I’m procrastinating by adding to the Pages documents opened on the dock of my MacBook, each one filled with the last month’s random thoughts that I’ve picked up on this road of being a missionary in the Philippines. Maybe I’ll finish this one before the work day ends and I head down the street to lead devotions at one of the houses. Or maybe this is a thought that the Lord will continue in me before I post it and that’s okay, too. But here’s how I start my blog posts. Hope you’re enjoying it so far…. 😉
So on another, completely different note, my phone was stolen yesterday. Yes that’s right, my sleek, rose gold, iPhone 6s that honestly helped me keep myself organized and on time to the many pencil marks in my schedule. It’s also the thing that made me look and feel a little out of place when I sat next to a man on the jeepney with dirty feet and a weathered face, or the one holding my instagram feed when I looked up and spotted the thinnest man I have ever seen in my whole life.
The contrast of wealth and poverty here is so drastic that sometimes I feel like I’m choking on it in the same way I choke on the exhaust that pours into my lungs when sitting in Manila traffic. It sits on my palate and I honestly struggle through such mixed emotions as I wrestle in my soul over how the one who has so much and the one who has so little can be literal neighbors and never share so much as a conversation.
I am guilty. I don’t know the scale of poverty of my neighbors, though I see it on a daily basis. There are still some things about my life here as a missionary that keep a bit of my “first world bubble” in tact, like owning an iPhone, yet God keeps inserting push pins into that ever-thinning wall, and I feel my comfort zone being dissolved. And when my phone was stolen, I felt another prick in the bubble.
For a solid 20 minutes after realizing my phone was missing, I shuffled through emotions of panic, frustration, and confusion as I tried to retrace my steps and recover an item that held so much of my life on it.
And then I felt deeply convicted. I live amongst women who once had a hard time finding enough to eat. It was then I chose not to cry about my predicament.
Later that afternoon, a friend loaned me her old phone, and I went to the mall to get a SIM card for it. I spent some time browsing to see what my options were about getting a new phone, to remedy the current temporary fix.
Even deeper conviction set in as I looked at options, knowing God had blessed me with a larger-than-expected tax return and I was able to purchase an older model of a still brand new iPhone right there on the spot.
I’m still discerning if what I felt at the mall was conviction or shame, but the feeling plummeted itself deep into my soul. How could I drop this much money on the same day my phone was stolen when so many people have to choose which kid to feed today?
I’m still waiting and praying and deciding on what to do about the phone, but I want to talk about what’s going on in my heart right now.
How do you know God has changed the terrain of your heart? When the things that you once didn’t bat an eye at are now the things that bat you in the gut.
In a way, I’m glad my phone was stolen, and for a handful of reasons. First, it gave me an option to choose joy during a frustrating circumstance. Second, it allowed me to not be a slave to things while operating in a ministry (and in a faith) that promotes freedom. Third, it allowed me to realize that God has undeniably renovated my heart.
So yeah, it is really frustrating to have someone steal something that holds scores of precious pictures, notes that contain pieces of writing that I haven’t had time to develop yet, and all the schedules and to-do lists that kept me organized. But on the other side of things, there is nothing frustrating about a day where I spent the morning organizing the donations that came from several of our supporters. I was surrounded by watercolors and ibuprofen and clothes and I was overwhelmed at God’s goodness. And there’s also nothing frustrating about serving in a ministry where miracles happen daily, dating someone who challenges me and cares for me so well, or simply having breath in my lungs and strong legs to carry me on my run this morning. And aside from God’s many blessings, I need no other reason to praise Him other than the fact that “he saved my eyes from tears, my soul from death, my feet from stumbling.” So I chose joy. Because all of the things I listed outweigh a stolen iPhone.
I also work for an organization called Wipe Every Tear, that works to offer freedom to women and ladyboys victimized by the sex trade through means of education. We offer options at tangible freedom as well as offer opportunities to experience Jesus, the one who sets us free from sin, death, and the shame of our pasts. I’m free, body, soul, and spirit, because of Jesus. And as I sat on the window seat in one of our safe houses yesterday, I realized that it is possible to exchange one form of slavery for another. It is as possible for me to be a slave to material things as it is to be trapped by a bar owner.
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey?” Romans 6:16
Is my phone a greater source of joy for me than the One who supplied it? Do I feel lost when I lose it? Does it unwaveringly dictate the course of my day? Does it dim my sight for the Kingdom? These are all questions I must consider now before I simply go purchase a new phone. Being raised in America, I realize now how much of my identity is in material things, and how much of those things I obey before I listen to the King of Kings. I have profound qualms about operating in a ministry and professing a faith that promotes freedom while being wrapped around the finger of an inanimate object.
Finally, and most importantly, I thank God for this circumstance because it has given me room to discover that God has transformed my heart. A year ago if this would have happened, I would have been much more crushed. But in the very hour I lost my phone, I thought of others and the need in my community before I went out and made an expensive purchase. I’m not saying this to toot my own horn because I still don’t know what kind of a phone I’m going to buy, and if I feel peace about getting a new iPhone, then I will get a new iPhone. There’s no shame when the Lord blesses us.
However, I do cherish that my lost phone allowed me space to be more present in conversations and relationships with others. I am thankful for the blessing of having the capacity to possess a nice iPhone in the first place. And I’m overwhelmed with joy at the fact that God has cultivated my heart-soil so much that I am able to look and act more like Jesus when difficult things happen. Again, not saying this to brag, except to boast that Jesus has been working in my heart and life, and that I’m not the same person I was a year ago.
So here I am at the end of the first draft of this post! Hooray! Hannah might actually finish this one.
I may go get a new iPhone in a few days. Or I may allow the Lord to teach me some more through this if He desires. Either way, God is moving mountains of materialism and selfishness in my heart and that’s where I’m purposing my mind to dwell. I am now sitting in a room at one of our beautiful safe houses, listening to several of my newly liberated sisters laugh and talk over dinner, and I breathe in freshly falling rain as the rainy season rolls into Manila. God is very, very good.