Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Des Points des Villas <<Of Viewpoints>>

Sitting on the plane, your viewpoint is often much different from your normal vantage point. The giants you faced on the ground now seem little more than  grasshoppers. The skyscrapers you admired may very well seem as a cat’s scratching post. Nothing really looks the same.

Becoming a third-culture kid scrambles viewpoints like no other experience I’ve ever had. The world is not only America, Canada and Mexico. In fact, the world is not even about  America! No, no. In most places, America is like a bit of honey dripped on their dry bread or rice. Children dying of starvation are more real than most celebrities. Their skeletons have a thin canvas of skin straining to cover them. Their arms and legs have not the muscle needed for the strenuous activities they love. No, the myths cultivated by the American culture don’t hold their own when seen through unAmericanized spectacles.

Not everything is made in China. Not every item of food on any given menu is delectable—or edible for that matter. Not all people understand what you say, even if you are both speaking English. Not all roads are smooth. Not all people pay attention to time’s rules. No matter how different a person is from you, your hearts can still blend into a life-long friendship. And not all things sold for high prices have a high value.

Even if we’re shipwrecked in a sea of faces, each water droplet that makes up the ocean is real. Every pair of eyes we observe has a story behind them. And once we realize that, our points des villas can change—and I’m not talking about altitude.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Saying Good-bye: Take 2

I was unprepared for this. Nobody told us we’d have to say goodbye to friends over and over again. Some farewells are for forever (as far into the future as we can see, at least), while others are for months at a time. Neither of these are easy.

After I left my friends in Dufur, I didn’t think I’d have to leave anyone else. And then after leaving my friends I made in Independence, I thought I’d not have anymore goodbyes to say until I left America again. I was wrong.

I haven’t had to deal with the death of any of my friends yet, but part of my life dies when each leaves. When a Ugandan (or, in this case Sudanese) girlfriend moves, it not only changes how you live, but how you pray. You never know if they’ll be treated well or if you’ll ever get news on their life again.

When a fellow missionary kid leaves, you watch part of your heart walk off and some of your most intimate secrets and memorable experiences fly over the ocean. These I have more of a chance of seeing again, but only the Lord knows when or how—or even if. Memories are still as much a part of your mind as when the Ugandan shifts, but your lives are connected easier and more completely with the fellow American—or, more precisely, third culture kid.

When you leave it’s a different matter. Not only do you know the life you left will change, but you know you will change. Not only do you know you will miss many experiences at home, but you don’t know what experiences await you. I am leaving not know for sure that I’m going to come back to the same people. Not only will my life change again, but my friends’ lives will change, too. Not only will I be different, but when I return my life will be different again.

I wasn’t prepared for this—and I wasn’t ready for so much change. I don’t think anyone could be.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Little Joys

Sunday School at Acacia Community Church can never be uneventful. :)

Today was my family’s last time there for 3 and a half months. I don’t even know if the kids will remember me.  But I’ll remember them and… many memories as well.

Today? After the Israelites (a.k.a. the kids) defeated the Mideonites (a.k.a. the crayons on the carpet) by following what God had told Gideon (a.k.a. me), and the trumpets blew and God confused the enemy, we continued to the outdoors.

“1, 2, 19, 16, 91, 100, 94!” the chant went randomly, but they managed to shout in harmony. After about 125, I stopped counting correctly for them to echo me and at that point, Josh came and began teasing them from beside the swing.

“Uncle Josh! Uncle Josh! Ucle Goss! Ucle Joss! Ucle Joyce! Uncle Joyce!!” Their chant transformed the words they began with and they ended with renaming Josh Uncle Joyce.

A Sunday in the Life of Janae and Josh Peterson in Uganda at Acacia? Eventful!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Question: “What are some of the lessons you’ve learned while in Uganda?”
To this, my pride would want to answer, “Lessons? Who needs to be taught any lessons?” But my honesty would give a much longer explanation.
I believe that God took me off the continent of North America to try me in new ways. I was holding on tight to the ideas I’d always known. Moving from Dufur to Independence was not one of those ideas. How much more not so was moving from America to—to a country I’d never even heard of before! He moved me from my friends, my comforts and my lifestyle.
But I see I don’t need them now. That, right there, is number one lesson I’ve learned in this journey of eight thousand miles, two years and a million tears. I don’t need those things I called my life. NOT that I don’t WANT them. I just don’t NEED them.
One of my dad’s favourite mottos is “Plans change.” Being a missionary is being flexible from the very essence of it’s beginning. I planned to spend my whole life in Dufur, as far as my subconscious ideas went. With one “plan” changed, I figured I’d have a miserable life in a remote place far from any American civilization.  And those plans, plus many others, have made me realize flexibility is a necessity.
One more lesson everyone should learn and apply: fitting in is more of something you allow than something you do. If I tried to make people like me, they thought me petty and annoying. But if I gave up—which I did—they found I, in myself, was someone worth hanging out with. I am so thankful they gave me a second chance. So thankful.
All in all, time is of WAY less importance than we Americans usually value it as. Relationships--with God or with others--are what I found really deserves emphasis. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Be a Missionary

Be a missionary every day.

Tell the world that Jesus is the way.

Here, at camp Wi-Ne-Ma, or on the avenue,

Africa or Asia, the choice is up to you!

So, be a missionary,

be extraordinary!

Be a missionary today! Let’s go!

Be a missionary. That, my friends, is an imperative sentence. The subject is you. It leaves no doubt whether or not we should be a missionary. It does leave the question yet to be answered, “where?” For me, I can say I live in Africa. For you? You don’t have to come half-way around the world to fulfill God’s calling. But I’m sure you’ve heard this before.

This song we sang at Wi-Ne-Ma every year I went. I knew the words, I loved the tune, and so did all the other kids who bothered to sing along. But I didn’t follow the song.

Be extraordinary! Yes, this is indeed an imperative sentence. But it’s also an exclamatory sentence. Being a missionary takes thought and work. It also takes faith. Being extraordinary takes guts. Daring to step out, walk away, change the flow, stand up.

On the avenue. Get the Grammar lesson? This is not a sentence, I’m sorry. But where does the song suggest we be a missionary? On the avenue.

Why are we so callous to this!? Loving and caring for people around you shouldn’t stop when you come home from a mission trip. In our back yard, if we have to, is where we should invest in others’ lives! What’s your neighbor’s middle name? Uh-huh. Me neither.

In other words, you don’t have to come half-way around the world to fulfill God’s calling for you. I did, but that’s ‘cause God had (and still has!) some important lessons to teach me. Will you allow Him to teach you, too? 

“Being a missionary is being flexible. When God changes your plans, you have to be flexible and let Him work.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Sickness of Not Being “Normal”

American Rejects are what we call ourselves. We won’t ever quite fit in America anymore, I believe, but we’re still Americans. I’ve mentioned this before, but I can’t help but think on this as our time for “furlough” nears.
A dear friend once said, “God is preparing us to go to America [through our homesickness].” But preparation hurts. I feel the homesickness they say comes and goes, but I can’t see how this will help in America. 31 days, I’ll be the first to tell you, is how many days we have until we’re flying out to “our country.”
Today, America is 225 years old. It and its culture are at the very heart of who I am. But America is not a “normal” country.
If all we see are people like us, we never see how weird we really are. America is often seen as a “melting pot” and it’s totally true! I was telling my Ugandan friend just the other day: “If you were to go to America and find a ‘Ugandan’ food restaurant, even the posh wouldn’t taste the same.” We cultivate everything to our liking. Bigger, better, sweeter, easier, longer, funner.
And this is not normal.
I’m not “normal”, not even by American standards! Pastor’s kid, missionaries’ kid—and now my grammar is WAY off of what my English teacher instructs me of. America won’t be normal to me. It won’t even be the “normal” I left. Its going to be America: a strange place on the other side of the world. At least until the day I forget what is forever implanted in my heart.
So, if you see me in America and ask me how I’m doing, I’m likely to say, “Fine,” or if you ask if I liked the peanut butter sandwich (I didn’t, by the way.), “Eh, somehowly.” Or when I mix up my verb tenses and turn adverbs to adjective, just know—I have the sickness of not being normal.