I stared out the window as the plane took off with rapid velocity. Once again, America became smaller and smaller until it was buried under layers of clouds. Four months ago, as a sat on a plane very similar, I had no idea what would lie before me. I wondered if I was crazy, if I would regret giving up everything I knew for something completely unknown.
People were constantly asking us questions about our life in Latvia as we spent two weeks in California celebrating my brothers wedding. I could feel the underlying question in everything that was asked,
“Was it all worth it?”
It’s the same question I would wonder if I was in their shoes and the same question I have asked myself several times. But as I sat on the plane last week, all I could think of, was how much I have already learned in such a short amount of time.
Here are the main things I have learned:
1. It’s IS worth it
If God calls you to do something crazy, like give up your well paying jobs and move across the world, it is worth it! Sure, there have been plenty of times I have wondered why I am really here, but there have been far more moments when I realize that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. It’s also fascinating that God called me to move across the world, because I have always been a firm believer that God can use us exactly where we are. So whether God calls you to do something across the world, or right there in the midst of your everyday life, don’t be afraid to listen, no matter how crazy it may seem.
2. God Really Does Provide
One of the strangest things about moving here was switching over from jobs with regular incomes to living off of support from other people. It’s awkward and strange and often makes you question every detail of your life and work that you share with other people. But it has also been amazing to see how God has provided every single thing we need. He is faithful. He doesn’t leave us hanging. And the beautiful thing about needing other people is that it actually multiplies tenfold the amount of people who are invested in our ministry here.
3. New Skills
In just four short months, I have found myself loving and learning new things that I always assumed just wasn’t a part of who I was. We live in a town with two tiny grocery stores, a gas station and not a single coffee shop or restaurant. Driving into one shopping center in California last week, I commented that there was more food in that one shopping center than there is within a two-hour radius of my house in Latvia. So I learned to cook, and I learned to be creative when I cooked since our grocery stores don’t always carry the same items. I went from being afraid to ever invite someone to my house for dinner, since I had no idea what I would make, to offering to bring a full platter of enchiladas with homemade tortillas to our community dinner. I began to enjoy flowers for the first time since they have been springing up all around us. I learned how to drive stick shift for the first time. We aren’t forced to learn any of these things in America because automatic cars are easy to come by and every grocery store sells pre-packaged food. It may not seem like much, but I realized that the more you are able to do on your own, the more confidence you have in who you are.
4. I Learned How To Communicate in a Foreign Language
I am incredibly far from speaking fluent Latvian, but I can call a cab, ask about things in stores, communicate with our women on the streets and even have a twenty-minute conversation with my neighbors downstairs. It’s one thing to learn a foreign language in school; it’s a whole other thing to need it just to pump gas into your car or understand what you are buying at the grocery store. It’s also just fun to learn something that actually changes the relationships you are able to have in such a drastic way.
5. I Am Learning New Cultures
Living in America, 99% of the people you meet grew up pretty similar to you. They ate the same foods, tried the same sports and spoke the same language. But here in Latvia, I not only learn Latvian culture, but also the cultures of so many European countries. On any given day, people speaking different languages and coming from completely different backgrounds surround me. Sometimes I will hear four different languages in the same room. You begin to realize that your perception of people isn’t always true. Their culture may view their actions in a completely different light than you do and you learn to respect them and not assume anything based on your own background.
6. I Learned New Systems
It’s amazing to me how different America is than almost every other country in the world. Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve had to convert inches to centimeters, miles to kilometers, cups to grams; Fahrenheit to Celsius… the list goes on! It may seem like a small thing, but it really does separate us from the rest of the world.
7. I Learned How to Thrive Outside of My Comfort Zone
The first few months I was here, I had some breakdowns. The first time I tried to use public transportation in the city, I missed my bus stop and didn’t even realize it until I started seeing all the same streets heading the opposite direction. No one spoke or understood English enough to help me and by the time I got off the bus to try and find the right bus, it was pouring rain and I was trying to juggle a guitar, 2 bags, and an umbrella. After that moment, I was afraid to try and use public transportation again, but I had to and so I did. Now I take that bus almost every week and I can figure out how to get anywhere I need to in Latvia.
I live in a foreign country, which means that I am never truly functioning within the confines of comfort and yet I have learned to see each obstacle as a catalyst for growth instead of a beacon of fear.
So as I sat on that plane, once again heading towards a new place that I call home, I realized that I have no regrets. The changes I witnessed around me being back in California after four months were quite minimal. But the changes that occur within me while I am here are monumental things that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life.
Here’s to the next four months and all it will hold!