Sunday, August 24, 2014

Striking Through

This morning I decided to try and do a final KimHeartsUpdates newsletter.  It’s been a month since I left the DR, so I wanted to give some reflections to those who have been on this journey with me.  I pulled up the last newsletter I wrote – June/July, and looked at the top: 

Kimberley J. Streeter † Students International † Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic

I realized that it now should look like this:

Kimberley J. StreeterStudents InternationalJarabacoa, Dominican Republic
Kimberley J. Belez † Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic † Harrisonburg, VA †

Everything about me seems to have changed, except my first and middle names.  Those are still the ones with which my parents chose to bless me.  Although, even that’s a bit different.  In the DR I started using my full name, Kimberley.  With limited success at times!  I was also Quinverli, Kimby or Keen, depending on which community I was in.
So, here I’m trying to continue to use my full name.  Maybe as a way to say, I am different from the Kim Streeter who you knew three years ago.

I love being back in Harrisonburg, love reconnecting with friends, love driving on (mostly!) familiar roads. 

But, it is hard, too.  Because, while there is a lot about me that is still the same, there is a lot that isn’t.  Yes, part of it is coming back with a husband when I left contentedly single.  Absolutely that has had a huge impact on me! 

There’s more, though.  It’s easy to list out obvious things, like getting used to the faster pace of life; people’s schedules so packed plans are made weeks (instead of hours) in advance; the overwhelming variety of… well, of everything, from yogurt to stores to ways to get places (essentially, Jarabacoa had one way in and one way out.  Here, I can take three separate ways to just about anywhere I want to go!).

Under all of the obvious is something more subtle.  I notice things I never used to.  Like how strange it is that while we claim not to discriminate based on race, every form you fill out asks about it.  That ads for humongous bacon double cheeseburgers never feature overweight people. 

In the DR, our home was surrounded by a high fence, bars on every door and window.  Here lawns run into each other and homes seem open.  But, while people might nod as you walk by, some act as if the ‘invisible fence’ for their dog actually makes them invisible, too.   

It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.  The cross-cultural mantra applies to this part of the world, too.  Re-entry, the process of coming back into one’s ‘home’ culture.  The trouble starts when you begin to realize that ‘home’ isn’t ‘home’ anymore. 
At least, it’s not the home you used to know.  When relationships that were easy are now hard.  When the accepted opinion about something is no longer yours.  When expectations (on both sides!) are frustrated and frustrating.

I look at my life just a month ago, and it’s all different.  I was a missionary, and while it was challenging, it was a role I loved.  I was expected to talk about Jesus, to incorporate the Bible into my conversations. 

Now, I’ll be in a ‘secular’ environment, in a country where ‘tolerance’ seems to mean anything but.  Here, not only will it not be expected, it might even be inappropriate to tell someone I’ll pray for them.  Will it be okay to tell a Spanish-speaking visitor, Dios le bendiga (God bless you)? 

It’s overwhelming.  And there is grief to ‘striking through’ Students International.  There is grief to ‘striking through’ Jarabacoa. 

I talked with my friend Margot this week.  It felt so good to have a conversation in Spanish again.  But, we ran out of things to say before too long.  I used to go to her home in Mata de Platano and sit in her kitchen while she cooked.  If we ran out of things to say, it was okay because we just liked being together.  On a phone, however, it’s awkward to sit in silence.

When we had hung up, I felt so sad.  Will our next conversation have even more stretches of silence, as our lives drift further apart?  It hurts to think about it.  The deepening separation of there and here.  It’s inevitable and, frankly, necessary in some ways, but I still grieve.

Everything is different.  Strike through, Strike through, Strike through.

 But, as I did so, I realized that, along with Kimberley J, there was one other thing I was not striking through: the Cross.  The Cross has not changed.  Our Savior who hung there to redeem us, has not changed. 

If I stay focused on the Gospel, keeping my eyes set on Jesus, choosing each day to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, He has assured me He will take care of the rest. 
The changes that have happened, and will continue to happen, are no surprise for our unchanging, all-powerful, all-loving God.  And that gives me hope, even as I grieve.  To God alone be the glory!

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