Monday, August 10, 2009

"Sometimes I hate this place!"

Did I just say that out loud???  Did I even just think it?  What a horrible missionary I am!  And now I'm admitting it to the whole world - what's wrong with me?

"Sometimes I hate this place!"  I said it three times in a row on Monday of this week.  Did I say it because of seeing another small child pick through the garbage for something to eat?  No.  Because of hearing about yet another young girl used for a man's pleasure?  No.  Because another person I know has died from lack of proper medical care?  No.  All good reasons, those, to "hate" a place. (perhaps)  To feel such frustration that a place drives you crazy.

No, it was none of those good reasons that caused me to say three times, out loud, "sometimes I hate this place." 

It was because I was inconvenienced.

Because things didn't go my way.

Because I didn't get what I wanted.

Because, if you must know, the shop owner wouldn't take my card to pay for phone credit and the ATM machine wouldn't give me any money.  That's it.  That was enough to cause me to not only lose my joy but disparage a whole nation!

As I walked to my car, repeating this over and over, I felt God stop me in my tracks with conviction over my selfishness.  I had recently read yet again that we are to take every thought captive to Christ.  Well, this presented a great opportunity to live out this Scripture.  So I sat in my car and repented of this ridiculous behavior.  Then I asked God, "what's really going on here?  why am I so upset?"

I think it was because what I was overwhelmed by, as I have been time and time again here in Mozambique, is a loss of control.   I couldn't control these situations and it left me feeling vulnerable and therefore angry.

I was irritated that the shop owner wouldn't take a card for a semi expensive purchase.  Nothing I could say would sway him.  In my true capitalist nature I thought, "well, I won't give you any of my business in the future and we'll see how you like that!"  But I was powerless to change his mind and accomplish my goal.

I did give in and try the ATM but twice, it took my card, my PIN, asked if I wanted a receipt, then spit back out my card and said my transaction was being processed but no money ever came out.  I did this twice.  That would be about $240!!! This happens to people so often here, they don't get their money yet they are charged for it and there is no recourse.  The bank here says "deal with your bank in the US" and the US bank says "it's nothing to do with us, deal with the bank of the ATM."  So THAT left me feeling REALLY out of control! 

This whole "no recourse" thing is what I often find the hardest.  I'm usually able to take things into my own hands and try and resolve something.  Not here in Mozambique, that rarely works here!

What was I left with?  Relying on God.  Sound familiar?  Praying.  Ring a bell?  I had to simply pray and trust God that the money wouldn't be gone from my account and that if it was, he would somehow cover it.  I had to pray that I would find another way to buy the phone credit I needed.

I had to yield to God once again that he would take care of my needs when I couldn't take care of them myself.  This is one of my greatest lessons from living in Mozambique.  I'm pretty sure there will be a few more tests of this nature ahead!

This may sound a bit absurd to the reader, that I would make such a big deal out of not being able to get money or phone credit.  I agree - it IS absurd!!  Shouldn't I be mature enough that these little things don't send me over the edge?  Yet, it's often the little things that do.  The little things are where I need the most refining.  I'm not about to go murder anyone but I would slander a whole nation in my mind with my words and thoughts. 

I thank God that I CAN trust him, with every need!  I thank God that he is faithful to convict and refine me.  I am thankful that my tantrum lasted only five minutes instead of five hours and that I listened to his voice calling me deeper. 

I am thankful that when I am not in control, HE IS!

And I am praying that in his kindness and grace, he will make me more like him so I don't freak out every time something doesn't go my way!


L. Lagore said...

In my estimation, it's always the small stuff that's hardest to deal with. But we can certainly relate to your frustration :( We haven't had trouble with ATM's yet (actually, after 16 year in Moz we've only just got our card to work in one...). Which one gives you such trouble?? Anyway, take care and hang in there. One day at a time.

Jennifer said...

I don't think this makes you a bad missionary, just a human one. And that is just the kind this world needs!

Amanda Kane said...

Thank you for reminding people that missionaries don't grow wings and halos the moment they step over the border! It's not something I want to have to live up to one day!

I did have atm trouble in SA, but the worst was getting my things stolen out of my bag on the way out of Africa. But what helped me was to picture my theft and handing over my belongings one at a time as I told them "I forgive you my stealer. This is yours now, it is no longer mine, it belongs to you." Silly yes? But it helped!

MoziEsmé said...

I LOVE this post! I don't think I've been quite as mature as you in Mozambique...

On the credit card front, I remember paying for an already over-priced item with credit card and being charged some outrageous fee - we never went back to that store!

And on the phone side of things - we were charged thousands of US$ for calls (mostly to Pakistan) on a contract phone that had been stolen (and reported stolen). So we switched cell phone vendors (no yellow & green smiley faces for us!) when they canceled our phones, but many people have reported similar situations and suspected a scam at the company. So who can you complain to?

And the commenter who had her camera stolen? I was mugged of my cell phone at the beach a couple of weeks before we left. And then on our flight out of Maputo, our cameras were in our carryons, but the airline folks were adamant, AS WE WERE GETTING ON THE PLANE, that we couldn't take certain carryons. Literally grabbed them out of our hands. And of course on the other end, where we picked them up while getting off the plane, a digital camera and a video camera had disappeared. We reported it to the airports, airline, and police, but no one wanted to take responsibility for it, of course.

OK, enough ranting! There is so much I miss, too. I need to try Amanda's strategy!

DeAnna said...

My sweet Laura! Oh how the Lord allows our frustrations and weakness to show himself strong... such a sad state of affairs, the desperation of people... it teaches me how to pray for them. If you know Laura, you would think you have met an angel... it's obvious why the Lord created her to serve out His purpose! Be encouraged Laura, the Lord is so good to us, to cover us, to help us, to love us. I get easily frustrated over inconveniences in my comfortable world.. how sad~ I'll be praying the Lord would restore double in provision for whatever you may be lacking... I love our heavenly Papa, He's such a show off!!

Lori ~ The Simple Life at Home said...

First let me thank you for the encouraging words you left on my blog. I'm so glad you "de-lurked" so that I could come here and get to know you a bit.

I just wanted to say that this post totally resonated with me. It's the small things that often drive us over the edge. That little, constant reminder that we are not in control of anything.

Even though we aren't here in Doha as missionaries, I was on the mission field when I was single and know how strong the temptation is to put on a show. But I think it's great that you are willing to show that missionaries are just people who struggle with the same issues we all do.

And, yes! You can use my driving post (though I have to admit that there have been more than one and I don't know which one you are talking about!!). Good to meet you, Laura. I look forward to getting to know you better.

P.S. I love soup (and crock-pots) too!

melinda said...

I think every missionary alive can relate to what you wrote- or at least the ones in Mozambique. Thanks for being vulnerable, honest, and encouraging- because as you share, you teach and we learn. Authenticity is a beautiful but too rare thing amongst Christians, and I believe God is 'pining' for it- for He desires nothing less than a REAL relationship, not a hermetically-sealed perfect looking falsehood.

Laura said...

Hello everyone!
I am much belated in thanking you for your encouraging comments. It's always a risk to share negative things in such a public place as a blog. But I do think it's important to share the struggles as well as the victories! Thanks for accepting and understanding!
And - thanks for reading my blog! :)