Have you ever been in a wrestling match? If you’re like me, you may jump to the idea or memory of wrestling with another person. But maybe you have another tangible experience of being tangled up with something. Maybe you’ve tried to hike through a rain forest without a path….or machete? or maybe you have an avalanche of blankets covering you when you wake up in the morning that make getting out of bed a constrictive smothering mess? Or maybe you’ve been wrapped up by your ear bud cables at them gym while trying to do lat pulls? -I’m not that guy.
In 1999 some friends and I would drive over to S.California from Las Vegas on the weekends to search for any adventure on the beach we could find. We spent most of our time in the water at Blacks Beach. I remember an afternoon where we sat out on our boards in the pulsating Pacific Ocean. Little swell that day so we paddled South to an area we hadn’t been before. We came across a huge kelp bed growing beneath the surface. With curiosity and possibly a bit of stupidity I jumped off my board and started exploring. I dove down and started pulling myself down a kelp vine. At some point in my descent I became tangled up with multiple plants. When I started to panic I was probably only ten feet below the surface but no one knew what I was going through. It felt like 5 minutes when actually it was more like 5 seconds before my panic turned into a rage of survival mode. I kicked, tore and even bit my way out of that tangled green nest. I came to the surface and wasn’t able to suck in enough oxygen to compose myself. I started puking salt water everywhere. My buddys came to my aid getting me on my board as I seeped water from every hole in my head. They kept saying, ‘what happened Bro? Are you ok?’ Then one said, ‘Bro its ok there’s nothing but kelp down there’. I looked up finally being able to speak and said, “There is more.”
The bible talks about wrestling with principalities, cosmic powers, spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. In Genesis, Jacobs wrestling match with God turns MMA when Jacobs’ hip is dislocated. If you haven’t spent a lot of time in areas of the world where people groups walk hand in hand with spirits, this may be hard to wrap your head around. Sometimes the things we wrestle with are unnoticeable, especially by the people around us. They need to know there is more. More to the story, more to us, more that matters.
We are now back in America! We’ve spent the last month in South Western Oregon. Upon arrival the sun was scorching hot and sky was a rich blue. Immediately we zeroed in on our old swimming holes.
Unfortunately, since then dozens of fires have flared up due to a lightning storm. So now, the visibility that we do have (sometimes only a 1/2 mile) is filled with an ashy haze that blots out the suns’ brilliance. The outdoor activities we were so looking forward to are but dreams at this point. We still love you Oregon.
When we left Uganda we knew we were going home to stay this time. We knew we were going back to a church family that had lives and priorities. Being home for a month I guess you could say we’re currently in transition mode. The emotions and intentions that go along with this transition are difficult to describe.
I read an article a while back put out by the EU. In it, they asked foreign expat aid workers what they longed for the most while being on the field. 85% of them said ‘attention’. Not money or better tooling, but attention. A human need that even Jesus himself experienced.
What were our expectations for coming home? After pastoring a difficult people group, would we be pastored in America? Did we need it? We thought we were going to get plugged in, caught up and reunited. Unfortunately there has been no reunion. The transitional preparations for our arrival were nonexistent. If you’re a Pastor on the mission field reading this, I can’t express enough the importance of having an experienced, empathetic, Jesus chasing Shepard to lean on. If not, your mission could collapse and your transitions may ruin you or your family.
Fortunately, He who is in us (my family and I) is greater than he who is in the world. This transition/trial that we are going through will only make us stronger. I’m so thankful to have had that time in UG with my family. The memories and stories that we share will never be taken from us. The friends, flocks and foes I made in UG will always be in my prayers. I may not have an American job but I know God will forever use me as a Pastor. And right now my flock is my family- my first ministry.
I’ve read a lot of books and articles where missionaries try to articulate their transition time from country to country. All are different depending on region and circumstance. We’ve come back to pot farms, robot vacuums and big trucks. It all seemed new and exciting at first. But, now it’s normal. I’m currently surrounding myself with men I admire and respect, and am helping them with whatever God has on their plate.
I always loved being in East Africa. Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Congo, Somalia….
They say you either get bit by Africa or you don’t. I was bit.
And now, I cant stop thinking about it. The work that needs to be done, my guys who are still preserving, a lost generation that needs a boost. I recently had guy tell me that ‘it will pass’. They way you’re feeling. The empathy, the excitement, the things that matter….they will pass. I don’t want it to pass. I want it to be harnessed. Harnessed in a way that can be translated to a sleeping giant…America. May God use us in way we never knew possible. May the things that matter to Him (things we can’t even comprehend) matter to us.
To the people who prayed for us while we were ‘out of sight’, may Gods’ presence touch your life today. A thank you isn’t enough. I’ve always admired those who can pray for the forgotten. In America, it’s out of sight-out of mind. It’s not that way for the rest of the world.
To those of who gave to our mission financially, may God bless you for your sacrifice and offering. From the beginning of our mission I choose to guard myself from knowing who you were. And even now I don’t. But if you’d ever like to hear stories or see photos of where your money went and what it is still doing I would be excited and blessed to share with you. We were so thankful when a single donation came in to pay for our airfare home. Also, the elders of ECF agreed to donate some transitional funds that we were able to use to purchase a vehicle. Over the past five years you have answered a tremendous call. Now that we are home, our current financial status is dwindling. Our monthly support last came in on June 1st. I’ve consulted missionaries and organizations for counsel concerning the financial transition period. I’ve been told 4-6 months is a time of debriefing and transition. If you feel so led to give to our time of transition we would appreciate the bodys support. You can contact me with any questions.
To those who came to UG to support us, you are legends. The Ugandans still ask how you are doing today. No joke….all of you. Most of you impacted lives or broke down walls that allowed Christ shine even brighter in each person you interacted with. This made our job easier. We were a Paul to Barnabas, a Peanut Butter to Jelly, a Phineas to Ferb…..you helped us. This was the attention we soo needed. Thank you for coming.
If you are ever interested in returning to East Africa please talk with me. God is always moving.
Over the next 12 months I will be training over 80 Pastors. Our intinerary will cover study techniques, counseling, prayer, teaching and seeking the Holy Spirit. The introduction to our study has been completed as I shared my testimony. These are some great men who have sacrificed themselves in order to further God’s kingdom. Please pray for them and myself as we begin to make our way through the book of John. -Jason Folkestad