A Silent Observer

gate to the lake

Today I went back and reread some of our old blog posts. If it’s not blatantly obvious to everyone else, it is excruciatingly obvious to myself that I have had some serious publishers block (is that a thing?) for a while. I write fairly often, but when it comes to publishing something as a post, I never get around to it or the internet goes out while I’m trying to upload the last photo or I just can’t figure out whether it will matter to anyone else but me. 

But while reading old blog posts, I was transported back to each of the experiences I had had before. Visiting a new mom after a life-threatening delivery. Documenting my very first quilt endeavor. Coming to terms with the Malawian mentality towards public transportation. So many new impressions and heaps of culture shock. From where I sit today, the novelty has worn off quite a bit. I no longer gape and grab for my phone to capture the ramshackle homes we pass along the road. I barely glance at the trash littering the ground everywhere. The honking and rumbling of traffic just outside the walls of our home have become part of the soundtrack of everyday living.


Something amazed me, however, as I read one of our first blog posts. At the beginning of our missionary journey, I had far less awareness of Malawian culture and its nuance, but I managed to recognize that we were here for more than just a cultural experience. At the beginning, I don’t think I could have articulated it, or would have admitted it if I could have, but I think I came here hoping to make a difference, have an impact, or create my little mark on the world by giving up my fairly predictable American lifestyle to live in a third world country. But, fast forward six years and the greatest impact I have sensed has been within myself. 


I think I came wanting to affect people in this place, but in reality I have been so much more affected by the people and this place. Maybe that is why I find it so difficult to publish what I write. I feel like I should be telling about all of the wonderful things happening here and all of the incredible stories that our presence has be a catalyst for. In reality, deep down I just feel neutral. Not apathetic or disengaged or uninspired. I feel like I am living my life, one day at a time. And how shiny is anyone’s everyday life, really? 

Could I list all of the literal events we participate in weekly? The new church we have started, the budding women’s ministry hungry for the fresh freedom of grace, the Sunday school classroom overflowing with eager faces ready with memory verses and answers to questions. How we commute two hours one way every weekend to walk through dusty streets and to visit in dilapidated homes and to sleep in a hotel room with more than a few occasional creepy crawly visitors? I could. 


But these things all feel like bullet points on a resume when I think about them that way. “Look at all the line items that make me qualified to be called a missionary,” they seem to say in their most robust and distinguished voice. In reality, I don’t feel much like a missionary at all. I feel like an honored guest invited to witness the budding seeds of faith in a barren woman’s heart as she learns that she is more than her empty cradle. The hopeful flicker in a woman’s eyes as it dawns upon her that she is loved unconditionally even if her husband doesn’t want her. The proud delight as a young boy recites his memory verse in his best English and obediently receives a lollipop in reward. 


Our days overflow with these sacred moments when heaven breaks through and throws open the dark curtains veiling a person’s heart letting beams of living grace pour in. But somehow these days I feel utterly inadequate to sufficiently put them into words. The wonder and marvel still thrill me every time I witness it, but to communicate it without defacing it in common language seems to slip through my fingers. So I remain a silent, reverential witness to the timeless phenomenon of God loving people. And for now, it feels like enough.

7 Responses

  1. For someone who feels she doesnt have adequate words you have said it beautifuly! I love this line, and the ones that follow, “ I feel like an honored guest invited to witness the budding seeds of faith in a barren woman’s heart“. I think back to the word studies i did on the first chap or two of acts; emissary means witness. Missionaries i think are most of all witnesses. The Holy Spirit does the work in a heart and you are a witness the the transformation! In these days of ever more news that spreads fear i am thankful for writers and witnesses like you who share the marvelous things happening for Lord’s kingdom.

    1. Thank you so much! It’s hard to describe this place after being here for a while since you get conditioned to things, but I’m so glad that the essence of it came through.

  2. Beautifully out Lisa !

    It is very humbling and heartwarming to be a small part in people’s lives!

    I love that I got to know you both a little!


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