Thursday, January 18, 2018

No Man’s Land

October 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Manna, Going Global, Monthly Articles


When reality meets fantasy…

The doubts surfaced as soon as I walked off the plane and entered the airport in San José, Costa Rica. Up until that moment, I had had an idealistic image of what going overseas on kingdom business was all about. Serving the Lord in Colombia was the fulfillment of the dream of a lifetime; a calling I’d held close to my heart since I was nine years old, so I had no doubts that everything was going to be perfect from this moment on. I had been solemnly warned that it would probably take me longer to raise support because I was a single woman, but I’d surprised the doubters by being easily accepted in the churches and fully supported within three months. That was confirmation in my mind that what lay ahead would be equally smooth sailing. But, as I stood in this no man’s land between the plane and the safety of numbers in the terminal, far from home and on foreign soil, surrounded by signs I couldn’t read, I was overwhelmed.

 What am I doing here? I don’t know what to do next? Why aren’t the signs in English as well as Spanish? What if someone talks to me and I don’t understand? What if no one is here to meet me? Will I disappear in here never to surface again?

I had travelled by plane very rarely and never to a foreign country so I wasn’t familiar with customs and immigration. Orientation hadn’t included what to do at airports. My passport was unsullied by stamps or visas. It was as brand-new at this as I was!

There weren’t too many options. I couldn’t go back so I had to go forward.

I watched what everyone else did and tried to look intelligent. As I approached the immigration agent I handed over every piece of documentation in my purse and let him take what he needed—“newbie” was engraved on my forehead. I had a letter stating that I had been invited to be a student at the Spanish Language Institute in San Jose. He asked me (in English) how long I intended to be in Costa Rica as a student. The mission policy was to send us to do language study for one year. I was anxious to get on with ministry without wasting any precious time so I informed the agent that I would only be staying nine months. That’s what he stamped in my passport. I would live to regret my arrogance.

 When I collected my luggage and prepared to pass through customs, the agent at the desk confiscated my typewriter (these were the days before computers). This time he didn’t speak English and I went into panic mode because I didn’t understand his explanation and he didn’t understand my pleas. As it turned out these “technological” devises were not allowed unless a separate letter from the school was provided that stated the typewriter was part of my needed equipment as a student. I’d been warned about thievery and corruption in Latin America. Since I didn’t have a letter, I bid goodbye to my typewriter,* convinced I’d never see the thing again, and went through the doors to meet the big brother and sister assigned to me by the school.

 Now, more than thirty-five years have passed. Though I’ve been through more airports than I care to remember since then, I still often feel slightly ill at ease in that vacuum passengers enter between the main terminal and the plane.

 In a way, life is like my experience in that airport terminal. In between the idealistic beginning and the glorious end is the messy middle. And it’s in that messy middle that the doubts and fears overtake us. Though we are forced to meet their assault and overcome them on a regular basis, they leave a mark behind. And though our faith is stronger each time we defeat them, when they come back we wonder if this time we will be the ones overtaken.

 When reality steps all over optimism and fact makes a liar out of fiction, it’s handy to know what Jesus said about the world. In John 16:33 (NIV), he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 We all know about the trouble. We understand that Christ conquered sin and death and all the trouble they cause. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out how we connect His victory with our challenges. That’s where that little “in me” comes in. It hikes back to what Jesus said earlier in this passage. Jesus was leaving behind His Spirit, the ultimate resource in handling trouble. The more His followers embraced, or abided in that Spirit, the more able they would be able to deal with whatever the world threw at them. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:26, 27, NIV).

 No man’s land, however scary, is still God’s land over which His Spirit speaks peace.

*In case you’re wondering, we did retrieve my typewriter, without problem, the very next day.

Lynda Schultz is a missionary, speaker, educator, writer, editor, and cat lover. She was born and raised in Timmins, the heart of gold mining country in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Lynda has served with Fellowship International for more than thirty years, first in Colombia, a brief stint on home staff in Toronto, Ontario and, more recently in Venezuela. She is currently on staff at First Baptist Church in Timmins, Ontario where her primary focus is spiritual formation. The author of Divine Design for Daily Living, a 365 day devotional journey through the entire Bible (published in Spanish and English), Lynda blogs , maintains her own website , and has been seconded by Fellowship International to serve on the Communications team of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.

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2 Responses to “No Man’s Land”
  1. What a nice article. I have a feeling that you managed to pick up the language without too much trouble, as you surely have a way with words.

  2. Lynda Schultz says:

    Thanks for your comment, Deborah, I appreciate it. Spanish isn’t a hard language, but as you’ll see in later articles, those early months in Latin America learning the language tested my patience, my sanity, and my calling!

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