I didn’t expect it to feel so different coming back into Canadian culture – even though I know it so well.
But what a change in pace and in actions. I almost feel like I forget how to act here – I’ve gotten so used to the “ways” of Guatemalan culture.
I have to second guess myself when I go to throw my toilet paper in the toilet (toilet paper goes in the garbage can in Guatemala) and I have to catch myself when I start forming sentences in Spanish before I go up to order food or even just go to ask someone a question.
I catch myself wanting to ask someone first and foremost if they’re married or if they have kids – Guatemalan culture is very relational and these were some of the questions I always got asked first. I also expect almost every person to be greeting me as I walk down the street.
Everything is so big. Semi trucks, houses, stores, cars – people are taller.
But just because these things are shocking as I come back into this culture, I’m reminded that we are all so diverse and the Lord is so creative in the way the He has made our different cultures. As well, I don’t need to now just discard all the “ways” that I’ve been walking, especially not the ones that directly reflect the heart of Jesus. But instead I can work at integrating some of these “ways” into our Canadian culture. As well as many of the other things I’ve learnt that are sure to affect my relationships and many other things that I’ll encounter for years to come.
I know I need to recognize that this is a big job and I know it’s going to take years for me to be able to actually process the things I’ve learnt and done this year. But I know that I can take things one day at a time and still play my part in building the kingdom as I’m learning and growing (as I always should be).
One of my favourite quotes from the Narnia series is from the book the Horse and His Boy – Aslan says, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
The Lord has definitely been telling me my story this year, but only just a piece of it – this is only the beginning.
Ephesians 3:14-21 says, “When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
These verses came up a lot throughout this year and the Lord has proven Himself faithful time and time again; to do immeasurably more than I could even possibly fathom or imagine or expect. And my expectations were blown out of the water.
Entering this year, I felt like the Lord really wanted to work on my leadership with me. I had no idea what He meant by that at first but now looking back I can see much better, not completely of course, but better.
Leadership in the sense of influence; decisiveness and discernment as to when to say yes and when to say no, when to step up and when to stand back. And also how to be bold and confident in these decisions.
It was incredible to see how the year was orchestrated; very intentional community and intense learning from speakers from across Canada first semester and then second semester having the opportunity to apply the things I learned as well as be given the opportunity for a lot more independent spiritual growth.
But all year long in community I’ve been challenged and blessed by many things. I’ve been challenged by learning how to do life together with a bunch of other broken messy people and how to be a team. How to have hard conversations with people about hard topics, how to listen well and to seek to understand where people are coming from rather than just to be understood.
As a community we also had the chance to be immersed in many different cultures some even in our own country. And what a beautiful opportunity and challenge this was as well.
But through the weeks of struggles and challenges, with a new language or missing home or both, I learned my need for grace and peace. Grace for those around me and for myself, and as well as seeking Jesus and only Jesus for peace and comfort.
This was a constant choice and it felt as though I was constantly saying the words, “this is going to be hard, but good!”, over and over again.
But the blessings and the goodness stemming from these hard choices far outweigh the challenges.
It was incredible to see Jesus in people this year. In community and as well in many of the people that I met. I was reminded over and over again that we are the church and even more than that we’re part of the global church.
I felt especially able to realize this as we ventured into other cultures with other languages and yet see that we still worship the same Jesus.
This was a big learning aspect for me, seeking to find Jesus wherever we were and in whoever we were with. Seeking to find where He was already working in places like inner city Winnipeg, Roseau River First Nations Reserve, or in the middle of the highlands in Guatemala. And then being able to join Him there in His work, with compassion for His people rather than pity.
But other than seeing the Lord in the pinnacle of His creation, His people, I was also able to see Him in His other creation this year; the world around us. In the beauty of mountains and lakes and volcanoes, sunrises, sunsets and big starry skies.
And now looking back, on the year and on that passage in Ephesians; I am not only seeing all that the Lord has done around me and how He’s blown away my expectations, I’m also seeing how He has grown my roots even deeper into His love and helped me grow to understand it even more. “How wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is,” and even though it also says in this passage that this love is too great to understand fully, I can look back and say I’ve definitely experienced it in a way that I never have before.
Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
And surely I can say that the Lord has pursued me with His unfathomable love all the year long.
Right on my heals.
And I can look back with thankfulness and joy and say that I couldn’t have done this year without Him and without everyone else who was a part of it.
And that God is so good.
Featured photo: Emily Baxter