From the time I could say "When I grow up I want to..." I'd finish the sentence with "be a missionary" or "live in Africa". There may have been a random "be a waitress" or "be an actress" but for the most part the 1st two scenarios were the given answer.
People told us how hard it would be to move overseas. They'd explain the difficulties or try to imagine for us how sad it would be to live far away from our families and friends. Others wouldn't say it out loud but you'd see it in their eyes as they gave you hugs and said "see you later". I would always smile and say confidently "this is where the Lord has called us". And praise to His name that hasn't changed and at the same time what people said has been true. It is difficult sometimes to be far away from all we know and those who know us. It is also extraordinarly wonderful to know you are exactly where He wants you to be.
However, what I wasn't prepared for, what no one ever mentioned, what has caused the most tears, and what has been the source of my deepest joys - is to be stripped of my identity. If you had asked me in Whom I found my identity, I would have confidently answered, "Jesus Christ". The truth, I'm afraid, has been slightly different. There are things, I found my identity in, that I wasn't even made aware of until living in Mada.
Growing up, my identity was "Hi, I'm Nickolee, Flint & Lessa's daughter", "I worship at Midway Baptist", "I attend school at West Lauderdale"...etc.
Then while in college..."I'm an Education major", "I'm engaged", etc.
Then once I was married..."I'm Mrs. Roberts", "I'm a 4th grade teacher", "We're having a baby" etc.
There was nothing wrong with any of these and although I wouldn't have said that's where I found my identity - my continually stating these phrases along with 100's of others over the years- seemed to prove that was where my identity was found.
Here's the thing...
no one knows who my parents are
everyone speaks to me in French (because I'm a "vazaha" foreigner)
as a 26 year old college grad, I was reduced to the knowledge of a toddler
it is mentally exhausting to have an indepth conversation in Malagasy
no one "ooohs and ahhhhs" over my being married
people openly ask why we don't have more children
The ONLY thing that will make a difference here is Jesus Christ.
He is who they do not know about - He is the One they need to hear about.
My identity has to be in Christ alone.
He is the only one that makes a difference in this world.
He is the only one that makes a difference in me.
Without Him there is no life.
Without Him there is no hope.
Without Him - I have no identity.