If you have followed my Facebook posts at all, you will know that I have been having an incredibly difficult time transitioning into this culture. Today was my first day interacting with any of the refugees because I was fighting an allergic reaction when we got here on Friday. Today was another very difficult day for me.
Our team leader, Tiffany, had a migraine, so Hannah and I were on our own to meet up with the interns from Helping Hands and thankfully, we were successful! Our day was going to be spent at the beach with the women refugees, and I was so very anxious about it. But, God is good and He knew exactly how to speak to me today to calm my soul.
In order for what happened today to make sense to you, I should give a little back story. When I was growing up, I literally never wanted to go to a beach. The idea of spending all day in the heat and being covered in sand never interested me at all. That changed when I was 19, working a summer camp and heard a sermon over Psalm 139:17-18. Today, the Lord brought those sweet, sweet words back to my mind to bring peace to my soul and comfort to my heart. And those sweet words are what I want to share with you today.
If you did not know, before today, I had never experienced a beach. I have spent my entire life in the midwest and I have absolutely loved it, but unfortunately, there are no beaches in Kansas. Not only did Hannah get to experience sitting next to me on my very first plane ride, she also got to be right next to me when I ran into the ocean for the very first time!
I have never really been one who could spend hours at the pool in the water, usually 30 minutes and I am good. And that is okay. I had to remind myself of that though. After about 30 minutes, I was exhausted, so I went to sit out on my towel for the rest of the time. The longer I sat there, the more awkward I felt.. And that is when I had a sweet moment with the Lord.
As I was sitting and watching the refugee women interact with each other and with the children, I was praying for each of them, even though I knew none of their names. In those moments of laughter and freedom that I was watching, the Lord reminded me of Psalm 139. Two summers ago I was coaching at a camp for 8-11 year olds and the speaker preached on these two verses one night:
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand!
The purpose of this message was to show the kids that the Lord is continually thinking of them because He cares for them. But that June day two years ago, the Lord instilled these words in my heart. He said, “April, ‘the grains of sand in a sand box’ or ‘the grains of sand on a specific beach’ is not written there. It simply says, ‘they are more than the sand.’ Rest in that beauty. My thoughts of you and for you cannot be numbered. When you go to the beach, try to pick up a little bit of sand and count the grains- it is impossible for you! Just as the sand grains cannot be numbered by you, neither can my thoughts.” That day, I had my mind changed and I decided I wanted to experience going to the beach simply to put sand in my hand and two years later, here I am.
As I was sitting and praying for these refugees, the Lord brought this beautiful truth back to mind and I knew immediately that I needed to share this truth with you today. I know I chose to be here and I worked hard to get here, but I think I can relate a little bit with some of these refugees. Like I said, I chose to be here, but at the same time, I feel I was ripped away from my comfort zone, my safe place. No matter how many conversations you have about culture shock, nothing can prepare you for the actual experience. I feel utterly alone and even though I am here with a team, I am the only one who is experiencing cuture shock for the first time. I feel awkward and so far out of my element. I know that my experience with these feelings will fade as I better adjust to this place; but I am also very aware that these refugees no longer have a safe space to go back to, they must find or create a new one. They do not have countdowns on their phones for 18 days from now when they go home; or 293 days from now when they get to graduate college, Lord-willing, of course. They may not even have phones for goodness sake.
While all of these thoughts were running through my mind, the Lord reminded me that His thoughts for the refugees are just as beautiful and vast as they are for you and me. His thoughts are for them and His heart hurts when their hearts hurt.
I am simply dealing with culture shock for a short time, only to return home in a few weeks and to fall back into the routine of my safe, comfortable life.
They are dealing with culture shock to change their entire lives.
AND IT WAS NOT THEIR CHOICE.
So I challenge you- next time you are near sand, pick up a handful and try to count the grains. Think about Psalm 139. Remind yourself that the Lord thinks of you always, and He thinks good things for you. But just as He thinks of you, He also thinks of others in the same way.
Until next time,