I don’t exactly blend in with the people here.
Babu says often that Freddie could pass as Indian – when I ask about me, he laughs… really hard. I stand a full head taller than the women here and most of the men as well. I am gray haired and very – very – white skinned. There is no hiding me. I haven’t seen another white skinned person in almost a month.
I don’t like to stand out – I don’t like to be an oddity or draw attention to my appearance. But guess what? God has brought me to a country where that is exactly what happens. I struggled for several days with feelings of isolation – feeling so different and self conscious – but as always, God’s grace wins out and he showed me that I was focusing inward instead of upward – on Him. So through some prayer and constant reminding myself that it is about Him and not about me (WHY do we always have to be reminded of that?!) I have grown accustomed and even comfortable with being an oddity 😉
The women here, during any church service or prayer, cover their heads. All of the women wear some sort of shawl or scarf with their clothing and they simply pull it up over their heads. When we were here in February, I asked Babu if he preferred I do it, and he said that I didn’t need to. So I left it at that and didn’t bother, nor did I ask again this time. But after about a week or so I felt different. I felt like there was some sort of barrier between the women and me. They were all very kind, gracious and welcoming, but I felt that there was something missing. The way they looked at me constantly reminded me that was the “American Missionary”. Hard to explain, but I just felt a disconnect.
God finally laid it on my heart – the head covering. I had decided not to do it before because I didn’t feel it necessary – I was an American woman – we don’t do those things. But then I started thinking about the culture and the women whom I long to get to know better and build fellowship with. If I wanted to be accepted as a sister, then I need to show them that I was a sister. So I purchased some Indian style clothing over the weekend and some shawls. We went to the Youth Conference on Saturday and I covered my head. The looks I received from the women were different than before. They no longer looked at me as set apart – as the “American Missionary”, but their smiles were somehow softer, more sisterly. They were appreciative. Plain and simple. They showed it by commenting on the clothes and pointing at my head covering and smiling. I praise God that he laid that on my heart to show respect and acceptance of this culture in a way that has made me feel closer to my Indian sisters. While I wish it had occurred to me earlier, God had a plan for it all.
I am constantly amazed at the work God has been doing through this trip. Not only have we learned and gathered information about the ministry here – but he has worked through some heart issues in both of us. He has shown me some serious areas where I have been self-focused and has convicted my heart over these things. Spiritual warfare is alive and active on the mission field! I have had to battle some pretty serious fiery arrows. By God’s grace He has used these challenges to refine me, just as He always does for all of us. And through it all he has reminded me of the purpose of this trip – ultimately to grow closer with Him, to be more obedient to Him, to love Him more, to praise Him more and to glorify Him. And I praise Him for all of it!