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On My Own

Elizabeth Reumann

In France, we performed in front of large Parisian crowds, then had long spiritual conversations with the people who had watched us. True, mimes aren’t supposed to talk; but we were Christian college students on a summer mission team, and talking about God was the purpose of our trip.

paris_0229 FTRBy summer’s end, we had become close, and I was sad when my friends flew home. I was also full of anticipation as I traveled alone to Voiron, a town in the foothills of the French Alps. I had arranged to be a missionary apprentice in a church there, as a college classmate had done the year before. I looked forward to doing meaningful work with great people. Breaking away from my friends and family and living on my own for a year would be easy in this beautiful place.

Or so I thought. After two months I was utterly miserable.

My loneliness was unbearable. No one had befriended me except the mother in my host family, and she worked fulltime. I was supposed to be doing ministry; but so far, Pastor Robert had given me only a few letters to translate. Most days he told me not to bother coming into the church office, so I wandered around town by myself.

Being independent was no fun. I’d gone from living with my family to being a college student surrounded by friends. Now for the first time, I was on my own. No one knew my family; and I was the only American in town, someone with few responsibilities and fewer friends. I felt as if I had no solid identity.

I was hurt and disappointed because Pastor Robert didn’t notice or didn’t care how unhappy I was. Finally, I decided to tell him that if nothing changed, I was going to leave. His reaction took me by surprise.

“I haven’t been giving you work,” he said, “because you are hard to work with. You have a terrible attitude.”
His words hit me hard, but I knew he was right. I had let disappointment turn into anger and bitterness. No wonder he didn’t want me around!

We had a long talk, and we forgave each other. Then I had a tearful time with God, asking God to forgive me too. Eventually, I opened my Bible and read the words of Isaiah 40:1–2 (NRSV), which spoke God’s promise to me:
paris_0233 cutout       Comfort, O comfort my people,
       says your God.
       Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
       and cry to her
       that she has served her term,
       that her penalty is paid,
       that she has received from the Lord’s hand
       double for all her sins.

From that day on, everything changed. Not only did Pastor Robert begin to give me more work to do, but I also started making friends: Emmanuelle, who became like a sister to me, and the students in the English classes I started teaching. When I returned to the States, I was not the same person. Before I left home, my identity had revolved around being a student, a part of a team, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. Now I had begun to develop my own identity, that of an adult who was on her own but never truly alone.

 

paris_0232 mimeDIG DEEPER

Have you begun to break away from the security of your family and friends? How can you step out of your comfort zone and start to find your identity as a believer in Christ? Read Psalm 27. If any verses seem especially relevant to you, turn them into a prayer.

If leaving home is still a few years away, consider whether you need to break away from a bad attitude. If so, ask God to change your heart and to give you courage to make things right with anyone you have offended or who has offended you.

Elizabeth Reumann — Elizabeth’s trip to France was her first of several mission trips, including two years spent in inner-city London.

—from devozine (July/August 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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