Discernment part 1: Grieving KTown.
This is the first piece in a reflective series from our recently returned global workers, each sharing their personal discernment journey in choosing to return to Aotearoa New Zealand. The Missio Dei holds a unique place for each person. With the same missional heart, our returned global workers had a God-gifted time globally and now have a God-gifted time on our shores. Here is a glimpse into their amazing stories of trust and boldness.
We had been back in New Zealand for just over two months, and it was our fourth Sunday at our new church. The speaker that morning was a friend of ours; we’d worked and lived side by side in South Asia, a place he was soon to return to, while we were in the throes of resettling in New Zealand.
We were excited to hear him speak, this was familiar territory to us, we understood his experiences and could picture so clearly the scenes he described. However as he progressed through the text – Matthew 23:.. – the joy I was expecting to feel was consumed by knot of despair rising in my chest.
Tears began to slip down my cheeks, and I shoved my cloth mask further up my face to absorb the flow. The wrenching loss of leaving a place I love hit me over, and over. I imagined the heat, the warm embrace of friends, the excitement of each day, the many details of a full and fascinating life that I had just recently left behind.
The message ended with a call to serve in South Asia, a prompt for people to examine their hearts, to ask where God may be leading them. “Yes, me, Lord!”, I wanted to march up to the front and commit to pack up my life all over again. How could I feel this intense love and longing for a place and not want to be back here? More importantly, why was I feeling this? The decision had been made months ago. We would conclude our time overseas and spend the next season in New Zealand.
Someone new stepped to the front, asking that we sit a moment in stillness. I sensed my husband’s body shaking beside me, and saw his hands cover his face. Was he feeling the same as me? I spent the final song dabbing at my face and imagined peeling a potato – my standard trick to distract from big, choking church sobs that I don’t want to deal with. Emotions well tamped down, I turned to leave our aisle, but my husband blocked the way.
“How did that make you feel?” he asked in a wobbly voice. I raised a warning finger and gave a weak shake of the head, signaling that if I even tried to open my mouth there would be waterworks. “Yeah, me too,” he said, tears filling his eyes. My hair-trigger empathy could not be restrained, and I started to sob. If you’re crying, I’m crying. We stood there, dripping and mumbling, shoulders shaking, wrestling with the same harrowing question: why do I still feel called to be there?
Our children screeched back into the auditorium, caught up in a joyful game of tag with their besties. Here they were. Our reality, our priority. I watched them, thinking, if it wasn’t for you two, we would still be there. I didn’t feel resentment at that moment, or regret, only the knowledge that returning to NZ was the right thing, even though it hurts.
I’m comforted by the fact that even though our time in South Asia was a complex mix of joy, hope, frustration and despair, our overwhelming desire is to be back there. Yes, it was hard, but we were not scarred by the journey. Our ties run deep, and that intense love and longing will impact our financial decisions, living arrangements, prayers and interests for the rest of our lives.