I agree with you! We returned to Australia three years ago and I think that re-entry here has been harder than adjusting to Nepal. At first, I was out of my depth in all of the little things – completely unable to swipe my credit card or put petrol in the car or choose from the rows and rows of toilet paper. Actually for the first six months, I was only able to buy ten items at a time at the supermarket. The choice seemed overwhelming – even to the point of being obscene. I just couldn’t stop thinking about my friends in Nepal who were so hungry. And even though I was physically here, part of me was still back there. For months I would stare out at the gum trees and see a parallel world – acres of rice paddies and flashes of women in red saris and the voices of my Nepali friends. But the hardest thing for me was adjusting to a loss of purpose. We’d spent all of our adult life either preparing to be in Nepal or living there so it was a big thing to suddenly be without that cross-cultural deliberateness of ministry and purpose.
Australia just seemed so ordinary! Even our boys commented on the ordinariness. Stephen (who was 11 at the time) said, “It’s not just one thing I miss. It’s everything. It’s bus trips to Kathmandu and sleep-overs with friends and INF conferences and monsoonal floods and the way we always had something big to look forward to. Everything about our lives was special in Nepal and everything had a purpose.” I agreed with him. It was the sense of purposefulness that I missed most – the deliberateness of our life and ministry there. But as well as that, I missed my closer walk with God. I think being so far out of my comfort zone in Nepal (especially within civil war) meant that I relied on God out of day-to-day necessity. My prayer life was rich! But back here in Australia, especially initially, everything seemed so easy and predictable. I didn’t need to rely on God, or even pray. Why would I – when the roads were always open and the banks always worked and I could go out the door whenever I liked. There was no curfew!
So, the biggest challenge for me has been learning to once again spend time with him – often out of conscious decision rather than desperate need – which has seemed harder. And I’ve needed to trust that he has us back here for a reason – even when it hasn’t seemed clear. And I keep asking myself why ministry should be any less purposeful here than it was there. Aren’t there the same needs here? They’re just harder to see – they come wrapped so differently. But mostly, I need to see the continuity of life – the things that are the same – my walk with God and my purposes in him. That’s probably why I keep saying that it’s the same! I need to remind myself! So even though I drive a car and operate a dishwasher and go to the supermarket whenever I want to, the essence needs to be the same – the truth of who I am in him. I remember the day I re-read Psalm 139:10 (“If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”). And I was so amazed … Always before the ‘far side of the sea’ had been Nepal – the place where he had held me and led me – and now suddenly, the far side of the sea was right here in Sydney – the place where he has me and will hold and guide me. So that’s what I’ve been learning in this new season – that while it looks different (all the boys are at school and I have these amazing writing and speaking opportunities), it really is the same – it’s all about becoming a little bit more like Jesus. Well, that’s the challenge for me anyway … but there’s so much more I could say. Maybe we need to meet for a really long cup of tea …