New Beginnings

I am sitting in Atlanta International Airport right now, having just arrived from St. Louis. Those speaking Spanish are slowly starting to surround me. We board in about 45 minutes for a plane headed to Panama City, Panama. My nerves from this morning have subsided…slightly.

I woke up at my in-laws house tired this morning, but my husband was holding me, very much what I need right now. I got up and showered and returned to Thomas saying, “ while I get ready, you tell Jaime.” I wasn’t sure what to expect but our TV was on with breaking news. My mother-in-law told me that security had arrested many terrorists in London, England at Hartfield Airport. Many of them were headed to major cities in the U.S. like L.A., New York City, and Washington D.C. The plot was uncovered early that morning. Already family was calling us from other areas to make sure we knew what was going on. So what did that mean for us on the day we were flying out of the country to where we would be serving for a year?

They changed security to not allow any liquid, gels or pastes in carry-ons. Thankfully we were prepared enough before arriving through the lines. I missed one item but was able to give it to my in-laws and then go through security again. Arriving in Atlanta and settling at our new gate, the overhead speaker announced they were out of tourist cards and that we can purchase them when we get to Panama. I wonder how that will work? I look outside and see the dark skies and storms. I wonder how a lot of things will work. My best, though, is under God’s care. He’s already prepared the way, and that is my peace. 

We were delayed about 3.5 hours in Atlanta due mostly to the bad storms. When the airport re-opened for flights, we were 40th in line. We moved along quicker than I thought, however, and the flight was thankfully uneventful. We filled out our tourist cards, or visas, after we arrived (about 12:30am) and then went through customs. Thankfully our missionary host family, Henry and Ruthie were there waiting for us after we gathered our piles of luggage. I wasn’t sure what we’d do or how I’d hold up if they weren’t there. Arriving in a strange city, in a country where you don’t speak the language, in the middle of the night, is quite unnerving. 

This beginning is taken straight out of my journal when my husband and I were sent to Panama with LCMS World Mission in 2006. We took this call with excitement. We had both served in our post-college jobs for about 2 years and felt change coming. We either were looking at a transfer for Thomas’s job or this move to the mission field. The mission field was where our hearts felt led. We started the process 6 months before we left the country. 

New beginnings are filled with a sense of adventure and wonderment. In something completely new, you can’t visualize what it looks like on the other end. To some, this is scary, while to others it stirs up their inner explorer. I land on both sides of that coin. I love the new, but on those first days, I’m anxious and full of emotion. 

Why is new scary? Because it’s unpredictable. Because it might be a complete bust. Because what’s waiting on the other side might not actually fill my expectations. Because I don’t even know if I will know what to do.

Why is it exciting? Because it brings new life to areas of myself that needed fresh starts. Because adventuring shows me I’m stronger than I thought. Because with other things out of the way, I see God a little more clearly. 

Notice how our beginning to Panama was full of both the scary and the exciting? How in the world were we traveling on a breaking news day that involved air travel and terrorism? Really? On our first day headed to the mission field for a year?

Sometimes new beginnings are like that. You know it’s a good move. You have consulted with others, and with God in prayer. It’s right. But as you move forward, you run into obstacles. It gets scary. Not every beginning will be clear of all the hardships. Actually it might be the opposite. It might feel like you’ve made the complete wrong choice as you stumble and push through the discomfort surrounding you. 

I don’t know what your new beginning is like right now or if you have one coming up, but I would encourage you to push through and not be scared off by the initial storms. There will be time to reevaluate once you have given it a fair shot. But I think those challenges in the beginning can be addressed like the adventurer seeking new land. Something was left behind and you did that on purpose. Because there is something ahead that you need in your life.

For us, the first year and a half of marriage was hard. We needed a change and this was an opportunity to share our greatest purpose with others around the world. In hindsight, we learned so much about what mission work is and what it isn’t. We gained a greater worldview. We learned another language and the sweetness of our own heart language. But I think what we knew we needed most was growth. I can list hundreds of ways we grew that year. The bonus was we got to purposefully share Jesus along the way.

As I read back through my journal from that year, within those first 3 days we set up a bank account, visited 4 of the 7 Lutheran churches, grocery shopped, cleaned and prepped our new home, met everyone in the mission office, went to a woman’s house for Bible study that had 10 excitable, Spanish speaking kids, met church youth members that would eventually become some of our favorite characters, took the bus across town to teach English class with another missionary, and so many more things. It was so full we could hardly stop to take it all in. I’m thankful I have this journal to read it back. I’m amazed at how God worked in our lives when it was such a crazy beginning. 

If you are at this beginning, it means something is coming to an end. Bittersweet or not, I encourage you to turn and face the beginning with bravery. You may be shaking in your boots. You may feel the surge of excitement. You can be like me and wonder just how things are going to work. We can’t see the future. But our best is under God’s care. He’s already prepared the way, and that is our peace.

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My hubby exploring the beach of Taboga Island, just a quick ferry ride from the canal opening by Panama City. He was the best partner for me and our new beginning.

 

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In front of our Panama house in the old US Canal Zone
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Climbing the greased pole at a church fest just a month after our arrival. Thomas is at the bottom!
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Close up of the greased pole: Thomas holding the weight of the team.
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Anselma teaching us how to make arroz con pollo at our house.
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One of my big assignments: Training young youth leaders in a day long seminar- in SPANISH!
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Those spunky kids we met upon our first days of arrival.

 

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