When I returned from my SM year in New Zealand to jump back into college, I was ready to be home, and there was no looking back. It had been a tough year, and I didn’t know if I’d ever return to the place that caused so much stress, even though it had also caused much growth. But when I returned from a few months in Yap a few years ago, the story was completely different. It had been one of the best experiences of my life, and the last thing I wanted to do was shove it all away and start back into “normal” American life. But I tried hard. I cried a lot and prayed a lot, but it was always there–the longing to go back. I missed my fellow missionaries, students, the simple life, and even the heat. But even though I often fantasized about returning, I could never be sure if I truly wanted to go back to YAP or back in TIME. Was God calling me back, or was it just my memories?
I prayed and wrestled with this question throughout the year. I tried to separate my longing to go back from my frustrations with certain aspects of American culture and my own difficulties with readjusting and re-entering life at “home.” But I’m not sure that I was ever completely able to do that. After several months of praying and swinging back and forth about the possibility of returning, I surrendered it to God. Since I was in a temporary job, I had to make some decisions about my future in the next few months. I asked Him to lead me, and if He wanted me back in Yap, I was ready to go, but if He wanted me to stay, I knew He could help me be ok with that too. Since it was still on my heart, however, I decided to check into the possibility of Yap first, and if that didn’t work out, I would go on to other job prospects closer to home. I had certain things that needed to happen for it to work, though, especially financially, which I made clear in my inquiring emails and to God. To my surprise, the doors swung wide open more quickly than I thought. I was extremely excited, but had to wait another six months before leaving, which left a lot of time for more thought.
Even the financial hurdles of going back were quickly taken care of, thanks to amazing friends who donated yet again to my Yap cause. But even after all that, a few months after I’d made the decision, I began to question again. How did I know I was really following God? What if I was just making this happen because I wanted it so much? What if I got back to Yap and everything was so different, and then it tainted my beautiful memories from before? I had weird dreams about going back and everything being dark and lonely. Once again I wrestled and prayed and asked God to confirm that this was the path He was opening for me. It took another job opportunity, which dragged out for a couple months, before finally realizing that God truly had placed Yap on my heart–more than financial security, more than my desire to be “normal” for my age, even more than my desire to be close to my family and friends. I felt sure that this was where God was calling me for this season, and committed the next two years to serving Him again in Yap.
But the questions weren’t over. I still had a few months of waiting at home between jobs that challenged me again with the desire to be a “normal” independent young adult. As I sold my car–the first car I’d made my own payments on–and gave away my cell phone with its contract, and said goodbye to friends and family again…it affected me more deeply than I expected. What was I doing? Was I just procrastinating the inevitable process of joining the American world? Was I just afraid that I didn’t fit here? Why couldn’t I just “get over it” and move on after my mission experience? Why did it seem God had placed this in my heart so deeply that I couldn’t resist? Though God didn’t precisely answer each of these questions, He did give me the assurance I needed to get on that plane. He helped me realize that wherever HE calls, I am privileged to serve. My life doesn’t have to look like the lives of others. And I learned that there is something that feels inherently good and right about letting go of possessions and “selfish ambition” for the purpose of following God with all of my heart, even to the unknown.
Looking back, I am so glad I went through all of those questions and doubts, and felt God’s assurance. My second experience in Yap turned out to be a lot different and a lot more difficult than my first time, but I had that anchor point that reminded me that I had returned because God had shown me this path, and not just because I was being sentimental. Even though part of my reasons for returning were sentimental, it was not long before I saw that my return to Yap was for other reasons, far more important and enduring than good memories. I had a different role and a different path. I was challenged to my core–physically and spiritually–in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and even had to return home a year earlier than I had planned. But I could leave knowing I did my best to follow God’s plan, and that was enough. It didn’t “ruin” my first experience, but it did add a much deeper, richer context from which to view it.
Coming back this time, I have had more closure, and felt more peace with knowing that it is God who is calling me to my homeland. Often I still look back and miss Yap very much, and yes, even wish to go back at times. Sometimes I wonder why things had to happen the way they did so that I couldn’t fulfill my two-year commitment, but there are some things we probably won’t completely understand until Heaven. The point is, that no matter where I am, no matter what decision I am faced with, or what lays heavy on my heart…I take it all to Jesus and I ask Him to direct my steps. And as I seek His will–through His Word, through the advice of others, through circumstances, and through the waiting time–He will direct my paths. Whether He asks me to let go of my American home or my “other home”, His path is always best, and I can always trust Him to show me the way, one step at a time.