I went walking a while ago with a new friend here in Mbale and we talked about the transition of moving to Africa. She’s been here about 6 months before me, so we are at a similar stage of life adjustment. The thing we realized is that everyone who comes as missionaries all come from different places in life, have different roles and expectations here, deal with things differently, have different family dynamics, settle into life differently, have different needs and have different relationships with God.
With that being said, there’s an element of living in a place completely foreign to your “norm” that people can’t fully understand until they experience it for themselves. It’s challenging to try to explain how different every day life is.
It’s a challenge to explain things like…
- Meal planning is so difficult because you can only shop for a few days at a time, the ingredients are different, there’s no “easy” or prepackaged meals, items may not be at the store or market for that day or an extended time, the selection is so small to begin with, and you have to change plans when things aren’t available or when the electricity goes out.
- The fact that the electricity goes out every day, meaning everyday life changes. The water gets turned off every night, and recently during the day, so that means things like filling up a water canister to make sure we have purified water, not being able to shower when expected, dishes piling up because there’s no way of washing them.
- When you lay out exactly what you want for a project and it is still be done wrong or they have to come back multiple times to fix the problem instead of doing it “right” the first time.
- You set an appointment with someone and they may show up 3 hours later than they are supposed to be with no reason because this is normal.
And these are just some of the things that I thought of today…You can either get frustrated about them or laugh about them. Most days we laugh but some overwhelming days, I may cry about them.
Then there’s the element that’s also foreign to me…Being a stay at home mom has its challenges in the states but there are places to go/day care/mothers day out/play groups available if so desired. Those aren’t options here. And ministry changes when toting around a 3-year old. So does everyday errands when you are stared at constantly, charged more for products or asked for money because of your skin color.
There’s no blending in. The language is different, the values are different, the ways of communicating are different, the driving is different, the clothing is different, the standards are different, the lifestyle is different. So being a stay at home missionary mom & wife in Africa is my new title. And I’m seriously living in my weaknesses.
In the states, I was good at my job, I was a good mom to my daughter who was at full-time day care, I was a good wife because I got time to myself, I was good at communication and marketing and ministry. I was good at relationships and knew the norms. And now I’m completely out of my element and am learning how to create a new norm.
And the interesting thing is that I know this is where God wants me to be right now. My identity isn’t in my work or my husband or my ministry or my daughter. My identity is being who God wants me to be, and at this time, He wants me to be the stay at home missionary mom & wife in Africa. My ministry will continue to grow but I need to be patient in how God is using me. What a challenge! But there’s a peace in acknowledging that I’m completely useless without God leading me. I can’t do this on my own and I think God needed me to be here for me to realize that.