By Arin Liszka
It’s been just over two months since I returned to the United States after living and serving with Young Adults in Global Mission for a year in Madagascar. I lived the year as a nomad in a country that wasn’t quite my own, learning a language and culture that I could never quite pick up, living among people that I never quite understood. This nomadic lifestyle had broken me in more ways than one and fast. Not only had I actually broken my leg in early October, but I also I began to question my faith like never before. I was diagnosed with depression and faced more days than I can even count that I struggled to make it through. I was wandering through the wilderness, and it seemed like there was no end in sight.
So why was I signing up for another year in a place that wasn’t quite my own, learning a new language and culture, with people I may never understand? Nebraska isn’t as foreign as Madagascar, that’s for sure, but I’ve heard it said that Nebraska isn’t for everyone … Campus ministry has a unique language and culture that I had never experienced, not even in seminary, and I wasn’t sure I would ever pick it up or fit into it. As for this new group of people, I was terrified that the students and staff would soon regret offering me the job and that this year would be another year spent in the wilderness.
But there was no way to know that my year of wandering in the wilderness would bring me to a place that has offered much needed mana for the journey and love to restore a weary soul.
Back in March when Pastor Adam and I began the conversation that would ultimately bring me to the Lutheran Center, I was at my lowest point. I had just come off of a retreat where I told my country coordinator that I didn’t think I even believed in God and that I didn’t think the church was the place for me. Even in the midst of that confusion and doubt, I said yes to the Lutheran Center without any hesitation.
I stepped into this job and was immediately welcomed in ways that I had no clue I needed. I was christened into a community that I never anticipated would accept me so quickly and so unconditionally with a storm of Nerf bullets, with endless hours spent in the lounge in some pretty strange conversations, with Husker football games, and ultimately, with so much love.
Yes, the wilderness of Madagascar broke me, but I wouldn’t trade my year for anything. It gave me the time to grow in confidence of my own self-worth, to discern where I am being called, to reflect on my doubts when it comes to my faith, and it gave me some of my greatest friends.
The Lutheran Center is in the midst of a year in the wilderness, not much different than my year in Madagascar or the 40 years that the Israelites spent wandering. We are in a space that isn’t quite our own, learning how to live into a different culture among people that are new to us. And that is scary and difficult, but sometimes we have to wander through the wilderness. This time of transition, of rebuilding, of living nomadically has given us the opportunities to grow, to reflect, and to enjoy the company along the way. It may not be an easy journey, but it is one that is surely worth it.