29 October 2007

Mentor Monday--I Am Not Prince Hamlet

Today, we have a guest blogger--Luke Damoff (who can also be found at his blog, hints and guesses). Besides being the son of the amazing writer, Jeanne Damoff, Luke is known for his poetry and for his heart for missions. Currently, Luke serves in Cote d'Ivoire doing medical missions. No, Luke is not a doctor. However, he felt called by God to heal the wounded in Africa so he works in the dispensary. (As far as I know, Luke has not brandished a scalpel or other surgical instrument, although I believe he plays guitar.)
For this blog, I asked that Luke be willing to share his struggle. He's only been in Africa for four or five weeks.
With that being said, I'll hand the mic to Luke...

There is an axiom, "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will." I believe this holds in all circumstances, even in ones we normally would consider quite dangerous. In the minutes preceding the martyrdom of Thomas à Becket, T. S. Eliot writes him as saying, "I am not in any danger, only very near to death." Such is the immense power of confidence one can have in the promises of God to His children. Certainly we may find God's will leads us to martyrdom, but we must not think this is a dangerous thing; but rather, for us as believers, the only thing we should consider dangerous or worth avoiding is God's disapproval if we turn the way of Jonah. Since I certainly believe that God has ordained my going to Cote d'Ivoire I draw a lot of courage from such confident statements. But at the same time, when I look inside myself, I see only weakness and doubt. I am not a martyr and I am no great hero of the faith; I do well to remember to get up each morning for my daily devotions.
Of course the questions that accompany uprooting oneself from home and traveling to a foreign land for a year would be problematic by themselves. But to be honest, I have no idea why I, out of all God's children, am called to be here. Oh me of little faith. I recognize that there are aspects to my personality that make it easier for me to live cross-culturally than others, but by no means am I the best suited person I know for cross-cultural living. In the month I have so far been in Cote d'Ivoire my experience has been primarily defined by frustration at the language barrier, feelings of ineptitude, and doubts as to whether or not I even know what God's calling sounds like. I know hardly anything about medicine or health even though I work at a dispensary. I know hardly any French, and most of what I know about Ivorian culture I have learned since my arrival.
There is, consequently, a constant and great temptation to withdraw; to simply wait out the coming year in my room reading and playing guitar until I get back on the plane for America . Already I struggle with counting how many weeks I have been here (4) and how many I have before departure (48). On every side there is doubt as to why I am here, and the struggle to obey God's calling on me to be with these people and love them. And there is no satisfactory response to these crushing crises of faith than to say, "I believe this is what You want from me. Help Thou my unbelief." And that is it. There is no certainty, only a tenuous belief. At times this is enough for a small confidence, but other times I think that I may have gotten it all horribly wrong. And while I certainly hope such reactions are simply a part of the unavoidable culture shock experience and that they will pass in a month or so, even if they don't, the Lord has made known what He requires of me. I am to follow His will, as best as I can ascertain it, no matter how ill-equipped I feel to carry it out, or how much doubt I have over whether or not I got it right.
I claim neither wisdom nor vast experience, but it seems to me the longer and deeper I follow Christ the more doubt I face. When growing up in the church I was dutifully told that doubt is not the opposite of faith. Tension is part of the life of the Christian, and it is how God makes us grow. But when one is thousands of miles away from home at the beginning of what seems like an interminable year away from friends and family, one would prefer to not have to live in any more tension than necessary. I would love to know every minute of every hour that this is precisely what I was supposed to be doing, but contrary to what I might wish God is not about the business of giving His children such luxuries. If we are to follow Christ doubt will hound us. His promise is not that we will be certain, or confident, but that He will always give us the faith we need, and carry us to His rest. This is enough, we are safe in the hands of our loving Savior, and dare I say that is much more than we deserve.


Jeanne Damoff said...

I imagine Luke doesn't feel like much of a mentor, but I'm learning a lot from him. Thank you so much for posting this, Heather. As a mom, I'm deeply honored.

Love, Jeanne

Heather Jamison said...

Those are wonderful sentiments, Luke. You've been there a month and I've been in East Africa for 7 years but the sentiments remain the same. Just today I am asking God ---- WHY AM I HERE? Sure, we're building children's homes, churches and even schools . . . but the Jonah in us all doesn't like the pressure, the tension, the cultural miscues, the bland-tasting food, the sexism, the brutality. And it makes us feel inadequate to overcome it.

Thanks for what you wrote and for reminding us to look to Christ in everything.

Jennifer Tiszai said...

My cousin went to Africa in college simply because he was so struck by the need and felt God was calling him there. I was (and am) so struck by my cousin's (and Luke's) sensitivity to the Lord's voice and willingness to obey.

Because sometimes when you're older and have developed a more listening ear, you're more tied down with obligations and you've missed opportunities. I just love seeing people willing to step out and doing what God is telling them to do even when they really don't know why.