August 16, 2005
Before we left Malawi, Joel Sherbino, the Synod Ecumenical Officer, gave us some reading material on re-entry. It is often difficult, after living in a developing nation to go back to life as usual in a developed country. We knew this would be a difficult time of transition.
One of the friends that we stayed with in London told us that after six months of mission work in Malawi, she had trouble getting used to life in the United Kingdom again. “The first time I walked into a supermarket, I was overwhelmed and had to leave,” she told us. After living in a country with so many food security issues (many people have no idea where their next meal is coming from) it is hard to deal with the over-abundance of food.
We experienced some of the same feelings. After we got off the plane in South Africa, and our missionary friends drove us to their home, Brooke kept saying, “Dad, look at all these paved roads. We haven’t seen this many cars all year in Malawi!” and “Wow, they have street lights and stop lights that work here!” When our friends went into a mall to pick up a few things for their home, we wandered into a few stores but ended up standing outside to wait for them. It was so very different from the tiny shops with limited merchandise that we had gotten used to in Malawi.
Things like ATM machines, credit cards and washing machines have been reintroduced into our lives. They certainly are more convenient than the long lines and slow processes that we endured in Malawi. But we wonder how these time saving, convenient devices improve the quality of our lives. How do we use the extra time that they afford us?
We continue to deal with these and other adjustments. It is not easy. After living in a country where food is scarce and disease is rampant, it is shocking to see the disparities. Here in the United States we have so much. Actually, the copious consumerism is rather hard to take.
We are struggling to find a balance in many areas of our lives. Although we have watched some movies on TV, we have opted to spend some quiet time on our deck in the evenings, rather than watch news reports or sitcoms. We are trying to simplify our lives and get rid of clutter. It is a slow, sometimes painful process.
Everyone keeps telling us, “It takes time to readjust.” I think that we will never get used to some things. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
At our re-commissioning the Rev. Jim Mead talked about how much has to change in our lives if we are to be faithful followers of Christ. We think he was right on the mark. As Christians, we must constantly evaluate our actions and words to make sure that we are doing our best to further Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. I think it is something we will be working on for the rest of our lives.