Welcome to the fishbowl! by Teresa

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I was told, or perhaps it is better to say, I was warned that living life as a missionary was much like living life in a fishbowl. Everyone watches everything you do. So true . . . so true . . .

My family and I, as a diversion during our month long Spanish language school experience in Guadalajara, decided to visit the local zoo.  It was priced right and what could be more fun than taking the fam to a zoo!  We even splurged and paid an extra couple bucks to ride the SkyZoo, which is the ski lift that covers the length of the park.  I admit, I was really excited about it.  It wasn’t one of those ski lifts you see often in the US where everyone is all inclosed, almost like a bus on a cable.  No, this was one of those ski lifts that just had a bar in front of you and your feet are happily dangling high above the earth and the whole time you are hoping your shoes don’t fall off, cause there ain’t no way you will be able to find them again.  And it wasn’t short either.  It took almost 30 minutes round trip!  I LOVED it!  I was blessed to ride with my 3 year old, Isaac.  He was so excited to see the animals.  He couldn’t stop telling me about everything he could see.  We had a great time!

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Isaac watching the buffalo!

As we were floating high above the world, I started thinking, as I typically do when I visit the zoo, just how weird it must be for these animals.  I mean, all day long they have hundreds and hundreds of people staring at them and wondering what they are up to.  Are they going to do anything cool, or are they just going to sit there sleeping the whole time?

After we dismounted, my family reconvened and we began our exploration of the zoo on foot.  As we walked, we could hear, as is common, people counting the members of our family, “Mira estos gringos!  Quantas personas. . . ?  Hay quatro, no cinco, no seis niños!  Verdad?!”  Yes, our family is quite used to having people notice us.  Our family size is a bit out of the norm for almost everyone alive today.  When walking around in Georgia, when we only had 5 children, we were used to looks and questions.  But now we live in Mexico.   And we have six kids.  Even in the US we were pretty white compared to everyone else.  Now we are a bunch of extremely white people, with 6 children whose hair is so very, very, blonde.  Do you think we stand out among the Mexican population? You betcha!

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Our family at the zoo. Back left to right: Gemma, Teresa, Ezekiel, Jonathan. Front left to right: Elijah, Micah, Isaac, Moses

As we passed the billionth person and heard them counting up our family, my husband leaned over to me and said, “We are a walking math problem!”  Literally everyone on this very crowded Saturday at the zoo took the time to look at us and count us up.  Out loud.  As if we couldn’t understand what was being said!  Some were incredulous, some were shocked, others were in awe.  It was quite obvious that we were one of the zoo’s attractions for the weekend.

Then I realized, this is a microcosm of our lives as missionaries.  We are a very large, very white family living in Mexico, where we obviously don’t fit in.  But we aren’t here to fit in.  WE ARE HERE TO STAND OUT. To be a, “light to the nations. . .  a city set on a hill . .  .” (Mt. 5: 14-16)  We cannot be hidden, and nor should we want to be.  We need to stand out, not be comfortable hiding in a dark corner, merely avoiding evil.  Instead we need to be out in the world.  We need to be an example.  We need to remember that we are Jesus to those around us.  This is our calling.  And it’s not just a calling for my family of missionaries, but for every baptized Christian.  We have the greatest gift, the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  We need to be out in the world sharing that knowledge.  We need to be ready and willing to share the reason for our joy!  Praise God our family, simply by virtue of what we are, stand out among the people in which we live!  It makes our work that much easier.  Ask us, come on, ask us why we have so many kids.  Ask us why we are so happy.  Ask us why we left our life in the United States to come here, to live among the poor.  Ask us why we brought our whole family, and even chose to give birth here with iffy medical care.  I’ll tell you why.  Because we have a God who is so great, who loves us so much, who provides for our every need, who can be trusted with every aspect of our lives, who comforts us when times are hard, who carries us when we can not walk on our own, who sent His ONLY son so that we can live with Him forever.  This news is too good to keep to ourselves!  Everyone needs to have the opportunity to know about our God!  My heart overflows with the desire to share this with everyone I can.

So the next time I hear someone counting up my family, I will be sure to smile all the more.  This is an opportunity! This is a gift!  This is the reason we are here!  Are the spectators of my life (or should I say . . . zoo, hehehe) gonna catch me sleeping?  Are they gonna think, man they don’t do anything?  Why are they even here? Or are they going to find themselves thinking, “Wow, look over here!  Everyone needs to see this,”  because when they look at us, they don’t see us, but rather Christ who lives and works through us.  It’s a challenge, and we are ready to accept!

Until the whole world hears!

The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, `Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I am going.  Zechariah 8:21