While in college my mom became a missionary. A medical missionary that is. Since she could no longer work as a therapist in the US due to medical restrictions from her various injuries, she volunteered to work in a Christian facility in Santiago, Chile. She was sponsored by her church and went.
The church sent me to visit her for a summer when I was out of school and I went with high hopes that things would be different, better. I was sure that her living in a foreign country as a “missionary” on the church’s payroll would have a positive impact on her.
When I arrived she showed me around the facility where she worked. I got to meet some of the children she was helping, and the doctors she worked with. She took me to the English speaking church she attended, where I was surrounded by beautiful British accents, learned to drink milk in my tea, and knit. We went hiking, and snowboarding. Ate empanadas and manjar. I’ll never forget the bread. There’s just nothing like it in the US.
But I was also face to face with more of the same. Alcohol. Sex. Drugs. As I followed the bouncing back and forth between charity, church, and an unruly social life I found it difficult to cope. I wanted out.
So we called the airline and changed my flight. I took a cab and with just enough change to buy a snack was on my way home. After refusing help with my bags (I didn’t even have enough cash for a tip) I made my way to the airline counter. No, they hadn’t changed my flight. Yes, they could change my flight but it would cost me $100. $100 American dollars! That’s a whole lot more pesos than I had jingling in my pocket.
So I was stuck. At the airport. In a country where I didn’t speak the language. Without enough money for a cab. Not knowing how to ask for help.
And I remembered Jonah. Running from God’s calling. Being swallowed by a whale. Being spit out so he could go right back to what God called him to do.
At that moment I knew I was stuck in the belly of a whale. I was running. It wasn’t easy being in Chile, but it was where God wanted me. I eventually found someone to help me. I figured out that a group taxi was less expensive and I had just enough to get me back to the apartment where my mom was staying.
When I got there the door was locked. I lugged my suitcase with me up the stairs to the roof. Sat down and cried. It was early afternoon and I had a good three hours to wait. And pray. And gather the strength I needed. To make it through another month.
I’ve never been quite sure if I accomplished what God had for me in Chile or not. I didn’t see any big changes. I didn’t see any big impact. I did grow to love that country and its people. I began to learn the language and embrace the culture. God seeds were being planted in my heart growing into a love for the Spanish language and the hispanic community.
Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish. He prayed: "In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, 'Help!' You heard my cry.