I own my house. Well, technically, the bank does, but you know what I mean. Part of owning a house is maintaining that house, so that you will continue to own it in the future without it crumbling down around your knees. I am eight years into this home, the longest I’ve lived anywhere for the last 22 years. So it’s weird that I am here and have these sorts of repairs to do, as I am not used to being around long enough to do them. I have started repairs on the exterior, and have another $8500 to go–all cosmetic. Teardown/rebuild projects, reinstallation projects where the prior owner did a crappy job, etc. As I do not make a ton of money, that $8500 is something that I would love to see happen, but haven’t got the faintest idea how it will.
Here is my dilemma. I spent two weeks in Germany this past summer at the generous gift of my friends to serve on a mission trip with my church. It was a glorious opportunity, and one I’ll not soon forget. I was incredibly blessed, and it was a poignant reminder of how service is essential to all that lay heartfelt claim to the Christian label. It was also a chance to connect with some people in my church that I had not known before, and as I was in the minority as an adult (most were in the 21-23 age range) it was also a reminder that I’m not young, that these are our future leaders, and that I am no longer 23 years old myself.
This morning I was approached by someone that had been on that team. They are putting together a group to go back again this summer, and they would like to make it an annual thing. They also want me to be a part of that team leadership.
What an opportunity. I have been wanting to go back, was trying to figure out how to go back, and had no clue if the opportunity would present itself. Well, now the opportunity is there, and I just need to figure out how to make it happen. If nothing else in my life changes–same job, same house, same everything–I would need to find about $4000 to go. In seven months. That’s well over $500/month between now and the time I go, and the deposit is due with the application. Which based on my current situation is impossible. There just isn’t any way.
Backstory: I grew up at a church that was big on missions. I didn’t realize how unique that was until I went elsewhere on my own, and they talked about their *one* missionary from the church. We had *dozens*, if not more. The legendary Mary Saunders. The children of Cliff and Nina Ellison. The children of Kitty Walker. People that had changed the world perception of hunger in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa in the 1980s. People who had been held at gunpoint for their faith and survived. People who made a difference. This is what missions meant to me as a child. This is what I expected as an adult. Go someplace, help starving children.
We went on mission trips as kids. You were a member of the youth group you went, or the choir you went, depending on the year. You paid your money, ponied up, and you were in. Granted, the sticker price was a bit different than it is now, but the point was there. You want to go, you wrote a check. If you wanted to serve for a week in Armenia or Azerbaijan, knock yourself out, just pay for it and meet the requirements, and you’re able to go to the third world country of your choice.
Well, people in developed countries are without God as well. People there, in some ways I feel, need to know about God more than the ones that are in isolated third world countries. Consumerism and materialism, not to mention idolatry and false prophets, are so much more dangerous in those communities. And I realized how much so when I was able to go to the country with the fifth largest economy in the world. And I was able to make a difference, in a very small way, that hopefully will last for a long time. People here are starving as well, but in an entirely different way that the boy with the emaciated body and bloated stomach that you see on the news.
And now I’m told that the opportunity to partake in such a trip is available for me to grab hold of. Again.
There is a new practice now that bothers me, probably because of my experience in the past of “you want to go, okay, just pay”. The deal then was YOU paid. Now, there seems to be a tradition of writing letters to acquaintances and friends and your dentist and your stepfathers fourth cousin’s next door neighbor that says “hey, I’m going on a mission trip. Wanna pay for it?” I am not sure why that bothers me, but it does. Probably because it feels to me like it removes all personal responsibility from the equation. And it feels like yet another person asking you for money where we are all strapped tight this year.
Do I sacrifice my personal life (and, from experience, usually health) to get a second job? When I went to Austria in 1997, that is what I did, and I continued to work two and three jobs up until the time I was halfway through graduate school. I remember when I finally had a stretch of time that I didn’t have to do anything but work the regular 8-5 job, I thought to myself “what do people do anymore?”. I had no idea. I worked. I worked during the day, I worked on weekends. I went to church on Sunday for my social interaction. I had let so many friendships lapse that I couldn’t even begin to reconnect with them all (this was before the advent of facebook in my life) and I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to rekindle them all. I had no time to get involved in things, and no energy to do so, so when I was free via the calendar to interact with others, I had to start from scratch. Build new friendships. Find new groups and social outlets. Pick new hobbies. And how do I ask someone to help me out on this trip when I still have thousands of dollars of repairs that need to be done to my home, so that I have a home to come back to someday??? It’s the entire reason I didn’t go a few years ago when I had the time to go because I was unemployed–how the hell am I supposed to in good conscience ask someone to pay a portion of a trip for me when I can’t even pay my own mortgage??
Look, I am 38 years old. I am single, under employed, over educated, and truly in a life I never imagined for myself. I thought I’d be married with kids. I thought I’d be the American statistic. I thought I’d be, for lack of a better way of putting it, more with it. More put together. More adult. More grown up. More willing to let the past live in the background and the future be the way to go. I never thought I’d be *this* person. I’m not saying I dislike *this* person, I’m just saying that I sometimes look around at my life and say “What in the world transpired in my life that happened to get me here???”
Here’s the irony. Or, if you subscribe to the theory that God has to smack you upside the head to make you pay attention, then it’s that too: In the past three weeks I have had at least a half dozen people, more if you count the entire table at lunch that got into the conversation, ask me when I was going to go back to Germany this year. Not IF I was going to go back to Germany, but WHEN. I’d hem and haw, and say it requires funding, but the response was always “you’ll find a way to make it work out”. And now I’ve flat out been told “we want you here, do what you have to do to make it happen”.
In my heart, I’m going. Come June/July 2012, I’m getting away from the sweltering unbearable heat and getting on a plane. In my head, I’m at war with myself. Again, assuming today’s situation, I just don’t see how I can without becoming the one that writes letters or works three jobs to the exclusion of all else again. And I don’t want to be so exhausted that I cannot do anything else when I finally get on a plane. Assuming all expenses, the trip alone is almost $2000. If I have to board the dog, that is unknown. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid, so that’s two weeks of pay for me, which right now take home is around $950 (oh how I miss the days when that was almost double!!!). Then of course there is spending money for meals, for expenses, etc. So figure a conservative $4000 to go for two weeks. Which, after taxes, feels like half of my take home salary. In reality, I’d have to find a way to squirrel away $700/month to cover that. And I haven’t got a clue how to do it.
So how do I find a way to make my heart happy and over rule my mind????? How do I live with myself if my head wins the argument?????