Growing up on the mission field I have seen a lot. A lot of things I couldn't even begin to explain. Things that if you actually took the time to think about, you'd fall into a massive pit of depression. So for me, in order to not die inside, whenever I would see something like that I would automatically store it somewhere in my head. Almost like a glass bottle. I would just put it there and not reopen it. I would store it in order for me to be able to live there and not leave.
The problem with doing that is it only works for so long and then eventually the glass breaks. Whatever I store comes out at some point, and not by my own wishes. I could be home, at a friend's house, in my car, heck I could be buying a gallon of milk and something, anything, something as small as a pen dropping could trigger it and make what I stored resurface. And then NOW, I must process it. I have to relive what I saw and process it fully through.
No one really knows or could even comprehend the emotional and physical toll being a missionary has on you. They don't see girls younger than my little sister pregnant because she's starving and feels that she has no other way to make money to buy food, other than to sleep with someone four times her age. They don't see kids bones looking like they are going to slice open their skin because they are starving and have zero meat on their body. They don't see the children show up to the feeding center beaten and desperate for someone, anyone, to show them an ounce of love. They don't see babies falling into the river and drowning because their parents don't take care of them.
Moving back to the States in November of 2017, I had a ton of mixed emotions. My family may return once my mom is doing better, but I moved back permanently. I was born on the mission field and have spent my whole life in the villages and 13 years of it in the Dominican Republic. Although I was excited, it was extremely difficult for me. Knowing that I wouldn't be able to see my kids or be able to speak into their lives on a daily basis was very hard on me, but I knew that God had a plan for me in this new season of life.
Tuesday, the day before I left the Dominican Republic, I was playing with a little girl in one of the villages my family works in. Her face looked pretty rough, and I knew she was freshly beaten. I hadn't seen her like this before, but I knew that her dad had a problem with physical abuse. Usually I don't stop until I let someone know. My dad or one of our staff members, and then I follow up on it to make sure they do something about it. But that day I just mentioned it. I didn't want to become emotionally attached to something the day before leaving, so in order to protect my own feelings I didn't pressure people to find out. I should have.
Wednesday I flew out. The little girl was now bottled up so that I wouldn't let it break me. Thursday afternoon I found out that her dad killed her. He no longer wanted to watch his daughter and have to provide for her so he put her in a bucket of water, walked away and let her drown. He killed her. The moment I heard about it, my stomach hit the floor, but I automatically bottled it up and stored it away so that I wouldn't die inside. I knew it would completely break me, so I did what I always do when I see those things. I stored it away.
When I got back I went through major culture shock for months, and still deal with it. I remember walking into a store and seeing how many choices of cookies there was and just started bawling. I felt guilty for leaving them in such rough circumstances. I wanted them to have this many choices of cookies. Showering slowly began to kill me inside because of how much water I had. Walking into church I was in a daze. There were so many English speaking people going at full pace and I felt so out of place.
After two months of living here I became or so I thought, accustomed to the American life. I was working hard on school, working, volunteering at church and about to try out for the worship team. Life felt right. I felt like after pouring out for so long, I was beginning to be filled myself. But you know what they say: when everything seems right, that's when it all hits the fan and all hell breaks loose.
The week I was going to try out for the worship team I was packed with school deadlines, work and my parents were away in Washington visiting my Aunt. I was so stressed. It all quickly became too much. One night when everyone was asleep, I went down stairs for a drink because I wasn't able to sleep. I reached for a drink out of the fridge and it finally happened. After months, it finally happened. The glass bottle broke. What I stored had now resurfaced and hit me like a sack of potatoes.
I stood there numb in the dark just aching. Why didn't I try harder? Why didn't I follow up? Why didn't I do something before she was gone. Why was I too selfish worrying about what it might do to my heart, to not doing something to protect hers? WHY?
I was so grumpy the next day. My cousins and my sister weren't very fond of me, but they had no idea what I was going through. Why didn't they? Because I bottle my feelings. But now that these were out I had to process them. I was broken inside. I couldn't breathe, I still can't. For months all I did was think of her and that maybe she would be alive if I hadn't left. Why did I leave?
That was over a year ago and I'm still holding my breath. I'm still asking myself why. I'm still trying to process and I still see her face every night before I close my eyes. I put on a face and hide how I am truly feeling. It's hard to talk to people about it because they just don't understand. No one will understand until they look into the eyes of a child who is suffering and not be able to tell them that everything will be okay. No one will understand until they have to walk out of a village leaving a child you know is being beaten and is starving and most likely being put into or is already in prostitution. You just won't understand how deep the pain is.
I bottle these things up in order to survive in life and not die of guilt.
When the glass breaks and what I store resurfaces I have no choice but to process it. I have to feel every emotion. I have to feel the pain, heal from it and then let go and release it to God. My favorite bible verse during this time when I'm going through these emotions is Isaiah 43:2-3, it says, "When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God."
As horrible as this all sounds, I wouldn't change it for the world. I have been given a life not many get to have and although there is so much suffering, it is nothing compared to how rewarding it can be. I get to see so many children gain weight! I know that sounds strange but it's not! It means life is literally being given to them. It means they will survive another day. I get to see moms sell clothing they made at our sewing center and are now able to provide for their family and by that, they no longer have to put their children into prostitution. That's a blessing I could never give up.
It's been almost three years and I NOW finally have peace. Peace knowing that everything happens according to the Lords will, and that one day, I will meet that precious little girl again in Heaven, where there is no more sadness + and no more pain.