Thanks for coming back to my series, “Monday’s Life Change”. I hope you’ve been encouraged by how God transforms lives and does what only He can do! Today, my friend Jodie Waller will share her story. The Waller’s are very special to our family. They chose to be a part of our little church-plant, seven years ago when we first moved to town. They served faithfully along side of us and then became our very first missionaries. Here is Jodie’s story:
I was born into a military family and always resented having to move all the time. I made it as difficult as possible on my parents. I truly was an “Army brat.” Every few years I would pack my bags and say goodbye to my friends and move to another city, state, or even country where I knew no one and no one knew me. I can’t count the number of tears I have shed all around the world.
I guess that everyone grows up wishing their childhood had been different. Those who grow up never leaving their small town often wish they had been able to travel and meet new people. Those who grew up like me often wish they had a place to call home. But God uses whatever our circumstances are to cultivate us into the people He wants us to be in order to serve Him in the capacity He has planned. And that is definitely what He did with me.
God took me on a journey around the world. I am 28 years old and God has allowed me to see so much, albeit I think I complained through most of it! I spent my elementary years climbing through old ruins of European castles. During my high school years I snorkeled the waters of Guam and trekked up the breathtaking Mt. Fuji. In my college years, I traveled the bush of Zambia and petted the lemurs of Madagascar. God has truly given me some amazing experiences, but more than anything he has revealed to me a lost and hurting world. I have watched as people burned incense to the deceased, bowed down in worship to statues, and even sacrificed animals in order to appease ancestors. He has allowed me to see how fear and depression have consumed so much of our world. God has shown me the poor, weak, and oppressed. And I cannot look away. While I was shedding selfish tears and having temper tantrums, God was cultivating in my heart a love for the lost and hurting of this world.
I am now serving as a missionary in the southwest region of Madagascar, Africa. It is hot, dusty and isolated and sadly, many of my days are still filled with selfish tears and temper tantrums. I still miss my family, and I admit that I still find myself fantasizing about living in a small town in America with a white picket fence and a dog in the yard.
We live in a small neighborhood that is surrounded by a 10-foot high cement wall, covered in barbwire. A group of Malagasy guards make rounds in order to make sure that we are safe. Going outside of our gate, I step onto a dusty road filled with the sounds of goats, ox-carts, taxis, mopeds, and lots of people. Sellers call out to those passing by in hopes of making a sale that will feed their family for a meal. The smell of fish and human feces fills the streets of this poor coastal town. Half dressed children chase me down the street, giggling as they yell “Bonjour! Bonjour!” hoping to catch the attention of the white person. The sun beats down on me as I walk down the street. The bottle of sunblock I poured all over my pale skin is melting off and I can feel sand sticking to my arms. I think how silly I must look wearing my traditional wrap and American sunglasses…but how could I possibly see anything with the sun beaming so brightly. It seems to be reflecting off of every surface: the sand on the road, the tin roofs of the small shacks that line the road, the broken down cars that creep by. I can feel the dirt in between my toes and start fantasizing about washing them the moment I get home. I turn off of the main road, and pass by a group of men who are surprised to see a white girl walking through their neighborhood. “Bonjour,” they say with a tone that makes me want to keep my head down and walk faster. I appreciate my sunglasses now, because they conceal my fearful eyes. Instead, I look confident and unphased.
I continue walking with a newfound appreciation for Islamic women who wear coverings over their whole face. I wonder if they too, feel a sense of security being hidden behind a mask. I realize that I have been walking for so long that I might have missed my next turn, which is a small vegetable booth that sits under a tree. I decide I will walk a few more minutes and turn back if I don’t see it. I feel relief when I find my friend Noro standing at her vegetable stand. She has only a few vegetables for sale, maybe 2 heads of lettuce, 3 tomatoes, and a couple of onions, but they are displayed neatly and with much pride. I take off my sunglasses and she kisses me on my left cheek, and then my right, and then my left again. We walk together back to another friend’s house.
Both women are elderly widows who cannot read or write. They look forward to visits from Christ-followers like me, who take the time to visit and share stories from God’s word. They welcome me into their small hut and give me the best seat they have. I see a rat run along the wall and draw my feet in closer. Melina, the other elderly lady, offers me tea. I look down into the cup and I am grief-stricken. I know that the water will end up making me ill, but I smile at the generosity of my friend and begin sipping. I share a Bible story and the women listen intently trying to decipher my poor southern dialect. Afterwards, we work together to make sure they understand. I feel worn out and defeated by the tough language that I feel I will never get. Melina ends our time in prayer, and offers up sweet praise to our Lord. I struggle to understand it all in her thick dialect, but I know that she is thanking God for sending me. I open my eyes to see precious tears falling down her thin cheekbones. My heart overflows. I kiss the ladies goodbye, and head home, back down the beaten path, but this time I go back smiling. My head is held high and my heart is filled with joy and peace. What an awesome God we serve! Even in the darkest, dirtiest, poorest places of the earth God still transforms hearts. He even changed mine!