Before coming to the United States to begin my IVEP journey, I often wondered what it would feel like. I thought maybe I would sometimes be homesick or lonely, but overall happy and excited. However, that doesn’t even begin to explain what the turmoil of feelings actually is like. A fitting way to explain what it felt and sometimes still feels like, is, in my opinion, to compare it to the Ohio weather how I’ve experienced it since arriving here.
You may start off on a cold sunny day, feeling nervous but excited about everything you are learning and all the different experiences you’re coming across. A few hours later however, rainy clouds quickly approach, and the downpour begins, bringing along some sad thoughts and feelings of loneliness. Next thing you know, the rain is gone, the sun is out and the temperature is rising. Things start looking up; suddenly you feel nothing but joy and gratefulness for the opportunity you’ve been given. And you might even, on occasion, get some flurries of snow and totally freak out about this decision you have made, of moving across the world to a different culture and stepping completely out of your comfort zone.
Although the feelings (and weather) start looking more consistent as time passes, it was really important for me to find something to anchor me and give me comfort amidst all the change I was experiencing, especially in the beginning. The conclusion I came to very quickly is God is my true comfort. As much as the whole world changes and turns upside down, He stays the same.
Something that helped me reach that realization was my first Sunday at church with my host family, where the first song we sang was Why should I feel discouraged. When I read the words ‘’His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me’’ I felt like God was sitting right beside me, telling me the roller-coaster of thoughts and emotions shouldn’t make me forget His love and His promises. He always has and always will look after me, wherever I am, whatever I am doing. And as long as I keep seeking Him and His word, I’ll be reminded of that.
However, God is also teaching me to find comfort in diversity. Whether that be the difference in scenery or in cultural customs, through IVEP I am getting a glimpse of the multitude of realities that exist in God’s creation. Like it reads in Romans 12:4-6 “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
We can come together and praise God in a number of ways, with different traditions, gifts and languages, as one body and one church. In addition to that, we’re not only learning to praise together, but we’re also finding ways to live harmoniously and peacefully with our brothers and sisters in Christ and with the rest of the world around us, regardless of our differences. It helps us to build empathy and understanding for each other in order to love the way Jesus loves.
So, in conclusion, I am thankful for change. Thankful that I get to meet so many people and experience the power of different cultures coming together and changing the understanding I had of the world. And even though our IVEP journey might feel like a roller-coaster sometimes, much like the Ohio weather, there is comfort in knowing God stays the same and we can come together as one, whatever our origin and wherever we are to celebrate our differences and the beauty of God’s creation.
Header photo caption: Maren Pauls (Brazil) enjoying nature during her hike at Dundee Falls in Dundee, Ohio. Photo/Rebeca Steiner