lost, asking God to forgive them. Wow. I have come to love Him all the more…and need Him all the more in striving to love as He calls us to do. So…that, in a nutshell (a very large nutshell), is what I have been learning, challenged by and wrestling with. Learning to be patient as this process of overcoming the flesh is a lifelong process! I am also trying to see “interruptions” throughout the day not as interruptions, but as opportunities. This, I know, will take time as well. I think these things are all a bit magnified now as our days are spent moving-in and learning the language. I’m sure as we transition into deeper involvement we will at least know that we are working toward helping the vast needs of a desperate people.
So…moving on. Matt and I are doing well. I have been deeply grateful for his example and leadership. He loves people so beautifully and never seems to struggle with this as I do. Though we’ve had some ups and downs I know this time of transition has brought us closer. We have been enjoying our evenings a lot…after Silas goes to bed we often sit and talk, sharing ideas, observations, perspectives and dreams for the years ahead. We’ve been playing some 17-point Settlers of Catan…but I’m sure Matt misses online Settlers with Jeremy. So yeah—we’re doing well. In the midst of everything we really haven’t felt stressed by the transition. I’ve had my moments, but Matt always helps me keep things in perspective.
Silas continues to be our daily delight! I really can’t imagine this transition without him! He keeps us laughing and helps us to slow down and keep family time a priority. And best of all…he is a constant reminder to us that no matter what happens, at the end of the day, we all have each other! Family truly is one of God’s sweetest, most precious gifts. I am loving being a mom, as you are too. Some days are long and lonely, but I try to get out as much as I can and try to be creative with different things I can do with Silas.
All in all…this place, as crazy, corrupt, complicated or difficult it sometimes feels, is starting to feel more and more like home. (Thought it will never completely feel like home without my sister!) In some ways, life is more complicated here, but in many other ways, it’s so simple: riding my bike around town with Silas on the back to go “grocery shopping”; market day on Saturday morning; walking across the street to church; falling asleep to our neighbor’s Bob Marley music every night; waking up to the roosters, donkeys and goats; mangoes and avocados for pennies; and not having much to invest your time in except people. So much time, and so few things pulling for it…kind of nice for a change. I have really been enjoying our Sundays. I feel like for the first time in our married life, Sundays have finally really become a day of rest. After church we come home, have lunch and then just relax—take naps, read, then go on a bike ride in the late afternoon. (I just ran out of paper! I better wrap it up or be creative!) Anyway…Sundays are real quiet around here which is a nice change in pace from the rest of the week.
I’ve been also thinking a lot about what kind if a person might I be if I lived in such desperate poverty like the majority of people here. Day in, day out, working so hard just to keep yourself and your family alive. I just wonder what kind of person I would be? Would I be content? (Probably not, being that even with all that we have I struggle, at times, with contentment.) Would I be like the people here that are constantly asking for money? Would I get on a boat and try to escape this mess? Would I have honesty and integrity? Would I love our Lord or resent Him? Would I care about the needs of others? Would I be generous or greedy? (Again, I don’t know if I’m quite explaining this well, but I’ll keep trying). Pondering such things has helped to deepen my compassion and extinguish frustrations because I cannot fathom enduring the endless hardships that people here face. I’d like to think that I would cling to Christ and the hope we have in Him, but then again…I’ve never gone to bed hungry, slept on a dirt floor, worn rags, lost a parent or sibling to AIDS…on and on the list goes. Anyway…just some humbling thoughts I’ve been thinking about and have been reminded of Luke 12:48, “…everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…”
Well Sis…I’ve been writing for hours and am growing very sleepy! I feel like I’ve been talking to you for hours though…which is a great feeling! (Hopefully I haven’t been boring you to death.) I miss you so much sis and can’t wait to see you again…and see Jer and my adorable niece! I wish we could still talk on the phone everyday. Hopefully someday it won’t be so expensive. But…we’ll just keep on doing our best with what we’ve got for now! I love you so much sis and miss you lots.
Talk to you again soon!