Saturday, October 29, 2016

When the Evening Comes

     It was 93 degrees in Togo when I started writing this, and I was trying to remember what autumn weather even feels like. I was also trying to figure out what angle I should approach this subject from. You see, I am very happy here. I really am. The things I've been a part of here in Togo have been so rewarding and I'm so thankful for this opportunity. But happiness isn't the only emotion I've felt during my time in Togo.
     I can post a million pictures, and the one that will get the most attention will always be the one of me in the customary female missionary uniform of a long skirt and conservative shirt, looking like a seasoned pro holding a smiling child. It does not seem to matter to anyone that I did not actually help that child in any way. All I did was hold her for a few minutes and try to play with her without being able to speak her language. It makes me feel guilty when people give me compliments after seeing pictures like that, because I know the truth behind the smiling faces. At this very moment that child is still living in poverty as I sit in what must be one of the nicest houses in Togo, using the internet and being cooled by a fan.
     I have never had any formal missionary training. I feel more comfortable talking about my beliefs in writing than in a face to face conversation. That being said, something about my trip to Honduras grabbed my attention and didn't let go. I've known since the end of that trip that I didn't want it to be my last experience with mission work.
     Missionaries go out to hard places and do hard work. They also come back home and spend time with their families. They have meals, play games and laugh about silly things. When you take away the cute pictures of the smiling children, the inspiring Pinterest quotes about being a missionary, and all of the other frills surrounding the concept of mission work, once you push all of that aside you have to face the truth. Missionaries are humans trying their best to lead other humans to salvation. They aren't, or at least I personally am not, on some higher plane of spirituality. Just because I'm on a mission trip doesn't mean all of my negative characteristics have been put on hold. I'm still working on trying not to get cranky when I'm hot, tired, or hungry. I'm working on it, but I still have a long way to go and I get frustrated with myself when I fail.
     Missionaries also get to witness some of the purest moments of happiness you could imagine. Like yesterday, when a seventeen year old boy smiled and sang a song on the first day of school he's ever had. Moments like that are, to me, what make the difficult moments worthwhile.
     The students here at the school always end their days with singing, and hearing their voices every night is one of my favorite parts of being here. It helps clear my mind to be ready for a new day. A new day with new mistakes and new challenges, and also new happiness and hope.
     It's raining as I finish writing this, which means the heat has gone away for a short time. Tomorrow, a new day will dawn and the challenges and joys will start again. But first, I will get to hear my new friends singing in the evening, like they always do.

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