This morning, I picked up my visa from the Paraguayan embassy in Manuka. Since my last trip, it has changed from a consulate to an embassy. Maybe more Australians are travelling to “La Isla Rodeada de Tierra” (The Island Surrounded by Land).
So, for those of you who don’t know, I will spend the next year or so in Paraguay. I arrive on Good Friday, 18 April at 4:30am in Asuncion’s Silvio Pettirossi Airport and will work in Banado Norte and Barrio San Miguel doing some volunteering for the year. On my way, I will go to the LA RE Congress in Anaheim, California from 14-16 March. Following this, I will spend a month in Nicaragua working with “Redes de Solidaridad” and staying with the “Compania de Maria” sisters there. If I could just get over my stupid fear of flying, I think I’d be okay. I find I am, in general, happier in a simpler setting. Less pressured somehow. Then again, there are also the fears of illness which can creep up at any time. Water is never just water in these countries. Each time I have been in Paraguay, I’ve managed to drink or eat something dodgy. As longtime missionary in Cambodia Sr Denise Coughlan RSM once said to me….“Vomiting is just part of the orientation here”.
So, the visa is the final step.
My friends had a beautiful farewell for me on the weekend, and I’m including here some pictures of the gifts they gave me. They were so touching, even the numerous bottles of wine (what are they implying?? surely that’s not meant to be carry-on? better finish it before I go…..)
Jokes aside though, the anxiety is setting in. As my grandma would say, “This morning I built the Sydney Harbour Bridge in my head, and I’m tearing it down and rebuilding it again and again.”
When I travel, I imagine the worst. It takes me a while to settle. I always find it a kind of awkward joke on God’s part that the girl (me) who was afraid to go on school camps and stay away for sleepovers as a teenager feels a strange call to work in some of the poorest countries in the world. Yet, I can’t deny the desire I have, and I have to find ways of powering through the fear. Because, beyond the fear, there is always a soft, gentle sense of triumph and consolation.
and I am finding some comfort in the words of singer/songwriter Tori Harris who said in an interview:
“Scripture is very clear that the emotions of fear, doubt, insecurity and anxiety are birthed in Hell and thus NOT from Heaven. When you apply this knowledge to the fact that the devil attacks that which is most Holy and most good – you quickly realize that if you are feeling doubt, fear, anxiety or insecurity, that you are likely in thought or action, doing something very good and very holy. You see, our God is SO good. He desires to pour into us the deepest desires of our heart. He has organized the universe very intentionally and very exactly so that He can present to us our hearts deepest desire.” (http://adreamerswife.com/tag/tori-harris/)
I’m also helped by the music of Audrey Assad. My favourite of her songs at the moment is “Slow” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OZp2UezV54. In this song, Assad speaks of the beautiful, slow work of the spirit of God. The lyrics are profound. Do yourself a favour and have a listen if you can. It’s been a song I’ve listened to on repeat over the past two weeks.
Faith is not a fire
As much as it’s a glow
A quiet lovely burning
Underneath the snow
And it’s not too much
It’s just enough to give me hope
Cause love moves slow
Love moves slow
You’ve grown so dear that it’s hard to miss you
And you come so near that it’s hard to feel you
Oh, and I guess that’s how it is when I let you move
Because you take me at my word
Oh, and now I know
I heard that faith moves mountains
I know it moves my feet
To follow you
And maybe I’m a mountain
Because it’s moving me
To follow you
So I move slow
Because you move slow
Love moves slow
Let’s move slow.