Since I arrived home from Albania I have been trying to write a concluding post, something I could say to wrap up my trip and summarize what I learned. For months, I've been trying to think of what to write. But how can I possibly summarize eight months of life-changing experience? It's not easy.
The trip was certainly different than I had expected. Before I left home, I knew better than to set expectations because I had no idea what life would be like in Albania. But in my mind, I suppose I over-glamorized missions a little bit. I pictured myself working hard every day, accomplishing great things for God. But a lot of the trip consisted of me staying around the house, waiting and praying for opportunities to serve. My lack of busyness certainly wasn't for lack of trying! There were many ministries I tried to be involved in, many people I tried to build relationships with, but a lot of it didn't work out. I often wondered how that could be God's plan. Didn't He want me to do great things for Him? Sometimes I would be discouraged and even a little disappointed with myself about how little i thought I had accomplished. Although these feelings hardly ever lasted long, the devil would definitely use those discouraging moments to make me feel like I had accomplished nothing.
In the middle of such times God always reminded me, not of what I accomplished, but what He accomplished through me. I may not have been involved in the kind of opportunities I picture, but God had so many other wonderful ministries in store for me! And though I may not have learned the lessons I expected to learn, I certainly learned many things I didn't plan on. God helped me stretch and grow in ways that I wouldn't have anticipated. Through my experience in Albania, I learned how to adjust to a new culture and a new language. I learned my own insignificance. I learned the importance of building relationships to bring people to the Lord. I learned patience. I learned to be dependent on my Redeemer. I learned to work with unpredictable situations and to expect the unexpected. I learned that God works in ways that i can't imagine.
Coming home after such a life-changing experience was both easier and harder than I would have imagined. It's a strange feeling to try and fall back into a normal pattern of life while maintaining the changes of heart that I experienced. To be honest, the first few weeks I was home from Albania were very difficult. I would find myself sitting in church on Sunday on the verge of tears because I wanted nothing more than to be worshipping with the Albanians. I would look at the cushy lives we live, the facades we wear, and wish i was back among people who lived out their faith boldly in the face of persecution. A lot of times my daily life felt, well...wrong. Sometimes it still feels wrong.
I have adjusted back to American life again, though I am still learning how to apply my changed outlook to the way I live on a regular basis. My prayer is that I would not get too adjusted. I don't ever want to lose the passion that God has given me for reaching those who do not know Him. Albania is always in the back of my mind, and I pray that it will always be so. It is a constant reminder that my purpose in this life is to serve Him and Him alone. I look back on my time in Albania and realize how truly blessed I am to have experienced the things I experienced.
People often ask me if I want to go back. My answer is a definite "Yes!"