It’s behind my framed painting of Hualalai mountain, only rediscovered today because I was dusting my room for the first time in who-knows-how-long. Hello, spring cleaning. So I see it, and all this wrangled emotion comes bubbling over top of my thoughts. I think of the dozens like it. And I get frustrated, angry, mad– so much so that I want to write one of those blog posts that whine and scream “Hey this is wrong we should change it!”.
But then I take a moment to wipe off the dust off my thoughts.
Because… often when I feel like writing a blog post on a topic to point fingers, the topic is really pointing its fingers at myself.
What did I find today?
Oh, just a Post-It note.
It was a pale-pink Post-It note with capital letters and an exclamation mark. One name.
But all I could truly see were the pale-green eyes of the nine-year-old boy who spoke French that I met on a missions trip to Tahiti. I had written the note to remember to pray for him, and got frustrated at myself for forgetting about him. Yet that was only for a split second. I thought of the two days I spent with him and his little sister playing at the day care, and the despair that I couldn’t fully explain to him that I was not coming back. He had only just opened up, his slow, sweet smile reminded me of my brother– and I left him, following the schedule of my short-term missions trip. Seeing the Post-It Note again today, I felt horrible. Didn’t he deserve to be loved for the long-haul? I’m training to be a teacher because I believe that to give an even greater impact, children need to be loved in the day-to-day, mundane, normal life. Kids camps and Sunday Schools (and missions-trip programs, for that matter) are necessary and powerful.
But I want to love kids every day of normal life, not just once-off joy then a final goodbye.
Despair turned to aggravation. Flicking through Facebook, how many people do I see with their cute foreign children in their profile pictures, cover photos, and status updates? It has become an agreed cliche, I know. But have those children become a happy blur for us, the missionaries? We see those old photos of the kids in Cambodia or Thailand or Tahiti and we have that odd mix of guilt and joy, but for all intensive purposes, we are so happy we got to meet those kids. They’re great. They fill our profile pages with such rich joy because they remind us to be happy despite the crappy times because they were out there dancing in the rain-storm and laughing at the simple gift of a beanie baby.
Once-off, one-week happy memories of being able to give love to children across the world.
Yet I’m screaming to myself with a dusty pink cloth in my hand. DON’T THEY DESERVE MORE?! Are we going to keep hurting them by just showing up for a short time then disappearing? Giving such love, such beautiful joy then just going away again, not to come back?!
Don’t they deserve more. Yes, they do. That’s why I’m becoming a teacher. That’s why I’m being trained for the everyday, mundane life because I don’t want to keep saying goodbye to those kids. I want to see them grow, see them love, see them live– from week to week, month to month, year to year.
So this was my plan, to write my whining blog post about how missions should change and those missionaries should stop playing darts with little children’s hearts… but no, I don’t think short-term missions should be eliminated, nor do I think the pain of one child that happens after one day of joy isn’t worth missionaries going. It is worth it, their joy is worth their pain. Keep taking photos of those children, keep telling Facebook to get over self-centeredness, keep praying for them and getting your heart well and truly wrecked by them. You need it, they need it, we all need it.
So why was I so angry, so frustrated? Why was I ready to point the fingers at people I agree with? Why, in the midst of my New Zealand spring cleaning, was I fighting for Temana, for Reaksmey– why was I trying to protect them from people coming and going?
For those of you that know me well, the answer isn’t a surprise. And as soon as I had formulated the question, my answer wasn’t difficult to realize.
I am that child.
Blonde, freckled, growing up in middle-class Hawaii– you wouldn’t have pegged me as poster child for missionary profile pictures. (Well, we didn’t even have Facebook when I was a child so that sorta eliminates the metaphor). But, darlings, I know how it feels. Growing up on a missionary training campus, I know how it feels to have life-changing mentors and speakers that come into my life for a short blip of a season– then leave, to follow God across the world. You’re devastated that they’re gone, but you try to cover up that grief because it makes you feel like you’re not thankful for what they gave you. You feel like crap, but you fear that poop-inclined emotions deny the good you have. So you learn to smile, smile, endlessly smile, and learn to love many diverse people– yet also to hold them at arm’s length so you wouldn’t have to be hurt again.
Can you see why I’m sick of children being loved well– then being inflicted with a more subtle version of abandonment– the adult simply hopping on an airplane? No one means for this to happen. No one wants this. If it was up to me, when I first saw the kids in the slums in Cambodia, I would have stayed. Yet that’s not always how God works.
He knew I needed a deep, emotional healing that He could only bring– ironically, in a white, upper-middle class suburb of New Zealand. When I first travelled to Cambodia as a fifteen-year-old, I was clueless at the wounds I was carrying. Three years later, Jesus led me here. To Bethlehem. And as I am often busy thinking I’m getting “trained” or “equipped” for missions… He’s far more concerned with healing me from missions– which will ultimately release me to serve with an open heart for missions.
To be whole. He can do this– make us whole– anywhere, any place. It could be in the jungles of the Thai-Burma border, like where we have fellow BTI teachers, or in a primary school in the middle of a city in New Zealand, where I have been for much of this year.
Kayla, it doesn’t have to be a place
it just has to be with me.
And in all this global travel, in all this “making disciples of all nations”… we come back to him. This morning I read how Mary Magdalene, leaning on the entrance of an empty tomb, wept. Sobbed. Cried. The angels ask her why she’s crying. She doesn’t know where they have put her Lord’s dead body– the one she loved and had given her so much, has left her. And now she doesn’t even know where to grieve. Then a man behind her asks her, too, why she’s weeping. He’s so normal, so ordinary. So much so, that she’s thinking with blurred, swollen eyes that he’s the gardener. Oh, he is a Gardener, tending to hearts. So he says her name, Mary.
From that moment everything changes.
She thought she had lost him forever. Yet from that moment? She knew just by hearing who said her name. Whatever men, women, children would come and go throughout her life she would always have him.
Darlings, that pale-pink Post-It Note with one name is still peeking out from behind the framed Hualalai mountain picture late this night.
Now? In front of my computer screen, I let go that I have to be that little boy’s constant, and that I have to be the one thing that doesn’t change for the children I meet. I cannot promise that I’ll always be there for them. But with the time that I do have with each child I come across, I want to introduce them to the one that will always be constant– like so many missionaries did for me when I was young, and still do today.
And though their coming and going has hurt me, in the end, I got to know to my Constant, and his name is Jesus.
Yes. And when he says your name, it makes all the difference.
Photos: 1. Temana in Tahiti. 2. Plaza of Nations, Hawaii. 3. Kona airport, Hawaii. 3. & 4. Me, five years old. 5. Sunset in Kona, Hawaii.