My husband and I took a trip to our hometown this weekend. It’s truly in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of nowhere so much so that we were without an internet connection. His brother and sister live so far out in the woods, that they can’t get internet. You had no idea those places still existed did you? I’m telling ya, I live in America in 2013. I expect to get internet and cell service whenever and where ever I want it. But, things don’t work that way, and we survived.
Since I’ve taken a break from Facebook and Twitter, and this weekend I couldn’t even blog or text, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder life. It’s good. I’m amazed at where my thoughts can go when it’s quiet and still. I’ve had a heavy burden on my heart that I haven’t been able to put down into words just yet. The past few days through prayer and consideration, the heaviness has begun to make a bit more sense.
When we come from a small town, I mean small. Like 600 people.
Most everyone is related in some way to everyone else. And if you’re not related, you marry into the family. Which is exactly what Chris and I did. Three of us from my graduating class married Sanners.
Going along with marrying others who grew up in your hometown, it’s very common for the couples to move back. Chris and I both have a lot of family members who have moved back, or never left. Staying home has a lot of advantages. You are right next to family, cost of living is very reasonable, your friends are there, it’s easy to start a career because you know everyone, and it’s an incredibly friendly place.
We moved away for college and never really went back. Both Chris and I have jobs in the city. We had friends from college who stayed in the city. We chose to begin our married life here.
I’ve never been much of a “putting down roots” kind of girl. I love traveling and experiencing new cultures. But, since I’ve gotten married, I’ve had a desire to create a home for us. We want a place where we know our neighbors, we have a church family, we are active in the community, and we build lasting friendships with the people around us.
Honestly, I never felt like I had all of those things growing up in our hometown. I was so ready to leave for college and find a place where I “fit.” It took a while, and two different schools, but I did find it. Yet, when we graduated, people moved on, I didn’t fit into the “college ministry” at church anymore, Chris and I didn’t have kids…and we made the move for my job.
Here we are a few months into our new lives, so to speak, living near my workplace, attending church in our community, trying to make friends…and it seems like we just aren’t getting anywhere.
It’s so discouraging to me. I know that it takes time, and lots of effort. Yet, it feels like the world is working against us. And this is really starting to wear down my soul.
A few examples…
Chris and I started volunteering with the youth group at church almost instantly. I want to pour into others spiritually and we want to make connections within our church. We’ve been devoted to this each week. We were supposed to be put with experienced leaders since we were new. My leader left due to sickness, and I was put with another. She came once and has never been back. I have a new leader that I can’t seem to get in touch with. We were put in prayer groups. Each week at least one leader is missing from my prayer group. Chris’ group has been stuck with extra kids because the male leaders don’t show up. It’s a mad house. Most weeks we feel that the kids just run all over us. We still don’t know the other leaders we work with. I’m not even sure the church pastors know who we are. At times it feels like we are there to crowd control.
We’ve also joined a Bible study group. It also has the same difficulties. It’s never consistent. Each week we go, someone is missing. At times it’s been canceled because there are not enough people to have it. We see some couples maybe once a month. We have invited people out at other times and haven’t gotten responses. In this case and the one above, it just seems that people don’t make church events a priority. It becomes more frustrating than it is fun, and I end up not even wanting to go.
There have been two different non-profit organizations that I have put in applications to volunteer for. One was recently disbanded due to lack of leadership. The other has sent me around and around through emails and has never given me a specific direction in which I can help. Frustrating.
I’ve attempted to work with ministries. One missions agency followed up my email with a “call me.” I called to leave a message and never heard back. Followed that up with an email, and nothing. We had a Skype call with an international mission agency. They never got back to us. With the church we attend, I put in a phone call to their national headquarters over missions. That lady told me they didn’t need our services. A third missionary from Oklahoma also informed me that they had no need for volunteer missionaries. I spoke with a local Oklahoma outreach ministry, they only wanted men. I attempted to make contact with a prison ministry in Oklahoma, no answer. Confused.
I just do not understand why. I just want to help, and serve, and minister, and be a part of my community. I just want to build a home here and get to know people.
I don’t like walking in and out of church with no one knowing my name. I don’t like having to beg people to go eat lunch with me. I don’t like meeting the same person three times at an organizational event and they never remember me.
I’m starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I was made more for the small town atmosphere than I thought.
As a volunteer coordinator, you never turn down help. It makes no sense to have gone to seminary and to know the need of international missions, and local Oklahoma volunteer needs, and desiring to be a part of the change, yet not getting a call back, not getting my calls returned, not being remembered after showing up three times for your meeting. Not being needed.
Are we not needed here? Is it not in the cards for us to find community where we are?
Maybe you’ve been in this situation before, in a new city, trying to make a home. What suggestions and advice do you have? Are we going about this all wrong?