The other day I prayed for a rainbow. Never mind that the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. I was having one of those days where you just want some visible reminder from God that He’s there and He loves you. For me, often a rainbow sends that message. I followed up my prayer with a pile of doubt about whether you could even see a rainbow here in this city-jungle of apartment towers, trees, crowded streets, potholes, and cement. Two days later this showed up. I love how Jesus uses his creations to reassure me of his love and at the same time gives me a nudge to remember who’s in charge of these things. If he wants me to see a rainbow, he’ll put it where he knows I’ll find it.
Every afternoon these days, the clouds move in and drop a good amount of rain. Often it knocks the power out for a minute or two, which makes having analog/non-programable slow cookers or other appliances valuable because they will turn back on when the power is restored. Digital devices just turn off and stay off until someone comes and turns them back on.
Man alive, it knows how to rain here! We had some serious flooding in the city a couple of weeks ago. I was concerned for our friends in the branch (small church congregation) and how they fared, but they all made it through ok. It was bad enough in some places here in the city that cars floated away into rivers and buildings were deeply flooded. The flooding was exacerbated by garbage that floated into the street and clogged the storm drains. It was amazing to me to see how quickly things seemed to go back to normal. I realize that it may have taken much longer for some people, but driving around the city the next day, we could hardly tell there’d been flooding. It’s amazing to me how resilient people can be.
I don’t know what this plant is called, but the leaves are the length of my arm and because it’s “winter” here, they are this beautiful duotone of yellow and green. I love looking at them.
A rose by any other name still has thorns! These pretty flowers that I showed you in an earlier post have some monstrous thorns that somehow I hadn’t noticed before. I thought pyracantha bushes were mean. These outdo them on the scale of viciousness! Look at those thorns! “Oh, my lady, let me give you a bouquet as a token of my esteem.” Hahaha!
Last Saturday our group of Area missionaries went on an excursion to the Jardín Botanico (botanical garden) here in Santo Domingo. It was a good trip, and we enjoyed our visit. I think I’d like to go back in April or May when more plants might be in bloom.
There is a seed bank at the Jardin Botanico and I thought the building looked really neat. What a great idea to have a seed bank.
We rode a little train for a tour of the gardens. It was nice of the guide to translate some of the tour. She kept saying, “Over here on the shrigh is (whatever) plant.” It took a hot minute before we figured out that she was saying, “Here on the right we have this plant.” It was funny when we finally figured it out.
The Jardín is divided into various kinds of plantings. The Japanese garden was beautiful.
This dog was hanging out on the roof of this apartment after church one day. I absolutely appreciate the ingenuity of people who can make an electrical grid that looks like this and still have it function (mostly).
The pictures don’t really do justice to the narrowness of the neighborhood roads, the depth and frequency of potholes, and the dangling electrical wires in random places. I took this photo through the windshield on the way to church one day.
Here’s the part where things get real.
Honestly, right now I’m struggling to feel useful or wanted. Not by Mr Hot Stuff, he’s great. But every day it becomes increasingly obvious to me that this mission call was because his skillset and resumé were what they wanted. There is not really a place for a spouse/companion who’s not got the right CV. Add to that everyone’s desire to avoid the appearance of impropriety or risk the potential for false accusations, and it means that none of the men/authorities want to be in the same room with a woman unless her husband or their wife is present. Which I understand. But it stinks. It makes it even easier for those of us who are the “junior companion” to feel even less seen, known, or needed.
As missionaries, we are supposed to be examples of the joy that comes through knowing Jesus Christ and following him. We are supposed to prioritize and post uplifting messages that reach out to others and encourage them to also follow him. I think that is my true nature so I can do it and feel I’m maintaining my integrity. I am content and grateful most of the time. I have a great deal to thank God for. That’s why we came on this mission – because we love God and want to serve Him. But I have also made a commitment to myself to stay honest and real in my interactions with others. There are many good things about doing the work of the Lord, but there are also some hard parts, and it seems wrong to not talk about the hard bits just to paint a pretty picture and lead other people to think a mission is all roses and no thorns. I know there is value in my being here, simply because I trust God’s plan for my life. That doesn’t mean that I can clearly see what that value is, or what God’s plan for me is right now.
That’s what makes this hard for me. I feel like a spare tire. It’s hard to be the spare tire. Spare tires are important, but only in the moment of crisis. The rest of the time, they just sit there, being reassured that they are vital to the mission one moment and ignored for all the rest.
I have found myself thinking often over the last two months about the Native American story of the two wolves inside us (click the link to the video, it’s worth your time) and the importance of which one you feed. I try to feed the wolf that is understanding, kind, compassionate, patient, and who relies on our Creator to guide her walk. I listen to uplifting music, read things that build my testimony of God, and pray often. Even so, that other wolf howls about the unfairness, the invisibility, and the loneliness of the situation.
My circumstances are uncomfortable for me right now. Part of me would rather not be here. But every morning as I put on my cross necklace and attach my nametag that has the name of Jesus Christ on it, I hear the Savior’s voice whisper a reminder that sometimes discomfort is what we are called to bear. If he could bear so much for me, I suppose the least I can do is tolerate a measure of discomfort so that the work of hundreds of other missionaries and church leaders will move smoothly forward. And when I need reassurance, God will send a rainbow. Or angels. Sometimes He sends angels.
For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children. 16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. 17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. 18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. 19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 4:15-19 emphasis added
Note: I do not speak for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I do try to be a good example of what God wants a Christian and a missionary to be, but I make no claims of doing it perfectly. Anything I write here should be seen as my personal thoughts, opinions, and experiences and not as official representation of the Church.
I love you. I’m sure this is hard. It’s tough feeling like you aren’t contributing the way you’d like. Hang in there. I have a feeling you will find your purpose very soon.
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I need to remember that we’ve only been here about 6 weeks. What am I expecting?? Some days are better than others certainly.