Today, we have a guest blogger! Welcome Laura and Mikey Fissel. They are Becoming Last in South Africa. I wanted to give them an opportunity to share about what they are learning and applying. After you read, click over to their blog and check out some more of what they have been doing! So without further ado, here’s Laura:
Even though I tried really hard not to, I had expectations for when my husband and I arrived in South Africa. (We had been planning the trip for almost a year, raising support and communicating with the YWAM team here in White River, South Africa. This is the first time Mikey and I have been to Africa, and certainly the first time we’ve done overseas missions together as a couple since we got married almost 4 years ago.) Some of my expectations were small—“yeah, it’s winter there, but it can’t be that cold can it?”—and some of them were huge—“It’s going to be so hard to leave after all the deep connections I make there; I may never want to come back to the U.S.!”—but almost all of them have been completely dashed to pieces to this point, now about three weeks into the six that we will be here.
Yeah, it’s freezing and I wish I had packed clothes differently, and the food has taken some adjustment, but the expectations that I’m having the hardest time letting go of are the ones about my purpose or ministry here. It was hard to pack up our entire apartment, move into a storage unit and leave our dear community and families behind for the whole summer, but in the midst of all that, there was this excitement that I was going to be used for something great for the kingdom of God…and it’s been very hard to believe that is actually happening here. To be honest, what I imagined was that my friendship, my presence, my prayers, my time spent feeding and playing with kids or talking to the native volunteers, would have a visible impact and that (although as I think of it, I can’t even describe what I thought that would look like) I would know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was supposed to be here, and what I was supposed to be here for. It’s not like that here. Things aren’t cut and dry, and they don’t happen on my time-table. Here in Africa, everything takes longer; especially in the face of it’s gigantic problems—unemployment, illiteracy and lack of education, harmful native rituals and traditions, AIDS ravaging families and impacting everyone’s lives—it’s no wonder that in our short weeks here, things look the same as when we arrived. It’s hard, too, to look at the programs and relationships here and think: does it even matter that I’m here? If I were gone, someone else could do what I’m doing…what’s the point of it being my hands and not someone else’s? What’s the point of building relationships that last six weeks and then we never speak again for the rest of our lives?
So here’s what I sense God is trying to teach my stubborn heart: it’s not about me. God spoke this message to me through a native pastor at a local church in one of the communities we serve in. He was speaking to a short-term team that is with us for two weeks, saying that their mission there (building a house for one family) has eternal impact and is worth their time and efforts. Even though he was speaking to the team and not directly to me, my spirit was moved by those words. He said “we want to impress God and the world but it doesn’t work that way.” That’s exactly what I want to do: I want to make my life have meaning by doing something that people (and God) can SEE was impressive. I want to make sure that no one can look at Laura Ellen Fissel and ask the question, “what was the weight of her existence?” because it was undeniable. Here in Africa, the hole that needs filling is so inescapably huge that my wimpy life philosophy isn’t holding any water. I am faced with my own insignificance in the vastness of this world, this life, and it’s not entirely pleasant. That’s the smack in the face from reality. Here’s the beauty: I am dust and ashes that are loved and cherished by the Creator, the God of the Universe. Because it is impossible for me to accomplish anything truly magnificent and life-altering on my own, I don’t have to work so hard to give my life meaning. It already has meaning! Jesus in me is the meaning, the weight of my existence.
For me, these questions, my doubts and dashed expectations have been the hardest struggle. Mikey came to Africa without specific expectations, but God has been dealing with his heart in a different way. Since we’ve been here, Mikey has had maybe five healthy days when he wasn’t bed-ridden with diarrhea, a hurt foot or a severe bladder infection. It certainly seems to be one thing after another and has left him frustrated to think that he has come all the way to SA to lie in bed while the community buzzes with life and work around him. Every time there is a bit of hope, and he is starting to recover from one ailment, another begins. So this is what we’re trying to wrap our brains around: when I go on Thursday mornings to sit next to my friend the single mom and smile at her and inquire into her life and joke around with her, or when we play with the orphans at the feeding programs, that has lasting impact. But our physical actions aren’t everything (they can’t be!); if we are lying in bed sick, staring at the ceiling, or making conversation with another missionary, or maybe praying, questioning, doubting, our lives don’t have any less meaning. We don’t have to be discouraged that only certain things in life are able to impact and affect others. That’s hope, right? Hope that speaks to any person of any background, origin, situation, or physical condition.
I’d love nothing better than to figure out why God brought us to Africa—I’d love to be able to point my finger at one lesson, or one event that explains it all away—but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Here’s a taste, though, of how God is showing up and helping us Become Last. Follow our blog at http://fisselsonamission.blogspot.com to join us in seeing other ways that He is faithful!