When I close my eyes and think back on what has undoubtedly been the most eventful year of my life, some distinct images appear in my mind. I see airport terminals and views of seemingly abandoned and overgrown landscapes outside airplane windows, I see street-side tea shops and cups of instant coffee spilling onto tired laps, I see over-run taxis sitting in way too much traffic, muddy dirt roads and motor bikes, rickety bridges suspended over flooded rivers, palm-thatch huts in rural villages, and miles of endless rice fields, I see the wrinkles of a man whose entire family was washed away in a cyclone, the smile of a girl who’s been rescued from abuse, I hear the laughter of a father who’s able to provide for his family for the first time, I see the tender tears of a mother whose son was healed from a disease and I see a young woman whose life has been turned up-side-down and changed indefinitely. I see myself.
I’m wearing too much purple as always, making a fool of myself trying to get a child to laugh, jumping for joy each time I remember the word for ‘smile’ in a local language, enduring sleepless nights when all I can hear outside are howling dogs and unrelenting rain pelting the tin roof above my head. There I am on my knees crying out to God when I feel weak and defeated and alone after days that just seem to be too much. I see myself changing and morphing, questioning and over-coming, falling and getting back up again. More than anything, however, I see the fingerprints of a God whose grace and mercy, I’ve learned, does not run out on me.
Looking back on my past year in Asia, where I was able to travel to more than 100 different communities and villages in five different countries, meet with dozens of more beneficiaries, and capture the very real stories, faces and emotions of people living in indescribable poverty, I am completely overwhelmed. In many ways, it feels like this past year was a dream. A dream that will certainly be difficult to wake up from but one that will continue to teach and grow me into the person I’m becoming.
From the jungle-like villages in Myanmar to the overly-crowded slums in Bangladesh, I have gotten a taste of the uniquely diverse flavors of Asia these past twelve months. Beyond that, I have gotten to know the people that each culture represents. Although language and cultural differences posed barriers that I tried (and often failed) to navigate my way through, there were also those precious moments when all barriers fell away and two human hearts connected in what I believe can only be described as a supernatural way.
It was the conversations that transpired through broken translation and took place under the refuge of an unbuilt home during a mid-morning rain storm and on dusty ceramic floors that kept us cool from the afternoon sun that changed me. It’s the simplicity of life that’s demonstrated throughout all of Asia that I’ll remember when the reality of having too much hits me. Or the power of rituals and tradition that keep families bonded that will forever remind me to hold on tightly to what I believe in. It was the moments when I felt so completely foreign and unknown to anyone and anything that will keep me humble and the fear of stepping out into the vast unknown each and every day that will keep me brave and clinging to a God who promises to catch us when we fall.
The experiences I’ve had, some of which I shared with you all right here on this blog and some of which I’ve chosen to keep to myself for safe keeping, have been rich and plentiful. I’ve seen the harsh reality of a world deeply drenched in poverty, lies and destruction as well as the reality of hope and reconciliation that has come over communities and led them out of abuse and addiction. It’s been messy and inspiring all at once and most of all it’s been a joy to be a part of not only World Concern’s work here in Asia, but God’s work in bringing His kingdom here on earth.
One year ago, I was anxious and eager as I took the biggest step of faith in my life so far. Today, while I am still the same anxious and eager person taking another leap of faith into even more unknown, I am now a more patient, adaptable, understanding, gentle-spirited, surprised-by-very-little but ready-for-anything version of myself.
From one side of the globe to the next, it’s been a privilege accompanying God on a truly transformative experience to the ends of the earth. Thank you for following me, encouraging me and loving me with your words and prayers and I hope these words and images continue to inspire and transform the hearts and minds of people around the world.
Signing out of Asia with love, yours truly,