My name is Joel, and I have lived a divergent life; a life characterized by living in lands dissimilar to my homeland. It is a story about being a raised as a missionary kid in a foreign land with all of its benefits and pitfalls. A story about growing up and finding one’s identity when it is spread across the globe. It is a story about faith, family, marriage, parenting and friendship. It is our story of life.
My intent in this story is to recall events chronologically, which means starting from the point at which my memories are few and inaccurate. Childhood memories are a fickle thing, based somewhere between the land of fantasy and reality. Because our infantile understanding of the world, our memories may be vastly different from those of adults even when they concern the same event. Never is this truer than when sitting down with my parents now as an adult and describing to them my memories and emotions from a childhood experience. When I contrast it to their memories it is not uncommon to find that there are glaring inaccuracies; my memory of one event is actually melded from two completely different times and places, my opinions of circumstances are badly mistaken, and I have vivid memories of events that likely never took place. Regardless of these glaring inaccuracies, to me, as a child, these memories are still very real and crucially important. When we attempt to draw upon memories to build a perspective for the world around us, it is these very memories that we use to construct our understanding. It would be easy to document and recount my childhood memories with all their inherent inaccuracies. It would also be easy to document my parents’ memories, which seem to abound with perspective and rationality. But I intend to do neither. Instead, I hope to document my memories from the context of a child and supplement them with a healthy dose of perspective provided by my parents; thereby recounting both the memories that shaped my thinking and the added details that help me make since of them as an adult.
So why am I writing the tale of my divergent life, you ask? First, because I enjoy writing. Ironically, I can thank Facebook for helping me this interest. After several years of documenting carefully crafted snippets of my life to display to the world around me, I developed a distaste for the largely disingenuous nature of it all. I began to transition to writing a private journal, not pressured by the opinions of others or the ever increasing word count. I started to take joy in writing down more than just the plot, but also the settings and senses. Aside from documenting the events and thoughts currently taking place around me, I became interested in documenting the experiences that have helped shape me. It seems important for me to recall and recount the good times as well as the bad and lay them all bare for reflection and review. This space will become a home for that dream.
Second, I want to share the stories of my adventures with others who can appreciate them. Growing up, I largely read books about history and science, along with the occasional biography. I was a non-fiction kid. “Why read stuff that people have made up,” I thought, “when the real world around us is already so interesting?” My first literary memories were about missionary doctors struggling to live and work in the jungle, Charles Lindbergh flying across the Atlantic and Neil Armstrong and his flight to the Moon. These stories nourished my interest in adventure and the human experience and helped develop my own interest in reading. One day, I hope my writings may do the same for someone else.
Third, I would like to preserve the memories of our family. It is an unwritten rule that whenever we get together as a family, we share stories of our experiences; of memories that blur with time and seem as fanciful to us now as when we experienced them so many years ago. As my parents have gotten older, I have watched them make an effort to re-discover their own lives; to take an inventory of their experiences and adventures. Theirs is a reflection on a life well lived; on the suffering and trials they endured. It is also a reflection on God’s grace and providence in its entirety. I want to preserve our family’s memories – for us, for our future generations and for others to enjoy.
Finally, I want to preserve our stories to provide faith and encouragement for today. Being a missionary or a person in ministry is hard work. It wavers on the border between humanity and God – for often God places us in circumstances where we have no choice but to trust Him. What we are called to do often makes no earthly sense, inasmuch as the timing seems disastrous and the finances are always lacking. For most people, this is a horrible way to live, but in God’s perspective, it is the only way to help us recognize that we are powerless without his power, mute without his message, penniless without his wealth. What we’ve discovered in our own lives is that God always comes through – even if it is not in the ways that we had expected. So hopefully these experiences will help encourage people in their own faith, understanding that no matter how bleak the circumstances may appear, God is in control. He has a purpose for our suffering as well as our times of plenty.