There are times that now, more than a dozen years since I left the world of overseas missions, I find my memories going back to those days. I wish I could say that they go back to the great spiritual victories but that is not often the case. I’d be happy if my mind went back to the wonderful fellowship I had with my fellow missionaries as we worked together but that generally isn’t it either.
No, generally when my mind flashes back it is when I am griping about something in my present world. I will make some gripe about a small inconvenience in my life and suddenly, without warning, I will remember how it used to be or, worse yet, how those I was trying to reach were living.
My refrigerator died a few weeks ago well before what I would have expected its lifespan to be. I was unhappy that I had to go out and get a new one and more unhappy that, when I did, it would take two days to deliver it. Then I remembered the day in Sri Lanka when I actually was able to get a refrigerator for the first time. My wife and I looked at the little 9 cubic foot machine as if it were a scientific marvel. I remembered too how our neighbors came over to admire it and how we were able to reach out to them by putting some of their stuff in it.
I was dismayed a while ago when a routine visit to the dentist turned into a need for an expensive crown on one of my teeth. Then I remembered all the people I lived among who had mouths full of rotten teeth and/or toothless gaps because they had never even laid eyes on a dentist.
Yesterday I was doing some yard work. It was a hot and humid morning and I was sweating heavily as I came in to shower and sit in the air conditioning for a rest. Then I remembered the 13 years I spent in the tropics where I didn’t have any air conditioning and didn’t know anyone who did. I remember being delighted that the on again/or again electric power was coming into my house so I could turn on a fan.
I remember having running water only seven hours per day, 3 AM to 7 AM and 5 PM to 8 PM. There was no such thing as hot water. The water was so polluted you had to boil and filter it before you drank it or even brushed your teeth.
Am I any happier now then I was then? Have I gotten so used to things that I formerly considered amazing blessings or wild hopes that I take them for granted? How can it be that I recall my contentment in those days and yet look back on them and wonder how I did it?
I was reading a blog the other day where this guy was going on and on about the injustice of the 1% and how we 99% should not take it anymore. Then the missionary memories came back and I thought “Friend, if you are an American and you are blogging, you are already in the 1%”. And so am I. Why is it that I keep forgetting that?