Diary of a Missionary: Packing Up

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I’m standing in my kitchen again, this time weighing up the pros and cons of having a nice tea set on the mission field.

They are beautiful and I like them, I’ll need cups so why not bring nice ones that remind me of home? Stef, you can get cups anywhere, are you really going to waste valuable boot space on ancient, mismatched porcelain? 

I didn’t realise how many decisions I’d have to make about what to keep and what to get rid of. I’ve got a mountain of cleaning to do and I’ve been standing here for way too long thinking about cups. I can’t decide, so I put them back in the cupboard for later.

When we were first accepted by our mission organisation as missionaries-in-training, the thought of cutting down our possessions until they’d fit in our car was a frightful one. I’d been op shopping since I was in high school and had quite a curious collection! I’d taken meticulous care of things I’d assumed that I’d have for life.

It took about six months to fit our lives into our Captiva. Family and friends bagsed* the dining table, baby toys and my extensive collection of lamps. I started to feel a bit more comfortable letting things go. By Christmas most of the big stuff was sorted, but it was all the little bits and pieces that consumed my thoughts. Which preschool drawings to keep, which to recycle? Would I throw out the (now 9 year old) wedding cards or store them? How many picture frames is it healthy to own? Do missionaries take nice tea sets?

The last week in our Sydney home was exhausting. Where I had previously spent too long considering which possessions to keep, now I was disposing of things with barely a thought. Our final day was a Saturday and I honestly don’t know how we got out of there. Things that had last week seemed precious or useful enough to keep were now carelessly tossed into the Vinnies pile, because the car was bursting. But as we slowly pulled out of the driveway I felt a sense of relief. The mammoth job was finally done! But on a deeper level I felt lighter having less stuff to worry about.

God has taught me a lot over the last few months. I’ve realised that when your beloved possessions are in front of you, they hold great power and are very hard to part with. However the second they are gone, they are forgotten. I got rid of a whole house of stuff and I honestly couldn’t tell you what half of it was, even though six months ago I thought it was vital.

God has also reminded me that the value of a Shire girl does not consist in the abundance of her household items. I’ve always known that possessions don’t matter, but now I’ve had to put my money where my mouth is. At times it was hard, but it slowly got easier as cushions and ornaments loosened their grip on me. I ended up giving the tea set to a friend and it’s actually ok. And do I miss the rooms of stuff I used to own? No.

Interestingly one of the most common questions we were asked was, “What are you doing with all your stuff?” Some people seemed more concerned about where our furniture was going than were in the world we were going! I know that it was asked in all love and sincerity and I wasn’t annoyed with the question. I guess it just made me realise that for many of us, our identity is tightly bound up with what we have.

I’m thankful to God that I have been blessed with an abundance of everything I need and even most of what I want. I struggled to cut down my possessions to fit them in the boot of an SUV. How many more people are there in the world who could barely fill a box with their entire livelihood? I am thankful that God has shown me my excess, but I know that my greedy heart has a long way to go. Please pray with me that God would expose the idolatry of greed and consumption, both in my life and yours.

I look forward to sharing more of our missionary journey with you in the coming months!

— Stef

* bagsed may not be a real word.

NOTE: This post was also originally posted at Australian Church Record – you can see it here – http://www.australianchurchrecord.net/diary-of-a-missionary-packing-up/