One year after graduation, I arrived in Togo, West Africa to begin Peace Corps service. After ten months here, I still feel out of my element. I do not feel very connected to my community or productive in regards to work or at ease in the culture. In spite of the challenges and frustrations, I trust that God has me here for a reason and is using this experience for good. He has certainly been teaching me a lot . . .
During my initial months in village, my house was gloomy and in need of drastic improvements. My first response was to stress about how uncomfortable I felt. Then I sensed the Lord challenging me to look to Him as my home. Where can I find better rest and security than in my Shelter? No physical environment can compare to the presence of my Rock and my Friend.
God has used the foreignness of my surroundings to enhance my reading of Scripture. Before I came here and took long walks on dirt roads, I didn’t fully grasp the value of foot washing. I was not familiar with the sound of a pig’s squeal (the noise produced by a herd of demon-possessed swine must be unbearable). I had never actually seen a hen gathering her chicks and hiding them under her wings. I didn’t have concrete mental images associated with tending livestock or carrying water from a well.
My Father has also shown me how intimately He knows me and how good He is at taking care of me. He knew that I would need some Christian friends, would be refreshed by the small grove of trees next to my house, and would benefit from proximity to a market that supplies fruits and vegetables.
He is reminding me that faith is not about how I feel.
This experience has been tough so far. And there are days when I would prefer to be anywhere else. I could pack up and leave, but what kind of response would that be when I truly believe that God led me here? So I have been dwelling on James 1:2-4:
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
It may not always be evident to me why He has me here, but this time is a gift. I can rejoice in knowing that Jesus is walking with me and refining me through it.