Wow, if feels great to be home! All the sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings are so much more poignant. Absence makes you appreciate the simple things, the inconvenient byproducts of development, the systems and processes, the diversity. This past year, the AP and various news wires in Tanzania made it seem like America was being burned to the ground from the inside out. To my delight, this was not the case as I was greeted with familiar, customer service-extending, smiling faces in the Boston airport.

Growing up, my father always said, “You are lucky to be born here in America.” After running out of the airport into my parents’ arms, my father repeated this aphorism to me yet again and after 31 years of life, 2 of those years living on mission in Tanzania, I am finally able to grasp the wisdom and blessing in it. The land of opportunity, the land of the free, the land of stalwart institutions, the land where women’s rights is such a thing.

I am beyond blessed and thankful for our opportunity to live, serve, and grow the body of Christ in Tanzania. It has changed my life. It has rocked my world.  It taught me how to look at the complete picture and respect it, showing sensitivity to the light and dark hues. I’ve discovered that being thankful for pain or discomfort is such a hard concept to grasp because we live in a world that has convinced us that the pursuit of happiness and comfort is our unalienable right. Even in Tanzania, this is what we want religion to confirm. What people want to hear and what they need to hear are two very different things. I want to hear I’m fundamentally good, fundamentally in control, and fundamentally on the right track. What we need to hear is an accurate diagnosis of our condition – we need to see the complete picture. An instrumental part of that picture is seeing God’s work throughout this world; seeing the Gospel in vivid, intercultural color.

I thought the things I would miss most about the red, white, and blue were all the comforts and conveniences, and while those are very attractive, I missed relationships the most. Facebook gives you this false sense of involvement and “being there” while at the same time making you feel like you’re being left behind! Returning home, I find that the authentic relationships are still there, intact, and most haven’t changed. It turns out I didn’t sacrifice relationships. I enhanced and defined them.

All the first-world things you can do without. Believe me, you can! Because all the somethings we hold on to, the things we imagine are keeping us alive, are the very things that are killing us. I encourage everyone to go – GO see the complete picture of the Gospel, across oceans and borders. And when you get there and have those moments when you feel as if God is killing you, accept that He is. But he’s killing you to make you alive. Behold, says Jesus, the old has passed away. The new has come.

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