It is my last week in Guatemala for 6 months and I am currently sat at the family sized kitchen table in the centre where I have worked and served for these past three years. I am catching up on some emails and correspondence, most of which are overdue my attention, packing definitely took over my life these past few weeks.
One of my colleagues is sat chopping vegetables in preparation for my farewell meal with my boys youth group later this evening. It is peaceful as the workday winds down at the centre. In generally it has been quieter than normal here these past few months, as we are still not fully open since lockdown ended.
Danilo, one of my youth and a volunteer with us, just walked in. He greeted us and came over to give me a hug. I congratulated him for his birthday, which was yesterday, and he said thank you. He lingered, his hand on my shoulder as I sat back down to finish an email. As he lingered that slight ‘sick’ feeling crept back into my stomach, that nervous type of feeling right in the gut. I have been experiencing it on and off a lot these past few days. All the emotions and thoughts going round in my head and my heart as I prepare to leave Guatemala, my home, to return to the UK, my other home.
This is one of the bittersweet parts of life as a missionary. The moment when you are confronted with the reality of having two places that you love and call home. The moment when you have to leave one to return to the other.
I am ridiculously excited to be going back to the UK, to see my family and friends again after almost two years away. Anticipation has built and built as I had to postpone my trip earlier in the year and now it is finally happening. All the joys in knowing I will soon be home with my family and able to spend ‘ordinary’ days with them as well as celebrate Christmas with them again.
I can go for long walks in the countryside with our family dog, sit under blankets, still freezing no doubt, watching TV and films with my little brother. I can pass time chatting with my mum as we cook together or have an afternoon cup of tea, greet my dad when he walks in the front door after a long day at work. I certainly won’t be getting up early to send him off to work. There is so much more I look forward to, more people, more places, more things to do.
Yet it is bittersweet as I have to say farewell, for now at least, to so many people and things I love here too. Guatemala is also my home now, and I have people here that have become my family. So saying bye for 6 months is just as hard on this end as it is when I leave the UK to come here (which I have only done twice so far).
I feel incredibly blessed to be able to call two places home and to feel like leaving and returning to both is always equally exciting and sad. It isn’t exactly a ‘bad’ problem to have, but it can be challenging.
It can feel like I straddle the fence between two worlds and that I am the only overlap between them. That certainly is an exaggeration and a bit dramatic but it is how it can feel at times.
When I am here in Guatemala it can feel like my whole life beforehand didn’t happen or doesn’t exist. Fully aware that is not true, it can just feel so separate at times.
Of course, in actual fact I have plenty keeping me connected to the UK, contact with link churches, family, supporters, friends and it is all fantastic. It keeps me grounded in why I am here and encourages and blesses me and by extensions those I work with and serve here in Guatemala.
And then, if you allow me to be dramatic one more time, it can feel the same in reverse.
I have only returned to the UK once in the past three years, and it was for just three weeks. It was a very special time of family, friends and fun. Just briefly for those few weeks it felt like I had never left and again it was easy at times to feel like my life in Guatemala was just a dream or had happened years ago.
It is difficult to describe if you haven’t lived it. And like I mentioned, it is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing and I am certainly not complaining. I love my life and feel blessed to have been called to such an extraordinary way of living. More than anything it is an observation, a peek inside at what it feels like.
And a way of processing for me and coming to a renewed place of hope.
My hope being that this time while I am in the UK, especially as I will be spending time sharing with my link churches and supporters, albeit virtually in some cases, God will show me new ways for my two worlds to collide. For the fence I straddle to have more than just me as the overlapping factor.
My hope is that God can show me how best to bring Guatemala to life for others in new ways and in turn to grow more links between my life in the UK and my life here. I hope that God will show me how to live more fully and present in both my homes no matter which I am in. Of course, I recognise that a big part of that is exactly that, to live in my present. When in Guatemala to be fully present in Guatemala and when in the UK to be fully present there. But you can’t blame a girl for hoping and trying to have a little bit of both at all times.
So, my dream in relation to this is to see God use me and others to better share the experiences of life here in Guatemala and to also better communicate with the children and young people in Guatemala that there are people in places like the UK and all over the world that love and care for them, as God loves them. To be even more intentional and active in being part of bringing further communion in God’s worldwide Church.