Nearly a year has now elapsed since Sheila first began working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Reminders of her original questions and doubts about her suitability for what lay ahead brings a subsequent surprise that successes and failures alike have curiously led to a sense of the fruitful sowing of seeds. With the passage of time constantly updating her perspective, she has reached a milestone from which to meaningfully reflect on the holistic nurturing God has provided – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
In a physical sense, there have been practical adjustments required of Sheila in order to attune herself to life in a foreign culture. Something as previously simple as getting exercise through a vigorous outdoor walk is what she misses most. Between dodging traffic, avoiding walkway obstructions, and contending with oppressive heat, her daily walk can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. Conversely, another physical adaptation has been surprisingly easy: since Sheila lacks many modern kitchen conveniences and thus maintains a very simple diet, she finds food preparation to be pleasantly limited and easy.
The Lord has also provided rich emotional nourishment whenever needed. The personality that pre-disposed Sheila to seek this kind of lifestyle in the first place has been tested and enlarged in observable ways. She lists optimism, flexibility, and honest self-reflection as invaluable tools for successful adaptation. She has been challenged to continually look for silver linings, to find alternate ways to reach a goal, and to remember “how I got here and why I came.”
Finally, Sheila recognizes and finds joyful strength in the spiritual vitality that comes from corporate worship. Unwilling to remove herself in any way from the body of believers, she sought out and regularly participates in the worship services of a small international English-speaking Anglican congregation. In addition, she also hosts a weekly Bible study in her home, a time for a small and diverse group of women to examine universal questions of faith together.
In her beautiful novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston writes, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I wonder how Sheila would classify the year 2012 in this comparative kind of context? And even more intriguing, what will 2013 bring?...