These are the words that have been coming to mind a lot lately when I think about home. When people ask me if I am ready to go home, I always reply “you can only imagine…” When I think about what it is going to be like to see my friends and family again I say to myself “I can only imagine.” Then when I think of what it is going to be like when people start asking me questions like, “What was the Race like?” or “Can you tell me about the Race?” The only response I can think of is “You can only imagine.” And, unfortunately when I get to this point I start to get frustrated. I get angry inside because I know that very few people are going to understand my stories when I get home. They can truly only imagine what it was like because most have them have never experienced life outside of America. They have never seen the atrocities and the joys that I have seen over the past year. The only exposure many of them have had to this kind of thing is what the read about in books or blogs, what they see on the news or in movies. I am not angry because they can’t relate. I am angry that no one should have to relate and everyone should be able to relate.
No one should have to relate with seeing how far the majority of people in Ireland are from experiencing a true relationship with God. No one should have to relate with seeing how persecuted and underground the church is in Transnistria. People shouldn’t have to relate with seeing the homeless glue-addicted boys in Africa who must to sleep on the streets because there is nowhere else for them to go. No one should have to relate with seeing the beggars on every street corner or the woman rummaging around in the trash in India. No one should have to relate with seeing a woman sold for an hour, or a night, or a week because she is in the same boat as a beggar. No one should have to relate to seeing countries in Asia where the people are overwhelmingly Hindu or Muslim, and then seeing brothers and sisters in Christ struggle because they are very round pegs in very square holes.
On the other hand, everyone should be able to relate with God’s beauty at the Cliffs of Mohre in Ireland, with the children in Ukraine as they start to understand the Gospel for the first time, and with the people in Transnistria as they come to Christ because they were taught English by a bunch of missionaries from America. They should be able to relate in seeing the joy on people’s faces as they are visited by white missionaries in their homes in Africa and the humility it takes to receive the gift of everything from people who have nothing. They should be able to relate to the experience of visiting an orphanage for handicap kids in Kenya where love flows freely, or relate to the mountain top experience in Tanzania when I didn’t think God could be any bigger. They should be able to relate to the experience of the joy of preaching the Gospel to people in Malawi by the hundreds and then seeing a churches planted and hearing of how they are putting their new faith into action. Everyone should be able to relate with the outpouring of God’s Spirit in a country like Nepal where paganism is running rampant or the joy on the face of the deaf children as they see you at a school in India or the same joy on the face of the girl in the bar in Thailand who struggles to communicate with you as you play Connect-4 with her for an hour in hopes of sparing her from the next John that walks in.
Unfortunately, these are the realities of this world. Fortunately, God reaches down into these dark places and shines a little light. It is in these dark places that I have experienced God the most. The times that God has touched me the most have been in the places that I least expected them, I wish I could have shared them all with you and that when I get home and share my stories with you, you could be able to relate. My only hope is that my stories will inspire you to take action, action that will take imagination into reality, action to get out there and experience the hard places of this world and support those who are willingly placing themselves into these places everyday to shine a little light and to share as much love and joy as they can.