Six months ago, I was at training, spending three weeks cooped up in the same building with forty-four other young aspiring missionaries. We had countless hours of discussions about difficult topics that are usually avoided. We sang songs in everyone's native languages, we had debates sometimes, and though I can't speak for everyone, I know I felt empowered. At the end of it all, I really believed I had been equipped with the information I needed to go out into the world and make a real difference.
Now I have been here two days shy of six months, and I have had enough time to start getting a more realistic view of my role here. The days begin to blend together, afternoons and evenings full of Perler beads and Candy Land, of "Close the door, it's below zero!" and "jump ropes are for jumping, not tying each other up." and even once "Why did you throw the doorstop in the trash can?"
It's not exactly what I thought it would be, but oh how I love what it is.
I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that it is very likely that nothing I do during my two years as a US-2 is going to leave a noticeable, long-lasting impact. I know I'm not supposed to say that, but it's the truth. There are some barriers that I just don't have the resources to break down. Please don't take this as me fishing for compliments, I don't need anyone to tell me that what I do matters, because I know it does. I just needed to come to terms with the fact that I am only one person, and my sphere of influence has limits.
I'm not being cynical, I'm just being realistic. In order to make a permanent impact on these children outside of the four walls of our after-school program, I would need a social work degree, or a law degree, or some other expensive piece of paper that I don't feel led to acquire at this point in my life.
So I've decided, after receiving some solid advice and doing a lot of thinking, that I just have to make the hours these children spend with me the best they can be. Many days I fail at that, but I'm working to become better. I can't change their circumstances, but I can listen if they need to talk. I can find crafts for them to do, and help them with their homework, and remind them for the hundredth time that jump ropes are for jumping, not for tying your friend to a chair. And while these things will likely not even be remembered a few years from now, at least I can take comfort in the fact that they matter in the moment.
If I've ruined your vision of what missionaries do, I'm sorry. I'm not supposed to tell you this, but people who work with and for churches are still just people. It is time for me to accept the fact that there are some things I cannot do. Once I have done that, I can focus on doing my absolute best at the things I can do.