When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, I experienced a period in my life of intense pain and loss. This is my story of trusting God in the unknown, and trying to move forward.
November 2018 was the hardest month of my life. I was adjusting to living in a new place, except this time was different.
Instead of a few short months, this time I needed to put down roots. I needed lasting relationships in my community, contentment in my job, and a will to spend 2 years of my life here.
I entered this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with bright eyes and an open heart. And then came winter, both literally and figuratively.
About a year before my ship-out date with the Peace Corps, my grandfather’s illness was progressing rapidly.
He was leaving us day by day before our very own eyes. I didn’t know what to do, or how to feel. This was the veteran who’d been honored by the South Vietnamese government for saving villages during the war. This was the guy who taught me how to swim when I was four.
He’d always been so healthy, so energetic, and now he laid before us as his disease took everything from our family. August 11, 2018 was coming quickly, and I had a feeling he wouldn’t be in this life when I could visit again.
So, I treated my last visit to him at the VA hospital in Nashville, the day before I flew to D.C. for Peace Corps staging, as THE last time.
Training passed, and I tried to keep up with family as best I could through my hectic schedule. With each FaceTime call, he looked weaker. I knew my time with him was running out, so I cherished it and made it as special as I could with an ocean between us.
I was frustrated with God for his life ending in such pain, and didn’t understand why. My grandfather left this earth a week before Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.
Everyone that knew him came from near and far to his funeral. Everyone but me.
My heart was broken.
I was trying to perform well at work, integrate into my community, and navigate cultural differences in interpersonal relationships, gender roles, language, and just about everything else under the sun. I was dealing with the uncertainty of my next steps, what tomorrow would hold, and how I would continue to overcome challenges as my mental health suffered.
At the same time, I was grieving. I felt guilty for going on this big adventure at the drop of a hat while sacrificing quality time with my family, as I am wont to do. Then, Thanksgiving came. My favorite day of the year.
And with that precious day came more time with more family I hadn’t seen in over a year. I was drowning, praying for God to keep my head above water and ride out this month. I figured if I could just make it through the first month after training, I could do this. But I quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone.
God gave me the will to forgive myself and others.
He reminded me that I’m never too far for grace. That I cannot do this alone, but that I don’t have to. He provided me with a support system in the form of new friends that are also crazy enough to join the Peace Corps. He sent me to a community that had been anticipating me for a long time, and loves me dearly.
I am still healing from this time in my service, and I anticipate that the loss of my grandfather will hit me all over again when I return to America. In this time, I am reminded that God will not necessarily make our lives the way we want them, but rather uses trials to bring us to Himself. I cannot dream of a more secure place to reside, in His grace and peace.
“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength“