“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in – behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me.”
– Psalm 139:1-5
My husband’s Great Uncle George & Aunt Fran Boggs moved to Papua New Guinea in 1957 to serve with MAF for many years. I’ve been told that it would take 6 months for them to receive a single letter sent from my husband’s grandmother. They would respond and 6 months later, that letter would be received stateside.
It brightens my day when the post office calls to let me know that there is a package ready for pickup. Most often, it’s from my mother-in-law and it takes about 3 weeks to receive it. Filled with handmade chocolate covered Oreo’s (only slightly melted), birthday presents, chapter books, Starbucks instant lattes and our favorite treats scattered throughout to fill in all of the empty spaces.
It is a sweet thing of comfort – love sent across the world in a cardboard box.
When we first moved to Uganda in 2016, we had recently left our role as youth pastors. I was determined to keep up with all our teens and dear friends we had shared life with. I was searching for connection as we transitioned to a land of roosters crowing outside my window, red dust in every crevice and in my desperate attempts to keep my toddler from eating insects that scurried past him, much to my dismay.
But, as we were settling into our new life, I felt so alone. I’ve always struggled with scrolling Facebook, but moving away from everyone I knew made it worse. As I kept tabs on friends, I did feel a little closer to them.
And it also made me feel very far away.
It was as if I was straddling two lives – the one I had left and the one I had entered. I felt guilty for not reaching out constantly, worried I would lose friendships all together if I didn’t keep checking in on them. However, I wasn’t looking for surface interaction from across the world. I was searching for the deep connections that I’d know all my life, but in this new overseas life I couldn’t seem to find it.
Since that time, I’ve been blessed with some truly lovely friendships as we’ve served in Northern Uganda. Our community has shown up in the hardest of moments. Friends have truly become family. Vulnerability on the field, however, also means that at any moment you welcome deep loss when those dear friends transition back to their passport country or have to leave abruptly. That ache and loss of connection returns and you may again have to struggle through the loneliness.
When I’m missing “home”, I’m reminded to look at all the places I’m connected to right here.
I desire to treasure my current relationships (both here and across the world) and always be willing to reach out once more. To be open to new or rekindled friendships and the potential for sweet moments in the season to come. No matter where I find myself, to know that I’m not on my own. And even more, I have a relationship with a God who knows me better than anyone.
Colossians 1:17 says it beautifully, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
I’m reminded that even in the times of loneliness and loss, I am still connected to him.
I’m reminded to find my home in a God who knows my situation and all I need.
I’m reminded over and over to abide in the One who is constant in ever-changing seasons.
Like our internet connection out here in the African bush, sometimes we lose connection mid video chat. I’ve slowly begun to loosen my grip on all of it. Allowing Him to lead me as I reach out for connection with friends and when to reach deep in Him in those times of transition.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I still struggle with the desire to scroll first thing in the morning, hoping to catch up on what I’ve missed during the daylight hours in North America. But, lately, I’ve been trying to replace that mindless scrolling with writing a quick note of encouragement to a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while. Sometimes, that little message renews the connection and I re-discover a friend needed for that very season.
Connection has been lost and connection has been gained, with the click of a button or invitation to come for coffee. Learning to balance the grief of missing relationships far and the joy in discovering a new friend in your present community may be a continual thing.
And that’s okay.
There is space for both.
I encourage you to take it as it comes.
In the loss of relationships back “home” or even on the field, I’ve found the deepest connection with the Lord.
The One who holds it all together.
The One who knows me completely.
The One who hems me in – before and behind me.
And the One who knows me in the deepest way, also knows you.
Do you struggle with making new connections? How can you connect to God, especially when you are in a season of loneliness?
You can learn more about the life of George Boggs, a MAF pilot, and his wife Fran and their time serving as missionaries in Papua New Guinea in the book Gateway to the Jungle by Gloria Graham.