Repatriation: We Don’t Have a Clue until We Have a Clue

2265417682_ba2b629871I recently received an email from a friend, Sherrie Russell. She and her husband, Glen, have been missionaries in Panama since 1997, working with an indigenous tribe there. They have also served in Puerto Rico (10 years) and have ministered to international students at the University of Missouri-Columbia (6 years).

Sherrie was responding to an email from me, updating her on our transition back to the States. Looking for full-time work over the last two years has been a disappointing process for us, and she and Glen understand, as they were in a similar place when they came back from Puerto Rico. I can’t say the same for myself back then. I was one of those she is talking about when she says, “No one had a clue about what we were going through.”

Sherrie’s openness and honesty is an encouragement to my wife and me. I am grateful to her for letting me post some of her letter here:

I remember so well coming back from Puerto Rico and moving to Columbia and working with Latins at the campus ministry, how I had to take a job at McDonald’s and Glen had to drive a school bus while trying to reacclimate and keep it all together, and trying to understand “why” God didn’t supply what we needed to stay in Puerto Rico, in a work we loved (although it was hard and slow), with a people we wanted to see come to Christ, and in a place that was home.

I’ll never forget feeling so alone among so many kind people after we moved and began to know all of you. . . . It was like no one had any clue about what we were going through (not your fault and we knew that at the time)!

And eventually, when we did decide to go to the Dominican Republic and started trying to raise support . . . I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a friend at DQ.  We were there talking, and I was expressing my doubt about raising support (I mean, we couldn’t even raise a little more to stay in Puerto Rico) to her and she said something like, “You know the Lord will provide if it’s His will.” Of course she was just trying to encourage me . . . but out of my mouth and heart came this response, “He didn’t!”  And as soon as I said it, I realized how wrong I was!  I was so shocked that I felt that way and knew I had to remember that He does provide . . . but it was a very difficult time for us!

Even thought the Russells had made plans to move to the Dominican Republic, Sherrie says, “God took us to Panama instead.” About their six years in the States, she adds, “We began to learn how to wait on the Lord in Columbia, but it’s one of the hardest lessons in my opinion!”

And living abroad, too, hasn’t been easy for Sherrie. In 2007 she contracted mononucleosis and has suffered from bouts of severe exhaustion since then.

I haven’t been able to go to church or Bible studies this week because of my health situation. It’s been six years now, but I know God is faithful, and He is teaching me so much that I couldn’t have learned any other way.  One thing is that I’ve become so much more content!  Being able to cook sometimes in the morning to help Glen prepare some of the dinner for that day makes me so happy and thankful!!

One morning I posted on my wall on Facebook that I was listening to Andrea Boccelli and making spaghetti sauce with fresh basil and loving it!  A friend from Columbia whose child I taught at the preschool where I worked wrote that I was easy to please!  I thought about that, and I have become easy to please, and that’s good!

My wife and I enjoy Bocelli’s music, and while we were in Taiwan we bought our first Bocelli CD. Sherrie’s letter got me to look him up on YouTube, and I came across a video for his “Canto Della Terra” (“Song of the Earth”). If Steve McCurry made music videos, they might look like this.

[photo: “Loneliness,” by Flavio Spugna, used under a Creative Commons license]


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