Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What I long for

This one from Bill:

People often ask us, “What do you miss when you're in Peru?” The answer: Cheddar cheese. It is unforgiveable to serve Cincinnati Chili without it. People think we miss Cincinnati Chili, but we don’t. We take it with us. But, we can’t take 4 years of cheese with us. Peru has all the great cheeses from Europe, but muenster or gouda doesn’t cut it on a Coney! So, anyone coming down to visit, must pack their luggage full of cheddar bricks. The same goes for peanut butter. Thankfully, peanut butter lasts a long time. So, we usually had a well stocked American peanut butter library. When we left, I gave a big jar of Crunchy Jiff to a missionary friend. He immediately recognized its value and the strong statement of friendship such a costly gift entailed. There are a million other things that we used to miss, but we’ve learned to live without them; e.g., Snyder’s Pretzels or American Ice Cream. You can buy them in Lima (which is really amazing), but they’re too expensive for daily consumption. So, one learns to live without. Eventually, one’s love for American food is supplanted by a love for Peruvian.

The question of what one misses is very telling. It reveals, in part, the condition of one’s heart—perhaps, even one’s identity. Are you happy on the mission field or are you longing for home and defining “all that is good” as that which is from the U.S.? If the latter question is true, you’re going to suffer as a missionary. It’s like the stages of grief. To be healthy, you’ve got to reach the stage of acceptance. After our first six months, we began to accept our lives in Latin America and adapted our desires, so as to be happy in our calling. But, six months before returning to the U.S. for support raising, our hearts began to stir with a hankering for things American.

I was looking forward to shopping at my favorite grocery store and eating one of my favorite flavors of ice cream. I dreamt of shopping at BIGGS (Home of True Minimum Pricing) and eating Trauth’s Denali Moose Tracks ice cream. I told Colton, “As soon as we hit the ground, I’m off to Biggs for Moose Tracks!”

Then my mom delivered the news—Biggs was bought out. When we arrived at our home, it was late. About 11:00 PM, Colton and I headed off to Biggs. They were always opened. Now, they close at 10:00 PM. If my longings from Peru were a collection of balloons, you could have heard the first one popping. We had to go to Super Wal-Mart. The Super Wal-Mart was built a couple of months before we left for Peru. Knowing we wouldn’t be around long, I never flirted with it. I stayed true to Biggs and hardly gave Super Wal-Mart a glance. But, at 11:00 PM and in need of breakfast cereal and toilet paper, the lights of Super Wal-Mart beckoned me.

A couple days later I went back to Biggs to look for Moose Tracks. Everything was different. They had changed the layout of the store. Pop! There went another balloon. I found the ice cream isle and began to look. They had a huge selection of ice cream brands: Bryers, Edy’s, and Homemade Brand. They even had Greaters, which is the best ice cream on the planet--costing slightly more than imported caviar. They had lots of good brands, but no Trauth. One large section of the freezer case was taken up by Mayfield Ice Cream. Who ever heard of Mayfield before? Pop! All that I had been longing for—a specific experience and a specific flavor—was gone. It reminded me of the time I took Lena to see my childhood home, only to find that a local hospital had bulldozed it for their parking lot. I couldn’t even tell where the house was. No house. No trees. No swing in the back yard. Nothing but a fading memory. I was a man without at home.

A few weeks later, I spoke to the manager of Biggs. Emotionally, I blamed them for bulldozing my dreams and my sense of home. I told him that I missed Trauth’s Moose Tracks. He told me that Trauth quit making ice cream a few years ago. In the last year, Trauth’s Moose Tracks was made by Mayfield and sold under the Trauth brand. Then he showed me the Mayfield Moose Tracks. I put it in my cart, making sure that no one saw me. It was Super Wal-Mart all over again. I was an unfaithful customer.

Beware of what you long for, because it likely isn’t there anymore. Kids grow up. New highways are built. The local barber shop is bulldozed to make room for Starbuck’s drive-through. The world changes and we do too. One can be careful about what we long for, but not about the act of longing. Our hearts have to long for something. It’s encoded in our genes—a longing for home, a desire for the perfect Christmas or a hankering for your grandmother’s soup. Paul, a missionary who was always away from home, felt it in his friendship with Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:4, he writes, “Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” He also experienced it in his longing for heaven. He was torn between the longing to go to his new country (heaven) and the desire to keep working his mission field (earth). In Philippians 1:21-24 he writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

When we’re in Lima and I miss something from Ohio, I remind myself that these are small sacrifices to make, in order to bring heaven to Peru. And when I’m home in Ohio and I feel like my old identity was bulldozed under by progress, I remind myself that I have a new identity in Christ—it’s just another sign that I wasn’t made for this place. I have a real home in heaven and Jesus is getting it ready for me.

So, what do you long for?

1 comment:

H.L. Hussmann - God's Greatest Passion Ministries said...

This was great, Bill.

You write well. I tend to "skim" a whole lot of text out there, but find myself reading both your's and Lena's all the way through. That says a lot.

Love you guys.

Now I gotta go get some Moose Tracks. I will think of you and revel in my calling to Murray, KY.