There’s a particular feeling of certainty that I can only claim to have felt twice in my life now. It’s a terrifying feeling on some levels, but the fear doesn’t really factor in because the certainty is so strong.
I believe I wrote about the first time I felt that certainty. It was when God called me to Peru as a missionary. I wasn’t exactly looking for a role as a missionary in that moment. In fact, I was preparing to study to be an insurance underwriter in the job I held at the time. The whole thing really snuck up on me. It was purely out of curiosity that I clicked on my friend’s Facebook status about mission work in Sudan. In college I’d read my first article about Sudan and it had been on my radar even since, so I wondered what opportunities there were to serve there. There were some interesting opportunities that I read about, but the thing that caught my eye was that one of the roles was in the “Business Ministries/Administration/Leadership” category. There was a link to other roles in that category, and my curiosity made me follow it.
I was pleasantly surprised how many opportunities were in the “Business Ministries/Administration/Leadership” category. Somehow in my head missionaries were evangelists, children’s home workers, or MK teachers, because that’s what the missionaries I met in my life did. My fascination kept me skimming the long list. Suddenly I saw one that said “Guesthouse Manager (Peru).” My first thought was “What’s a guesthouse?” Granted, the word is pretty self-explanatory, but the real issue was that I didn’t know that many missions have guesthouses in the countries where they work. Again, curiosity was what made me click on the link. As I read the description of the role, several things went through my head in fairly rapid succession:
- I didn’t know missions had guesthouses.
- That would be a fun role to have as a missionary.
- I’d be a pretty good guesthouse manager.
- Oh my gosh, I think I have to apply for this.
Now, given that you can’t see my face or hear my tone while reading this, you should know that the first 3 points were said very light-heartedly as if I were chatting happily over a cup of coffee while relaying some interesting information from a newspaper article. The fourth statement followed very closely in time, but it was a wide-eyed, color-draining-from-the-face statement with a tone of disbelief. In a matter of seconds the certainly of my future sank in and there was no doubt in my mind whatsoever.
As a slight aside, I would encourage my readers to not consider my experience as a road map for how one is called into mission. This is how it happened to me, but other seek it out and do some investigating and praying through the process to see what God may have in store. I actually think that it happened this way for me because there wasn’t much other way God could get my attention given that I’d said I wouldn’t do full time mission as a single. You can read about that in a previous blog post.
Anyway, in the moment of certainty, there were plenty of doubts. I didn’t know what the application process was, how to get started, what would be required, when I could go, what I’d do with my cat, how I’d sell my house and car, or any other details about the path that was ahead of me. All I knew for sure in that moment was that I was moving to Peru to manage a guesthouse.
The rest of my journey to Peru is also noteworthy, but I share the moment of God’s direction to this role because I had never experienced such sudden clarity and certainty. I was terrified, but absolutely positive that I had to move forward, whatever the road might be. It was a rare feeling.
I had that feeling again in August for only the second time in my life. It was also quite unexpected because I wasn’t particularly seeking God for clarity about my future at the time. Just like being called to Peru in 2010, I was making plans for the future, but I was unaware that God was plotting my redirection.
I began taking sign language classes at a deaf school, Señales, in April of this year. My last post (yes, I know that it’s awful that I haven’t posted since April) describes how I ended up in the sign language classes. It was a little bit of curiosity again, honestly! I’m a cat, what can I say? In August I was nearing the end of the second of four levels of sign language classes in this school. The classes had been super hard, and sometimes frustrating, for this Spanish-as-a-second-language gal. I had to get over my desire to have a perfect score in the class! My friend in the class was planning to stop after the second level and I was contemplating stopping as well. I wasn’t particularly seeing how it could be of use for me in my role in Peru.
Meanwhile, I was planning to host a team of volunteers from my home church in Matthews, NC. They were coming to do work on the guesthouse, but there was a sign language teacher, Audrey, on the team who knows fluent ASL. Peruvian sign language has it’s roots in ASL, so she was planning to do some activities at the school to work with the students and teach the teachers some ways to encourage reading skills among the deaf students. I learned an amazing amount from Audrey about the struggles of deaf students to learn to read. Observing her teach the students at the school and listening to what she was seeing among the students taught me a great deal about their struggles in the educational system and in life in general. It was very interesting to me, but I wasn’t planning on becoming a teacher, so I still wasn’t convinced there was a place for me in this sign language world.
The day I took this church team to the airport, I had sign language class in the afternoon. I was exhausted from the week with the team, but I wanted to finish my commitment to the class. Since my team had completed their volunteer work with the school, I was pretty certain I would stop the classes at the end of the second level. At that time there was also an H1N1 flu scare here in Peru. Everyone was scrambling for vaccines and there were long lines at the hospitals. After class that night we ended up in a (verbal) conversation about those vaccines because one of the gals works in a hospital where they were supposed to be getting more vaccines that week. She was telling us that we could call her and she would let us know if the vaccines came in. While we were talking, my teacher, J, came up to the group. Since he is deaf, I was trying to catch him up on the conversation in sign language. Then he asked me something that scared the pants off me. He asked me if I would go with him to get the vaccine. No, I’m not scared of shots and I had no intention of getting the vaccine anyway. The request scared me because of the challenge of it. Here’s what went through my head in the 3 seconds between J’s question and my response:
- I don’t know where that hospital is.
- I’ve never been to a hospital in Peru.
- I don’t know how to go about getting a vaccine in Peru.
- I don’t know all the signs I need to translate in that setting.
- This would be super scary and hard.
- If this is hard for me, what would it be like to try and do it as a deaf person?
I said yes. There wasn’t any way around it really. Why would I possibly tell this sweet, 20-year old guy that I couldn’t help him get this vaccine? He was teaching my class. I could help him out. We agreed on a meeting points and agreed that he would text me on Monday night to let me know if he was well enough to go get the vaccine. In the end, we didn’t go because he was feeling sick, but ultimately that’s irrelevant to the point of this story.
My classmates and I soon wandered out to the bus stop to go our separate ways. I found the bus I needed that would take me toward my district of Lima and got a window seat. As I stared out the window, I started processing J’s request. I was terrified about the responsibility, so I was talking myself through the steps I could take to prepare. I could Google the hospital, use Google maps to memorize the location, research the bus routes between our meeting point and the hospital, ask my Peruvian family about the process of getting a shot at the hospital, etc., etc. I had a plan. Then other thoughts started invading my head. I started to grasp the reality that J lived with every day. He might be able to find the address of the hospital and maybe someone could explain to him how to get there. But what happens if he gets lost? He can’t ask for directions. Even if he showed someone a paper with the address, he can’t hear the response. Most deaf Peruvians do not read lips nor speak. Even if he got to the hospital, he can’t ask which line to get into, he can’t hear the doctor’s questions or instructions… he needed someone to go with him. End of story.
That was the moment when the certainty hit me again for the second time in my life. It was slightly less sudden this time, but the feeling was unmistakable for me. The certainty was that I could be of use in the deaf community and that I would keep studying sign language. How would I use sign? What would my role be? Why was God directing me this way? It wasn’t clear in that moment. It still isn’t particularly clear, though I have some ideas. All I knew with certainty was that my path was being redirected toward yet another new language and culture. The journey is never dull, that’s for sure! I’m interested to see what He has for me along this road.