January 31, 2021
As we wrap up the end of our third month in Mauritius, it is hard to believe that we have been here a quarter of a year already. In this time, we have gotten settled in our new house, learned a bit more about the island and its culture, and met a lot of new friends who have become our “island family.” This island family has continued to grow as more new families have come to join the Lighthouse staff. One family, the Palmers (who we mentioned previously), arrived from the U.S. a few weeks ago and were just released from quarantine on January 23rd. They, like us, will be serving through TeachBeyond. Another family, the Mulerts, arrived at the end of December and have also just been approved to join TeachBeyond. The Mulerts are American but are coming from a previous post in Malaysia. Thus, in the past month, our TeachBeyond team has grown exponentially, and we are now a group of six adults and 9 children! We hosted our first team gathering on January 28th where we officially greeted the new arrivals and enjoyed some tacos and time together.
The most significant event of the past month has been the start of the 2021 school year at Lighthouse, which officially began for students on January 14th. For Aaron, the start of the new school year brought much stress and anxiety about understanding the new curriculum and formalizing plans and preparations. For all of the children, it brought eager anticipation and excitement since none of them have set foot in a classroom for almost a year (with the exception of Ezra going to Lighthouse for a week and a half at the end of the 2020 school year). But for me, the new school brought a sense of dread, a heaviness, as I wondered—what is my purpose here?
The question of purpose is one that has been rolling around in my head for some time, knowing that the day would come when the house would be empty, and I would be forced to face the uncertainty that lies ahead. In all of this, I have studied; I have explored options; I have pondered my own thoughts and feeling. And I have also prayed. I have prayed for patience, which is not one of my strongest virtues. I have prayed for guidance to know the best way to use my time and talents. I have prayed that a door would be opened wide so that I would know clearly what I am supposed to be doing here. I have told myself to wait and to not take matters into my own hands by rushing to do something just for the sake of being busy and have tried to be patient and trust that a path will be made clear according to His purposes. And yet, here I am still waiting and wondering, what is my purpose here?
Initially I thought there would be a position for me in some capacity at the school. And while there still may be (and they would love to have me), the logistics have proven much more difficult than we anticipated. Essentially the school did not budget for another counselor at this time, and although I am happy to work for free due to the generosity of our partners, I cannot technically work as a professional in Mauritius without an occupation permit. And the process of getting a self-employed occupation permit to act as an independent contractor is quite lengthy and expensive. This leaves me in the position of essentially needing an employer for a permit if I am going to operate as a professional counselor.
While pondering this, I have questioned why it is so hard to not be doing something. And while many might think that this is an issue of professional work being tied to feelings of worth or identity, I have concluded that this is not true for me. I know that I have worth and value in who I am—in just being a presence here—with or without professional work, and I know that I have done and am capable of doing many things apart from counseling. So what is it? I have searched myself and the best answer I have found is that this longing for purpose is about what fuels me, what fulfills me, what renews me. I don’t mind the routine day-to-day tasks, but that’s not what fuels me. Instead, I thrive when I am pushed and challenged, and I am a better person when I am doing something for someone outside of myself and my family. Jesus never said stay where you are and be comfortable. Instead, He said go….“go and do likewise,” go and have mercy, go and be a servant, go and feed the hungry, go and love your neighbor as yourself. I am eager to go. But for now I am being told to wait, to be still.
“Being still and doing nothing are two very different things.” -Mr. Han, Karate Kid (2010)
In the meantime, I have tried to adhere to a principle that I established many years ago, which is to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity to connect. This doesn’t mean saying yes to everything. But it does mean saying yes to opportunities that match my values, intentions, and goals. By saying yes to opportunities to volunteer, meet with people, or to take on a role (like TeachBeyond Team Lead or class parent for one of the kid’s classes), I have made many connections. These connections have led to friendships and many candid conversations in which others have voluntarily shared their personal struggles with me. At times I have been caught off guard by these disclosures, wondering why I, a person they barely know, am the person they chose to disclose to. Nonetheless, I listen, I acknowledge their struggle, and I try to offer whatever support I can.
On more than one occasion, the other person has asked me to pray with them. This, too, has caught me off guard because I don’t think anyone ever asked me to pray with them in the United States. Sure, I had people ask me to pray for them but never to pray with them. It always causes me to have a slight feeling of panic. What if I say the wrong thing? What if my prayer isn’t good enough? What if I don’t have the right words or know all of the church lingo to make the prayer sound good?
In fact, I have always struggled with prayer. Regardless of the many scriptures that reference prayer, life experience has proved that some prayers are answered (in the way we want) and some are not. Some of my greatest joys in life have been answered prayers (or what I wanted) and some of my greatest sorrows have been unanswered prayers (or NOT what I wanted). And while I know it is tempting to create rose-colored stories about God’s plan or find reasons behind answered prayers or unanswered prayers, I choose not to go down that road. Instead, I choose to say that God is God and I am not. I may never understand the grand plan. It may never make sense to me. Sometimes we hurt. Sometimes things are hard. And that is okay. I have decided to accept not knowing and to do my best love and serve and trust in something that is far beyond my comprehension.
“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Despite my reservations about prayer, I pray. Despite my panic when someone asks me to pray with them, I pray. Because ultimately, it is not about me or my feelings or opinions. It is about God. And in the case of someone asking me to pray with them, it is about showing love to them and hopefully helping to comfort them in the way that they need in that moment.
So, maybe my path is not yet completely clear. Maybe I don’t have a specific “job” to do. But, upon reflection, I do have a purpose. That purpose is the same one we all have, which is to love others and to do good works in whatever capacity the opportunity presents itself. Some days that will look different than others, but in the end, this is what really matters.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” –Ephesians 2:10