How Do I Do This?

Some days I’m waking up feeling a spark of "normalcy" returning to my life.  The pieces begin to fall into place.

And then some days I wake up so overwhelmed, so paralyzed by what I’ve seen and what I should do about it, that putting one foot in front of the other takes effort.

Guess which one today is?

I don’t know how to do this.  That’s the frantic phrase that’s been echoing around in my head and heart these last few days.  I’ve prayed it, I’ve said to my husband, I’ve even said it aloud when I’m alone in my house.  I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to fit my new heart and head back into my life.

I feel angry–angry at anyone who doesn’t "get it", angry at American culture for being so excessive, angry at myself for being a part of the problem.  It’s a self-righteous anger, not the productive kind.  It’s gotten me in such a twist that I find myself avoiding friends so I won’t have to explain myself. 

It’s a strange kettle of fish.  I traveled to the other side of the world to see poverty that boggles the mind.  I came home, ready to tell my story, ready to change the world.

But guess what?  Someone still has to run to the grocery store for milk and eggs.  Someone still has to pay the overdue fine on the library book.  Someone has to carpool to soccer.  I’m doing it.  But I’m doing it in a fog. 

I don’t believe it is right for me to plop back into my world with this sudden disdain for everything around me.  It’s self-righteous, and it is the opposite of grace.  God made me a 21st-century American, with all that entails.  He has work for me to do, right here.  I just have to figure out what that looks like.  How, specifically, is it different from the life I was living before?  We were already committed to a pretty frugal, no-frills lifestyle.  Is that enough?  Do we sell it all and move to the ghetto?  Do we work harder and earn more, so we’ll have more to give?  How do we best honor the One who has given us such abundance? 

I don’t know how to do this.

How do I teach my children what I’m learning without giving them "survivor’s guilt"?  How do I respond with graciousness and compassion–not indignance–when I see such waste all around me?  How do I keep these lessons fresh on my heart?  Do I really want it to get easier with time? 

I don’t know how to do this.

But one way or another, I have to.

111 thoughts on “How Do I Do This?

  1. Grace says:

    Shannon, I didn’t go to Uganda, but I feel you. Last semester, I took a class on the Life of Christ, and as we studied the Sermon on the Mount in depth, I was plagued by the questions of “How does this really work?” We grow so much just through asking the question and seeking its answers. For me, it comes down to the fact that I cannot be perfect. But the ethic set out for us is not simply an unreachable ideal to be valued on a shelf–it’s designed to be lived. Working out just how to do that has me running around in circles, but I have seen growth in myself through the striving. The beautiful thing about our faith is the grace with which we are constantly enveloped. A lot of times, it’s hard to extend that grace to ourselves, though…
    A lengthy reply that doesn’t say much except that I empathize with you…

  2. Vicki says:

    I think you’re experiencing the valley that always seems to come after the mountain top. Waiting on God to answer your prayers may feel like a lifetime. I pray that it will be a clear answer for you. And it may be something huge and impactful to many; or it may be “small” and impact your children only…for now. Only God knows what they will do with it when they get older.

  3. LeeAnn (AKA Frazzmom) says:

    Wow- I tried to write a comment three times. But they all seemed trite…
    I have these same issues and I don’t know the answer. I do know that God is breaking my heart for Africa and I don’t understand how others can stand by and just watch or even deny the problems.
    And I just don’t know what to do with that yet.

  4. PollyS says:

    In regards to what you saw and experienced in Africa, I have no idea what you’re going through.
    But I do think that when we’re in a valley as Vicki spoke of, the fog you’re walking around in is not entirely bad. You see, the fog allows you to still live your life, but not to the extent you did before. In my case, the fogs I have gone through have forced me to shut my mouth and give me a time of quiet and peace so I can accept whatever God chooses to send my way. If I weren’t in the fog, I’d be all talked out. I would have analyzed said situation to death. And then some!
    I learned this lesson when I lost a daughter to Trisomy 18 four years ago. I was in a fog for almost a year. But you know what? God used that time to make me stronger.
    I trust He’ll use this time in your life to teach you a very valuable lesson. And we all know that isn’t always easy.

  5. Lightening says:

    Tough questions and I don’t have any answers. Just hugs and prayers. Are you doing debriefing type stuff with Compassion. Because a lot of what you’re struggling with sounds similar to what missionaries go through when they come home. And yes, a short term trip still qualifies. I have a friend who went several times on 5 week short-term missions and it could take her 12 months to feel like her old self again. Although I very much doubt it’s in God’s plan for you to feel like you’re “old self”. This is all part of his plan and purpose for you which doesn’t make it easy but does make it worthwhile.
    I think you’re amazing sharing so openly and honestly like this. It’s important and heartfelt and touching.
    God Bless.

  6. Kathy in WA says:

    Shannon – I so appreciate you sharing your heart and struggles with the world.
    I read something in World magazine today that said nearly a billion dollars has been spent so far in political campaigning.
    I was literally sick to my stomach and I immediately thought of you and the other people who went on the Compassion tour.
    A billion dollars! What would just a tithe of that do for the people of Africa?
    Don’t stop talking, praying, and caring!!! We teach our children that one person CAN make a difference. Let’s all try to be that one person.
    Duckabush Blog

  7. Veronica says:

    Hey, I have been a lurker on your blog for some time now. I have been captivated by your posts lately. You have inspired me to sponsor a child through Compassion. I can’t begin to comprehend all that you’ve witnessed in Africa. Sometimes I think “Ignorance is bliss; don’t let me see things that will give me the knowledge I am afraid of.” But you are not blind to what is real over there. You are amazing. I pray for God to give you strength and direction, and to help you use your anger in a way that glorifies him and his plans for you. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Thank you for your words, your pictures, and your honesty.

  8. Megan says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey and your struggles with us. I have been overwhelmed by the poverty I have seen in Mexico, and brokenhearted by the utter hopelessness in France. Vastly different circumstances, but the same desperate need for Jesus. Keep praying. God is working in you, and using you to influence others.

  9. Rachel says:

    I think what you do, is exactly what you are doing. Keep on keeping on – and in the meantime, feel the emotions that you are feeling and share them with people. If spreading awareness is what is helpful to you, set the goal of talking about what you saw and learned once a day to someone new, to help pass the message along.
    I think the reason that a group of bloggers was chosen to go to Uganda was so that you would have these feelings and then share them with your readers. That was the purpose of your trip. And it seems to me, that you are fulfilling that purpose!
    While the outcome of the trip is that you have changed and will probably continue to change the way you live your life, it doesn’t sound (from what I’ve read) like that was the organizers’ purpose. You are serving in the role of a messenger. And just like others who have done it before you, its not going to be the easiest job of your life!
    But when those days come around when you’re overwhelmed and can’t imagine getting out of bed to face the crowds of over-spending, over-indulging people at the mall (or Walmart or the supermarket, etc.), remind yourself that your new found purpose is to be an example to your children, family and friends of conscious living and compassion.
    I hope these thoughts help, and weren’t too simplistic.

  10. Anna says:

    You do it by teaching. You do it by guiding your children and their friends so that the future generations of our world know innately what needs to be done.
    But it is guidance not preaching which is needed.
    Guide your children to be gracious, thoughtful, understanding and aware, and with those skills you can help them help others.
    It is an amazing thing you have done, without realising (I think) you have made a huge difference. So many of your readers have learnt from your trip, they are changing their habits and the habits of their children. Please don’t underestimate the impact you’ve had.
    One step at a time, one step at a time…

  11. Ladybug Crossing says:

    Well, I’ve lived all over the globe. I’ve seen poverty and I’ve seen excess. The US does NOT have the corner on excess – just so’s you know.
    The fact is, that poverty exists. It’s not up to us as Americans to fix it all. It’s up to each person to better his or her life in any way they can. Unfortunately, many times, the funds are available but they are used by corrupt governments for sinister purposes. No, it’s not fair, but it is what it is. Call it cynical… I call it pragmatic.
    You’ve seen things that touch your heart. I know. I’ve been there and lived it. Alas, you come home and drop back into your life and you feel guilty. Guilty because you have what the others don’t and people who haven’t “been there” just don’t get it. This is perfectly normal.
    That said, did you know that the US sends billions of dollars to Africa and other countries every year for the, sick, poor and disadvantaged? That said, we have poverty here. We need to help our own. Alas, more money goes to other countries than goes to our own. Is that fair? I don’t know. I certainly don’t have the answers.
    All I know is that you need to tell your story and live your life. You cannot fix it, but you have made and will continue to make a difference.
    God’s work in God’s time… It might not be our speed, but it’s God’s speed.
    Teach your children to be kind and compassionate. They will teach theirs and eventually, many years from now, all will be right in the world. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
    xo
    LBC

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how other people do it. We all just do what we do, I guess. It’s kind of like, do you ever wish for someone else to clean your house even right after you clean it so that they can see the things you misssed? Hopefully we are all overlapping, and each of us makes a difference one at a time.
    Here’s how I did it: When I was an at-home mom I was a mentor in an elementary school for one hour of one day of every week.
    Here’s how I do it: I smile at each little kid I see in the hallways at my school. (No, I am not always happy, they do get “in trouble” with me in class sometimes…) Right here in our own back yard there are children who have no one else smiling at them, no one to get up with them in the morning and brush their hair, no bed to sleep in, and nothing for breakfast.
    So, if we all work together, some of us here and some of us there, we do make a lot of difference a little at a time.

  13. Thia says:

    Shannon, first hugs. Second of all, you are doing it. I don’t say that flippantly. You share with many people what you saw and experienced. Think of all the kids’ pictures that came off the Compassion web site during your trip. Continue to tell the story.
    Time, in many ways, can be more valuable than money. Remember how the kids just wanted to touch you? Perhaps you could find a soup kitchen or Sidewalk Sunday school program or something similar to do together as a family.

  14. Tina in Thailand says:

    It is hard. When we go down to the market to walk around for fun and there are people begging on the streets, people without feet, people with shriveled limbs and those who are only children themselves with children of their own, it is hard to not be overcome. Hard not to just pull every cent out of our wallets and give it to them.
    For us, as we see so much around us that screams how well off we are, I have found my appropriate response is gratitude.
    We do not need to revile ourselves because the LORD has seen fit to grant us wealth, to allow us to be part of the wealthy, but we are responsible for what we do with it and our attitude towards it.
    When I am simply grateful to God for what He has given us and seek to be a faithful steward of His resources, I can be compassionate and generous to others without shame or guilt for my resources, knowing that they come from and belong to God.
    Thank Him Shannon, not only for what He has entrusted you with, but for the opportunity He gave you to see, to really see, those around you and to see Him clearer as well.
    He is not done blessing and growing you through this experience. It is encouraging to all of us to be molded ourselves through what you so willing are sharing with us.
    For HIS glory.

  15. mimi2six says:

    God has called you to sacrifice the comfort of ignorance for the pain of seeing with His eyes. He will lead you through the turmoil you are experiencing; but the turmoil itself is part of His journey for you. The trip to Africa was just the start of this journey he has for you and your family. He is using you (and the other bloggers) to influence/change 21st century American Christians one reader at a time.

  16. April says:

    Shannon,
    Please be encouraged that your trip to Africa changed more than just you. This trip has caused me to look at our spending in a whole new light. I think about purchases in light of those who truly have NEEDS. Thank you for being brave enough to face this. Thank you for being obedient. God will honor that. He will see you through this time. He will provide the answers you are looking for. He is faithful!

  17. Scratchin' the Surface says:

    I think you not only “have to”, you get to, are supposed to. He didnt send you there to stay there, but rather to come back radically changed, yet remaining in the same place. I can only imagine the work he will accomplish in your life once you walk through this painful period of adjusting to the new, radically changed Shannon who lives what looks like the same life, but isnt the same at all on the inside. I look forward to the blessings I’ll receive from coming here, in the days and months to come, as I read what’s on your heart and mind. xoxo

  18. Kelly S. says:

    I feel it too, and I didn’t even go to Africa. But you did, and I went there, through you, and now I feel the same way, to a lesser degree. I’ve just been praying and asking God to show me how to live in abundance, when others don’t, and to glorify Him with my stuff. I have made big changes, in just the “stuff” I buy.
    What you are feeling now, is where God can begin to really do some great work through you, to touch others, who are wrapped up in STUFF…
    Hang in there, I’m praying for you.
    Kelly S.

  19. We are THAT Familiy says:

    I think your answer is in the question. God has given you an amazing opportunity and an amazing platform. Sometimes people have one or the other, rarely both. The draw to your website is simply that. As we watch you struggle to make it all fit, we learn. You are offering us a view we wouldn’t necessarily see. I NEVER EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT AFRICA, until I came to your blog less than a month ago. Now, I’m sponsoring a child, praying for him with my kids, blogging about AFRICA. I’m just one little mom in Texas and I’m doing this because YOU ARE DOING THIS WELL. You are being transparent and THAT is what America needs to see.

  20. Jeana says:

    I really see where you’re coming from. I wish I had an answer for you, but I think time is the only one. You’ll figure out a balance in time, to live your life without forgetting–in mind or in action–what you experienced.

  21. girlymama says:

    I felt the same thing when I returned from India a few months ago. It is so easy to be angry and disgusted with American culture after seeing how the rest of the world lives. Use this experience as a reminder of how blessed you are. As a reason to be generous with what God has given you. As a teaching tool with your children about what is a “need” vs a “want”. And to guard your own heart against discontentment and coveting.
    What you are feeling is very, very common and pray that God will give you the wisdom to use these feelings for His glory!

  22. Easton Ellsworth says:

    Shannon, thank you. You may not feel like you know how to “do this,” but in a way you just did by posting here. The solution is to share your anger. And you should be mad.
    I am also a 21st-century American. If all who have ever lived were to form a line in descending order of the privileges and pampering they received in life, I’m sure we would be excruciatingly close to the front. And I fear that the closer to the front of the line people get, the stiffer they let their necks become. They tend to cease turning around toward those less fortunate.
    Twice in my life I have left the U.S. to live in less wealthy parts of the world for at least two years. Both times I was overcome by the material poverty and spiritual riches I encountered. And both times I returned angry at the pride and greed of my own nation.
    We who have been given much hold in our hands the golden opportunity to empower and nourish the rest of the world.
    All would eventually be solved if every generation began to teach the next to think of all people as brothers and sisters and to share material, intellectual and spiritual wealth freely. I believe that will happen someday. You and others like you will be the driving force.
    Best wishes Shannon.

  23. Angel says:

    There is a book written by Kay Warren who is Rick Warren’s wife called Dangerous Surrender that I really think you should read. I am reading it and intend to start a book club about it on my blog in about a month after I get back from a trip to Africa. It is exactly about your heart. I am going to Africa to spend time with HIV positive orphans in 4 weeks. Ever since our adoption of our Zoe from severe poverty and neglect my heart has fluctuated from seriously disturbed and ready to attack to overwhelmed and wanting to hide. I can’t hide though. I am a whole different person. So this year I am going to Africa, I have visited an orphanage in Guatemala, we are adopting a SN child from China and starting a nation wide ministry at our church. The truth is that I am scared. This is bigger than me. It still feels like it will never be enough. BUT I have seen too much to pretend anymore. I can’t live the way I used to. I know that if we would come together and all do what is in our hearts without being afraid and paralyzed poverty would be a thing of the past. Hugs to you. Please get this book. You will love it. Hugs, Angel

  24. Sarah says:

    Wow. So much has already been said I don’t think there is much left for me to say. I struggle with that quote from someone “do the next thing.” I struggle because sometimes I don’t know what the next thing is. Then I get angry that I don’t know what the next thing is and I forget the reason I am heart-sick. I find the fog a place to marinate and rest and process my heartsickness and I find that the time spent marinating, resting, and processing proves invaluable when the fog lifts and the call of God to action comes.
    I don’t think we, humans, are set up to go straight from learning to action very well. Mostly because we have this heart to process everything through, and our hearts need changing and that takes time. When our hearts are broken, there must be a time of healing to follow before we can go back to work (just like physical heart surgery.) I think what I am suggesting is that you ( and we all)take these times of fogginess as as much a gift as our times of great growth and use it to prepare for the call to action which will come.

  25. Beth says:

    Just keep sharing what you feel, Shannon. I think God is using that right now to reach others. He’ll show you how to do it later. You know it, too.
    He’s just not through with you here yet.

  26. Princess Leia says:

    The thing is…it never really goes away. Here I am back after three years (in the vastly different world of marriage and mommyhood) and I still feel that hole in my heart sometimes and it still frustrates the crap out of me when people just don’t _get_it_.
    You will never feel “normal” again. What you’re going through right now is learning how to live in your new reality, and it’s not easy. Poverty is not a far away problem anymore for you – it has names and faces and you’ve seen exactly how _little_ can be used to change it for generations!
    And it’s ok to be angry about it. And it’s ok to take some time to learn how to live again. But don’t expect to ever feel like “normal” again.

  27. Kristin says:

    I think the “not knowing what to do” is part of getting it done. My mom and sister traveled to Africa over 10 years ago and those precious moments are still etched on their heart (and mine through living vicariously through them.) Uganda will never leave you, no matter how many trips you make to Wal-Mart.

  28. Coralie says:

    Maybe you can identify with this line from a Sara Groves’ song “The places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned, and those roads were closed off to me, while my back was turned.”
    I’m praying for you. Maybe the Lord is calling you to something bigger than one trip?

  29. Michelle says:

    Praying for you as you go through this journey. Remember, you are exactly where God wants you right now. He will get you through this for His glory. We love you and are thankful you are allowing us to go through this journey with you. Just rest in his mercy and goodness.
    Love you girl and oh so proud of you.

  30. Cris says:

    I don’t think any of us really knows how to do this. That’s why life is a 4-letter word just work and a string of others my momma always told me not to say.
    All I can say is keep putting that one foot in front of the other. The fog clears enough for to handle what’s in front of you. The big picture not so clear….cronic fog with occasional clear skies.

  31. Terina says:

    hi shannon. this comment has nothing to do with your post. (as much as i enjoyed reading it!!) first, i do not use microsoft outlook so i am not able to email you with the link you have. second, i am looking for the company that sells those things that go around your tummy when pregnant that keep you covered even when you have to bend over. i think you had it on your giveaways a while back??
    and i can identify with you in a small area. i lived in france and in germany, and as they are not third world contries, it is always hard to come back to the states. i CANNOT imagine what you saw and how your insides must be in such turmoil. my husband spent two years in mexico, and said that when he came back he felt like he was living like a king. just something as simple as having a paved road or carpet in a home. you will find your balance. give it time…

  32. Sherry says:

    Shannon, you’re doing it. In fact, you’re doing it very well. I read your blog every day because I love your stories AND because it helps me feel normal…that my life, my family, my kids are all going through the same things that everyone else is. I’m also learning that even a regular (no offense there) mom can travel to Africa and have a life changing experience,and that I, along with many, many others, can have our own lives changed reading about her experience. Your perspective is our perspective,and we thank you for it.
    The excess, the waste, the lack of compassion, the selfishness, the lack of love and kindness are all things that I have struggled to understand and deal with for a long time…and I still do. I dare say anyone who loves the Lord and tries to follow Him has the same issues.
    The world is not perfect, but we don’t have to answer for the world.
    Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you. – Augustine of Hippo

  33. Sugar Mama says:

    Shannon, God has given you all that you have in your life for a reason. You are able to sponsor the children from Compassion and reach out to others using your blog. Without your resources, this would not be. We can’t control the reasons for why they are suffering there and we are not here. We can only embrace our opportunities and be thankful, remembering God is in control.
    Your heart will probably never be completely healed, but it shouldn’t be. That way, you’ll never forget.

  34. Kristin says:

    I don’t have anything profound to share, but just wanted to tell you – I totally understand, and you are not alone. I work for an organization similar to Compassion and traveled to Guatemala while you were in Uganda, and went to Kenya last year. It’s hard. Really hard. And I continually wrestle with the same things you’re feeling.
    But, I know God will continually show both of us exactly what He has for us in this. I know it glorifies Him that we’re asking tough questions and wanting to surrender our lives. And I know that God has put us both in the midwest of the U.S. for a reason, and He asks us to be faithful where we are, with what He’s given us.
    On the hard days, I try to focus on the things I know… So, I would say just focus on being a great mom and wife… you know those are things God wants you to do well. As we continue to surrender to Him, and pray earnestly for wisdom, He’ll give it. In His perfect timing.
    Thanks for sharing. This was encouraging to me today. It’s good to know that someone understands.

  35. Andrea says:

    Shannon, I’m struggling with the same thing… wondering what to do, myself, to fix all these broken things in the world, and being angry (with myself, my church, my friends) for not doing ENOUGH. I just think there’s so much more…
    I’m praying for you – God is so good and He is just growing your heart like crazy. I know for a fact that He has had this all mapped out for you since the beginning of time and is going to be faithful to continue molding you into the beautiful woman He has made you!!

  36. Marian says:

    All I know is that I’m so grateful for the way God has been turning people’s hearts toward Africa. When we started the adoption process of our daughter in Ethiopia in late 2003, it was not fashionable– it was prior to the “Angelina Jolie effect”– but I believe that we were just one tiny part of a big movement of God that was beginning.
    I have an awesome testimony which is too long, with too many amazing details, to share entirely here, but here’s the short version of how he used us: Our baby daughter died in Ethiopia, just weeks before she was finally to come home. (Unknown reason– long story, but I believe it was the result of being orphaned then “abandoned” again by a special volunteer who came and went from her orphanage. Orphanage staff are not parents and do not fill primary human attachment needs! Building orphanages is not the answer to the AIDS crisis and for the millions and millions of children…) Anyway, God spoke to me in my grief, clear as a bell, the day I learned of her death.
    *He said, “You are mourning for her because she was YOURS. Thousands just like her died in Africa just this week, in complete obscurity to the rest of the world. I mourn for them ALL because they are all MINE. This is not what I intended for my precious creation.” As God would have it, I spoke to a large ladies’ group just 3 days later, very dificultly. But God had supplied the message, and my tears were exhibit A of God’s pain.**
    Our second Ethiopian daughter is a daily reminder, challenging us to think about Africa’s people. It’s hard to walk in the middle of wanting to do EVERYTHING somehow and turning your heart off, just trying to listen to God about what part– large or small– he wants YOU to play. It’s mind-boggling to enter your own kitchen sometimes, with all of its abundance. It’s sickening to feel our own greed and see our wastefulness. But that’s where we live. May you find the place of walking in what he wants YOU to do, leaving the rest. Hugs to you.

  37. Marianne says:

    You do this – this forum, this place, this reaching out and touching people, helping them to open their hearts to helping.
    One person at a time, one day at time.

  38. zoom says:

    The words “Survivor Guilt” resonated with me. I immediately thought of a dear friend who worked on a project in which Holocaust survivors were interviewed so that their stories were captured on tape.
    Their stories were horrific, but what my friend was most surprised by was that many had never shared their stories with anyone. Not their families. Not their friends. How do you share such overwhelming grief, horror and unjustice?
    However, by articulating the horrible things of the world we can make a difference. One step at a time. One day at a time. Which you are doing.

  39. Dana says:

    Your honesty is inspiring. I’ve been struggling with a sort of, I don’t know what to call it. I’ve been thinking of my vocation. I was called to be a parent and raise my son in our faith, but I think I suck at it.
    This, in no way, relates to what you experienced, but I do know how hard it is to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
    Hang in there. I think in time God will lead you in the direction he wants you to go in.

  40. gretchen says:

    I wonder how many people began sponsoring a child because of what you’ve written on your blog?
    You are doing God’s work, which He began in YOU before Africa was even carved by His hands.
    We’ve sponsored a child in Ethiopia since last summer, and I think we don’t do enough for her.

  41. AuntieB says:

    I totally understand. I was in that same part of Uganda in July of 2001. We stayed at an orphanage between Jinja and Kampala for almost 2 weeks. I came home and cried for almost 2 months.
    The thing with poverty in this country is: we have a welfare system. They don’t. We have people who choose to live “homeless” and in poverty. They don’t choose that. We have public housing. They don’t. We have the opportunities to better our lives. They don’t.
    Our lives are based on choices – theirs are forced upon them with no way out.
    Can we turn a blind eye to poverty in this country? No, but there are programs and assistance in this country. It’s one of our “freedoms”. Do we have a responsibility to show those around us what we’ve seen outside of this country? Absolutely, yes! If they don’t know, how can they help?
    I’ll be praying that God shows you how to show these beautiful people to your everyday world.

  42. Melanie says:

    I understand your feelings. I have not seen what you have seen, but I went through some of these feelings after going through a major hurricane. We were spared major damage but people around us had nothing. Our church worked with the Red Cross to literally keep people fed. People sleeping in tents. Months later, the news was gone, life elsewhere was back to normal, but these people were still homeless and their children without Christmas. I wanted to shake everyone around me.
    It kept me motivated to keep helping and I had to learn the “grace” part. Just keep praying and He will help you and guide you.

  43. Robin # Heart of Wisdom says:

    I understand. I had the same feeling every time we returned from Costa Rica. My children went with me so they also had these feelings –survivor’s guilt. All of a sudden a pencil is a thing to be grateful for.
    God is teaching you. You are teaching others. You will have more opportunities as time goes on to share–not always directly may times indirectly–to help others be grateful for what they have because you are.
    Today you jogged my memories back to the third world country poverty and made me stop and say a prayer of thanks for being so blessed in America with heat, my comfy comforter, my wonderful morning coffee. Thank you.
    This type of awareness will make me look around more to find things I can do to help others.
    It’s great that you recognize and can express these feelings in writing.

  44. Molly says:

    I will soon be facing some of these issues as we head back to the States after 4 years in Peru. One thing that God has been teaching me is that it has to start in a desire to be changed by God, not in a desire to change the world. As you grow in your relationship with Him, He will make it clear what you need to change in your life and in your family’s life. Remember, you are only responsible for YOUR actions, not everyone else’s REACTIONS! God doesn’t expect you to change the world…only He can do that and it starts in our hearts with baby steps of growth each day.

  45. Trina says:

    I have never been to a third world country and I am ashamed to say that I am scared to. I know it would rip my heart open and I don’t know if I could handle it. It’s kinda of how I avoid movies that I know will make me cry or feel a certain way, I just don’t want to go there. Ya know?
    But I have been feeling this sense of “disgust” with the American culture now since I became a parent almost 5 years ago. There were days when I just wanted to take my family and go live on an island somewhere, away from all of this. But that’s not the answer. I’ve thought of selling our home, moving to a mobile home and only having the bare nessities. But is that the answer? I don’t know what the answer is so I just try to live the best I know how and be a frugal as I know to be. I use coupons, I always buy things on sale and search for the best deal. We save and don’t spend every dime we make. I sponsor two girls through World Vision. One is in Ethiopia, the other Honduras. I have sponsored them for years, but I don’t feel it’s enough. I don’t know what “enough” is. So I feel a little of what you are feeling, I know on a much smaller scale since I haven’t experienced it first hand. But know you aren’t the only one.
    Thanks for sharing your heart. It matters more than you know.

  46. Anonymous says:

    We have an acquaintance who runs a non-profit that builds schools in Kenya. He said that the hardest part for ALL of their volunteers is coming back. Trying to live a normal life after seeing what they’ve seen, knowing what they now know. Trying to find balance between the life they have, and what they now feel they should do. He said a lot of people struggle with almost depression, because they feel helpless and their current lives can sometimes feel petty for a little while. He said he tries to remind people there is a time and a season for all things. They volunteer when they can, they build resources, they build awareness, they make others aware. And when the time in their life is right – they go and work.

  47. Owlhaven says:

    Shannon,
    As you know, I’ve been to Ethiopia 3 times and saw a lot of what you saw in Uganda. One of the hardest things for me is knowing that some of my kids still have extended family there, who are still struggling. We are allowed to send pictures and letters, but nothing more. (It would be dangerous to the the stabillity of adoption there in Ethiopia if adoptive families gave birth families money- there could be allegations that the children were ‘sold’ which would be terrible for adoption– that’s why adoption in Cambodia was shut down for awhile).
    And yet, there are relatives of our girls struggling. And we know about them. I’ve been really glad that my mom and dad and sister are planning a mission trip next summer to help out in the region where two of our girls are from– that will give us opportunity to send assistance in general, if not specifically to our kids’ family.
    And yet there is so much more that needs to be done….
    All that to say I know how you feel…
    Mary, mom to many

  48. Queen B says:

    I have no words of wisdom for you. I just want you to know that I am praying for you.
    I know God sent you to Africa for a reason. I know that many children in Uganda have a brighter future because of you (and the others). I know that God didn’t send you to do His work and then just dump you back into your life for you to figure out this path by yourself.
    He was with you before, He was with you during, and He is certainly with you after.

  49. Texas in Africa says:

    Shannon, I know reading is the last thing you have time for, but I think a book called “Justice in the Burbs” would be really helpful for you right now. It’s about what to do when the reality of a suffering world interrupts your “normal” life.

  50. Laura says:

    I think you ARE dong it. Just giving voice to the struggle you’re experiencing will help us all understand where you’ve been and the things you’ve seen.
    Sometimes just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

  51. Kelly @ Love Well says:

    Such an insightful post, Shannon. My husband grew up as an orphaned street rat in a third world country, and then by God’s grace, was adopted at the age of … well, we think he was about 8. No way to know, since he was always on his own. Anyway. My point is — he’s felt like this for most of his life, and he’s still struggling with balance. In the end, it seems all you can do is walk closely with God, listen to His voice and let him direct what you should do in response to what you’ve seen.

  52. Kim says:

    These are normal feelings, believe it or not. Like one of the others shared, most missionaries deal with “re-entry” issues no matter how long they were gone.
    When we first got back from Uganda I had a hard time with the littlest things. Like taking a shower. I felt incredibly guilty for a long time if I took more than a five-minute shower.
    I know how precious water is in Uganda, and how most villagers walk long distances DAILY to get water at the community well. They carry it home. They do not waste it.
    And more than a short shower seemed wasteful.
    But I had to realize I can’t compare apples with oranges. Yes, in Uganda we took “jungle showers” because that was necessary. Here it is not necessary. Water is abundant and available. Should I stand in the shower for half an hour? NO. But I also don’t need to take jungle showers either.
    For me it was learning to appreciate what we had without forgetting what they don’t have. Of being sensitive to God’s leading as a steward of all He’s given me.
    So I can enjoy showers but I can also send a check to help when I hear about a water project in Uganda.
    I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but me. But that’s just one of the areas I struggled in, and came to terms with in a way I feel is pleasing to God.

  53. Nicki says:

    Shannon,
    For weeks, I have been praying for you, your fellow bloggers, and all who read these blogs. I prayed that these very heart and life changing things would occur in the lives of all who experienced this, both first hand and through reading the blogs.
    I’m now praying that the Lord will continue to give us all guidance on where to go from here. That means we have to make sure that we are in His Word, constantly.
    He will show you how to do this, Shannon. I know that you already know this, but please take comfort in it. I know it also so simplistic and even cliche, but it is the truth! Take some of the feelings and emotions that you are experiencing and read what He says about those very things. Put off and put on!
    And, please, continue to share this journey that you are on. I believe that, through Him, you are having a HUGE impact on this community of bloggers. Then, we go out and share it with others. And it goes on and on.
    I’m praying for you, Shannon!
    Thank you, Father, for what you are doing in Shannon’s life and as a result of that, what you are doing in the lives of so many others. Please, give her guidance in her steps as she continues to seek to bring honor and glory to You. In Jesus name! Amen.

  54. Daiquiri says:

    May I make a humble observation? It is this…you ARE doing it.
    Continue to use the tools you have…this blog, an opportunity to share your heart with your kids, a conversation with a friend, prayer, sponsorship…use them until God gives you something else to do.
    Even though it feels strange and surreal, you ARE doing it.
    You’ve encouraged me and (gently) convicted ME beyond words. So much so, that I just finished signing up to sponsor a little 5 year old girl in Uganda. Her name is Ikoit Gabdesia (don’t know first from last name or how to pronounce either!).
    You’ve helped her…that 5 year old little girl in Uganda. You ARE doing it.
    Hang in there, sister!
    Daiquiri

  55. Happy Mommy says:

    Shannon, you pray, you admit just as you have that you don’t know what to do and the God of all Creation will lead you in His will for your life and your family. Pray and seek his favor.

  56. Tom says:

    At this point all I can chime in with is “what they said” and “me too”.
    As a result of what you’ve written and shown, our family is now sponsoring a child in Kenya.
    Keep praying – keep praising God – keep listening to His voice and doing His will. That’s all He asks.

  57. Erica Burgan says:

    What you are experiencing is culture shock. It comes in many forms, but it is very difficult to assimilate back into your “normal” life after experiencing the utter poverty and what life is like in other parts of the world and how God is working there.
    We are missionaries in Mexico – a border town, but very impoverished. Our next door neighbors house is made of plywood – just a shack – they don’t have running water in their house or a bathroom. They use an outhouse and wash their dishes outside with a hose.
    We have been here 5 years and it has been the grace of God that has allowed us to find a balance between our hearts breaking for the lost and impoverished, and being able to function as a family, homeschooling, cooking, living with some semblance of what my children are accustomed to.
    We don’t live in the kind of house we would in the states, but our house is nice – running water, electricity, bathroom, shower, etc – according to this town’s standards.
    I pray that God give you the grace and mercy to adjust, without losing the tender heart of compassion for those you have met and encountered in Africa. The more time you spend back home, the less impact you will feel from the culture shock, but this is a good time to bring about a focus in your family’s life of praying – interceding – for others around the world.
    Some resources that may help:
    Jesus Freaks (vol. 1 and 2) – stories about people throughout history that have laid down their lives for the gospel
    Extreme Devotion – devotional with these same kind of stories
    Heroic Faith – follows these others and is great for how to live a live of extreme devotion
    Missionary biographies from YWAM Publishing – many great stories that will show you the hearts of those who have given their lives to reach and help those around the world
    Voice of the Martyrs – great opportunities for you and your children to do some action projects that will directly affect lives around the world
    These are some of the ways that we, as a family, have been able to keep our hearts tender (it is easy to become calloused to the need surrounding us) and to actively learn and grow in our compassion for the world.
    Hope this helps, and feel free to contact me anytime if you would like more info or just to share what you are struggling with. Also, you could check out Deeper Roots Publications – they have alot of material for those returning from short term missions “re-entry”.
    Shannon, I will be praying for you and your family.
    Erica

  58. Gretchen says:

    Talk, talk, talk about it – write about it too. Only by sharing this experience can you educate others. The people that hear you will get a tiny idea of what your experience was. Our lives are what they are, and their lives are what they are. We all struggle to make sense of what we were given. You were given this life to live for a reason. You can and should make the most out of the life you were given. Part of your life is to learn from your experiences. You need to process all of this before you can act. You are now in the middle of processing it.
    Meanwhile, be good to yourself and your family. Take walks outside, stay away from stores and turn the tv off. It will get easier and you are making a difference every day.

  59. Jenni says:

    Wow, what a lot of fantastic comments. I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude for the many people who said they are now sponsoring a child, just because of YOUR (and the other Compassion bloggers) input! God truly is using you, Shannon, even if you don’t feel like you are doing enough. He takes our efforts and multiplies them, just like the loaves and fishes as long as we keep giving them to Him!
    So keep praying about it girl; He will SHOW you, in time, what the next step is. He wants us to be balanced and grounded and rooted so we can be strong enough to take whatever the next step is, and smolder long and hot…otherwise I think we’d just burn out like a firecracker.
    Lead by example, as you have been doing. And trust that as we do the planting and the watering, HE WILL bring about the growth. All glory belongs to Him!
    Jenni

  60. Dena says:

    Let me just say, you put in words something I haven’t been able to for, oh, 3 years now. A year ago we went to China to adopt our sweet girl and that whole process changed me just as you describe. As we saved every cent and looked for every possible means of paying for the adoption, I felt everything you describe. I found myself retreating b/c I felt so different. I felt anger at all of the excess everything around me, even at church. Then I felt guilty for feeling angry. And then going to China, seeing all the babies, seeing the way they lived. How can you NOT be changed? A year later, I’m still waiting, still putting it all in it’s place. I don’t really feel the anger anymore, but sometimes I wonder if that is just a product of getting comfy again.
    Anyway, a big thank you for the way you put this into words.

  61. JanMary, N Ireland says:

    “You do this – this forum, this place, this reaching out and touching people, helping them to open their hearts to helping.
    One person at a time, one day at time.”
    Couldn’t put it better myself,
    Hugs and prayers.

  62. Rechelle says:

    Hey Shannon – when you get this question figured out, my third son has been asking me for years – Where did God come from? – so could you work on that one next?
    There does not appear to be an easy answer does there? Me personally – I like to be confounded by the universe, it reminds me again and again that I can never really understand it, so best to just help where I can, and always try to be ready to respond to what is needed. Which yeah – I don’t always manage to live up to that either, but I am trying. Most days at least.

  63. chewymom says:

    What you are experiencing is SO NORMAL after returning from a trip like yours. It really is. I pray that you will see what YOU need to do with what you have seen and learned!!

  64. Robin (the pensieve one) says:

    Before you left (and I guess I indicated it in prior comments to you), I could sense how this would affect YOU, even as you were using your words to share Compassion’s story with others. I suppose I tried to imagine myself in your shoes, and how this type of trip would affect me.
    Your response is reasonable, expected even.
    Your spirit is trying to reconcile absurd atrocity with…a very different type of absurdity.
    Sometimes…sometimes…I think it’s good to be disturbed…disoriented for a while. While I want your transition to be smooth and for your life to return to a new normal (quickly), my thought is that as you wrestle through the “dark places” you will seek…and FIND God in greater measure; all of it is for your good, His glory, and the advance of the Gospel….
    I have no answers, just a prayer of encouragement that God reveals himself anew to you, to meet you as these questions assault.
    Peace…:)

  65. mom2fur says:

    God bless you for your kind and loving heart. Even in the little way of sponsoring WFMW each week, you’ve shown your generosity. I don’t think you realize how much those tips each week have helped so many! Sure, knowing a better way to wash clothes is trivial, but a kindness to others is a kindness, no matter how small.
    You will keep the lessons of your voyage in your heart, if not necessarily right up front in your mind. You are right–we have to live our lives, and someone has to get the groceries. We can be grateful for what we have without feeling guilty. As time goes on, there will be longer and longer stretches of time when you don’t think of those sweet children in Africa. It’s like when you lose a family member…for days and days, that person is all you think about. Then a few days go by, and a few weeks, and then suddenly Grandpa pops into your thoughts. I know life will get back to ‘normal’ for you, but it will never be the same. And what’s wrong with that? Isn’t it a blessing to grow and change? You’ve grown and changed A LOT. Accept this. And accept that God has put you in our wonderful country, living a good life. That was HIS choice for you. He also chose to point you to the other side of the world, as one who can and did do a small part to help. There are many charities and organizations and people who need help. You found yours, and you’ll continue to do what you can, big or small.
    As far as sounding self-righteous, may I suggest this: if you see someone with a cup of Starbuck’s (overpriced and overhyped, IMHO) instead of saying: ‘that cup of coffee could buy such and such for a child in Africa,’ say something like: ‘wow, I was in Africa a while back, and you won’t believe how much I craved a cup of good coffee!’ It might lead to an interesting conversation!
    (You’re too nice to be snotty and self-righteous, anyway!)

  66. Penny Raine says:

    Sounds exactly like the post I wrote yesterday. We are ministers to the broken-hearted and mty heart breaks with them, and most days all I want to do is pray and cry, the kind of tears you cry when you are in HIS Presence. But, but, my youngins need to be fed, and schooled, and the bills need to be paid and everybody depends on me to organize everything. This is what Paul means when he says my heart is with the Lord but I remmain here because I love you all so much. After my mom died last year the Lord gave me so much love and compassion for hurting folks that all I did was cry for months, everytime I saw anyone hurting I would cry and pray, feeling their hurt, feeling Jesus heart for them. Everyone looked at me like I lost it, and kept saying, “WHAT is WRONG with you?” My answer was, nothing is wrong with me, you need to be where I am. Anyway, dear Shannon, welcome to the club. As they said about Jesus, we are beside ourselves.
    blessings, Penny Raine
    http://www.pennyraine.com/blog

  67. Stretch Mark Mama says:

    Know JUST where you’re coming from…started experiencing the same things one year ago this month.
    We spent a handful of months figuring it all out (then we Got It All Together, ha ha ha). We were misfits with our family. Misfits with our friends. Misfits in our world.
    And then one day, after we had prayed and begged for it to all make sense…it all changed. Husband took a new job so that he could work directly with the homeless, which meant a move across the country, to a small house in the city (on the “wrong” side of town). Sold half our stuff.
    Is this the answer for you? For everyone? Are we Super Saints? Who knows, of course not, and certainly not.
    But we finally feel “good” that our life matches up with our convictions.
    So that’s my longwinded story, leading up to my Sage Advice: [snark]
    **Write down what is important to you. What you value. Then make changes accordingly.

  68. Dionna says:

    I don’t think anyone can truly “get it” unless they’ve gone or experienced it in some way. But you’re speaking through your blog is one way that God is using you to maybe help others at least catch a glimpse of the bubble they live in.

  69. Tina says:

    You might want to read “Justice in the Burbs” by Will and Lisa Samson. She’s an author that struggled very much like you. She did make the change and moved to downtown Lexington to help the needy there (hate that word, but hey, it works). I just finished Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne–it’s doing similar things to me and I’m struggling with the same feelings of self-righteousness and helplessness that you are.
    Peace.

  70. Beth_C says:

    Keep praying, Shannon. He will let you know what you are supposed to do and how you are supposed to do it.
    Keep praying and we will all be praying for you too.

  71. Karen (Simply A Musing Blog) says:

    I have no great words of wisdom for you – and I don’t know what it is to go through what you are going through, but I want you to know that I appreciate your total honesty. And if I were there, I’d put my arm around you and give you a squeeze just to let you know I care.

  72. Michelle says:

    I hope this quote from Helen Keller helps a little, “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” You are already doing something by sharing your experiences and feelings. Thank you!

  73. Mommy Cracked says:

    There is no doubt in my mind the Lord is going to do great things through you because of this trip….He already has. I really stink at advice, but please know you are STILL being prayed for, all of you who made the trip.

  74. Valerie says:

    I remember those feelings. I’ve been on quite a few missions trips to countries that have far less than I imagined. It’s hard coming back. Though warm water was glorious! It takes time. It takes prayer. Do your best to talk it through with those around you. Processing it all on your own is going to be overload. I pray that you will continue to learn and grow from this experience. May it change you and those around you forever.

  75. courtney orrange says:

    I am sorry this is so hard. Know that you’re not alone and that you’re not broken. Unfortunately what you’re experiencing is reverse culture shock (reverse because you’re coming back home when you experience it), and be encouraged, the good parts of it CAN stay with you if you want them to. The hard part is finding your way through it. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed, depressed and judgemental. (sounds great huh?) This will take time, but remember you’ve made it through transitions before and you will make it through this one. The best thing I know to do is to make sure you have someone (or better yet multiple people)who you can process with. They don’t have to have experienced what you did, but they do have to be willing to listen.
    And slowly you and your family together can make decisions on how to incorporate your changes into your life.
    Maybe it starts with changing / starting a family prayer time that incorporates Uganda and other kids around the world. YOu can find resources to help teach Elementary and younger kids here http://www.calebresources.org/CategoryProductList.jsp?cat=Kids+-+Elementary+Sets (I used to work with these guys and their stuff is good)
    My husband and I travel a lot and really struggle when we come back to the US. One good thing that has stayed with us is our world view. We’re interested in and are learning about people around the world all the time. We’re involved in missions at our church. We support non profits that we care about. We talk about things with our friends. I post articles on my blog about the world and the state of living for people in other countries. In short, we are constantly learning and keeping our HEARTS aware of other cultures and peoples. It changes our prayers, our hearts and our desires. And it has an impact on our friends.
    I will continue praying for you as you go through this.

  76. Carrie says:

    Hi Shannon. I’m a lurker who has finally been nudged out of lurkdom to make sure you know what God has already done through you.
    As others have stated, Africa wasn’t even on my RADAR until you started blogging about it. Now, it’s on my mind many times throughout the day, and God is working in my heart and my finances to take action for these kids too.
    Until you get to Heaven, you will never know just how far all those ripples you’ve created in the calm water’s surface have traveled (and will continue to). But God already knows!

  77. Liza's Eyeview says:

    I think Carlos and Spence has “some” answers:
    http://www.ragamuffinsoul.com/?p=4329
    Give it a little bit more time… and know that God has placed each one of us in a place and situation He wants us to be. He can use us in whatever way He can … continue to allow him to.
    I am on a blogging break but had to post to encourage you. Go to that link, mey you find comfort in Carlos and Spence’s words…

  78. Loretta says:

    I’ve felt this way since I was a little girl. I never understood how people could go about their lives with all the horror in the world. How they could care about their cars, hair, shoes, etc. Always wanting more *stuff*. I drive my DH nutty talking about shunning all things worldly, so we can travel and help people wherever we can. Oh, and living in a yurt. But seriously, while I have 4 little ones at home, I pray that they learn compassion and empathy for others through my actions, and I pray everyday that God will quiet all the things going on in my head so that I can hear what His will is for me *right now.*
    I love your blog, I’m jealous that you got to hang out with Shaun Groves :), I’m finally taking all the Compassion International stories I’ve heard at concerts over the years to heart. Anytime I was in front of the computer bawling last week, my husband knew I was reading the Uganda blogs 🙂 May God bless you.

  79. Anonymous says:

    I’ve travelled and worked internationally and have felt this way too, and still often do. I can’t pretend I didn’t relate to this hurting world, that I wasn’t there beside them, that it is ok to ignore or forget.
    Personally it is freeing to no longer have to worry about things that are not important in eternity! The ladies at my church all carry $300 purses and I just don’t get it. At least I don’t have to worry about affording so many fads and silly things! But, I am not here to judge what people do with their money, only to do what is right with what God’s given me.
    It is freeing to me to realize all of this struggle in my heart means that this world is NOT my home and my citizenship IS in heaven. But it is and will be difficult to not ever feel at home here.
    I loved your link to the Sara Groves song the other day, and I looked on her website and read how God showed her how to make sense of her own trip to Rwanda. It’s at the bottom of the 2nd page of her thoughts:
    http://www.saragroves.com/saragroves/thoughts/
    The other thing is, our country’s policies and excessive consumption DO affect worldwide poverty. But who has the time to research all that? There’s a sale on…

  80. Anonymous says:

    You’re doing it and you’re doing it well. Blogging is a great place to get the word out.
    I have lived overseas and when I come home I’m sooo grateful to be here, I almost kiss the ground. I’m grateful to my ancestors who wanted to better their lives by coming to this country and struggling in the process.
    I am overwhelmed when I stand in the aisles of a grocery store at the abundance of food in just ONE aisle. It has brought me to tears. And every night when I run the garbage disposal, I think to myself and sometimes out loud, that the food we throw away in just one night would feed a lot of people.
    Remember, America sends more aid to countries in need than any other nation.
    Teach your children about what you have seen, teach them to be grateful for where they live and let them follow your lead.

  81. kel says:

    I have travelled to the field a few times with World Vision and have been in the same place emotionally that you are at. It will all sort out. I want to encourage you to be careful in the sorting. Yes… you can exist through the fog for a while and eventually you will find that the fog is gone and you feel normal again. However, in dealing with these foggy / “what am I supposed to do with my life now” feelings with my pastor after a recent trip…I realized that we aren’t SUPPOSED to go back to normal. It would be a sad injustice if you do. You shouldn’t be normal again after a trip like that, but you will go back to normal if you let yourself.
    If you let yourself, you can just close your eyes for a while and it will all seem like a bit dream. But don’t… really, let it shape you.
    I can tell you that just being a voice for what you saw is huge. Less than 2 or 3% of of all charitable giving goes to international causes…of any kind. Can you believe that? You will be making a difference just by keeping those beautiful children top of mind for people, since the kids can’t do it themselves.
    Also… I encourage you to look up 2 Corinthians 9:11. It was a HUGE encouragement to me, as I tried to make sense of the world and my place in it.
    Blessings to you,
    kel

  82. stacey says:

    I remember at one point being in a space where my time/capacity to serve others was huge. Very quickly I became overwhelmed seeing need at every turn wondering how I could serve others. Then it occured to me to turn my desire over to the God and let him use me as he saw fit. I would pray in the morning for him to guide me to what HE wanted me to do.
    Please don’t be offended by this but I believe there is a measure of arrogance in our thinking when we start to believe that we know how things should be. I know when I begin thinking this way, I am angry and judgemental and worst of all PARALYZED because the idea of making the changes that seem right become so overwhelming. There is great peace that comes when you surrender to God’s plan and the service he look to provide his children through you his instrument.
    You have touched so many lives writing about this journey including mine.
    With respect and affection.

  83. Sandi says:

    Shannon,
    I pray that all of these comments bring you encouragement as your heart sorts out the pain of injustice, material excess, suffering, and poverty and how everything that you’ve seen should impact your daily life. GOD will give you the courage and the peace to plow ahead — you will never be the same — He knew that when He led you to Uganda.
    Know that you are not alone in your frustration and feelings. Know that He is using you even as you vulnerably share what you are experiencing.

  84. hogphan says:

    This past week in Bible Study Fellowship, we studied the Transfiguration in Matthew. Jesus went to the mountain and took Peter and John. While there, He was Transfigured in incredible ways beyond description by God Himself. While there, He was visited and spoke with Elijah and Moses, giants of the Jewish faith. Then, God Himself spoke to them and said “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear Him”. An amazing experience! Then, according to the scripture, He had to come back down the mountain into the dust, heat, the cries of the multitudes, the failure of His desciples, a distraught father and a suffering boy. The BSF lesson was teaching us that every day situations test the reality of the mountaintop experience. This is your great opportunity to see the results of that mountaintop reality. Your mountaintop experience was real, and He will bless you now in the every day situations, permitting you to share that with whom you will. The comments to your post prove the mountaintop prepared you for the test “down here”.

  85. Haden says:

    Mother Theresa would always tell people to “find their own calcutta.” She was speaking to all the people who would say they didn’t know what to do when they returned home from Calcutta. She would tell them that poverty was not only in the poor areas of the world, but also in the wealthy. Poverty has come into the spirit of people also. So find your calcutta.

  86. Diana (Holes In My Shiny Veneer) says:

    Thanks for posting this. It brought up all the memories of what I called “culture shock” when I returned to the States after living in Panama for a year. I can still distinctly remember being in Target and both wanting to vomit from all the excess displayed and being overwhelmed by the all the trivial decisions. (“I just want shampoo!”) That was over 10 years ago and I hadn’t thought about it much lately, what with raising 2 preschoolers and all.
    Reading all your Uganda posts with my mommy eyes makes me realize just how difficult my 9-day mission trip to Guatemala is going to be in July— and not because of my 2 kids I’m leaving behind with their grandparents, but also because of all the kids I will leave a piece of my heart with there. (I don’t even know them yet and I’m already tearing up!) Orange County materialism already repulses me most days, so I have no idea how I’ll deal when I return.
    Thanks for posting on this, just so I could read all the comments and prepare myself.

  87. shannon says:

    Dear Shannon’
    After living for two years on the mission field,(one year in Uganda!) I still feel the fog–it never goes away. BUT, you do learn to live with it, and the perspective you gain is amazing, isn’t it?
    I can relate to your mixed up feelings. They are ONE hundred percent normal. I once read that missionaries used to travel for months to their destinations, so that time created a type of “buffer.” Now we can get to Uganda in 30 hours. It can mess you up!
    3 years later, I can still not handle shopping well (a good thing, probably.)
    My brother is now a missionary in Africa, and my nephews, who usually don’t get new clothes, went berserk at Christmas, shouting, “Mama!!! NEW CLOTHING!!!!” How many American boys shout that when given pants for Christmas?
    I share this, because through writing your Compassion kids, your children’s perspective WILL change, and that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
    shannon (yes, it’s my name too.)

  88. Sarah says:

    Such bold and courageous comments! I remember feeling the same way while taking a “Hunger and Poverty” class during college. Being a voice for your cause is already a great start – you’re spreading your message far and wide. And in time, God will place an answer on your heart.

  89. jean says:

    For the next few weeks you will be buffeted by many strong desires/emotions. Just let them pass you by. You need time to calm down and process all that you’ve seen. The trip may only have been 10 days but you will need 4 times that long to really have a grip on how to handle it. You sound like you are doing everything right. Keep talking about your experiences, journal them, pray about them. But don’t let them take over your life just yet. In a few weeks you should sit down and list your priorities. And pray some more. What you have been thru, what you have seen and experienced is wonderful but heart breaking. Please know that I’m in your corner praying you come to peace with this. Hang in there.

  90. Gego says:

    Shannon,
    Many years ago I was blessed with a trip to Israel. I walked His paths. When I returned, I was convinced that I could save all the impoverished children in my city by teaching them and later counseling them. It took me almost 20 years to understand how blessed I was with that decision. He led me to that conclusion and I have never regretted my decision to leave a private school to work in the public schools. Our Lord said, “The poor will be with you always.” Whether it is one child at a time, one parent at a time, or one community at a time, it is worth the doing.
    You, as I did, now have a global view of the blessings we have here. Should we feel guilty? I don’t think so, as blessings are His gifts. Sounds simple, but it has taken a long time to get from there to here.
    Saving the world belongs to God. Our job, in my VERY humbled opinion, is to do what we can to help others – here and there.
    You are doing that already! Keep up the great postings You have such a wonderful GIFT of writing, making what you see becomes real to others.
    A book? Love and hugs, Gego

  91. shawna says:

    thanks for sharing your heart.
    i can relate in a way…i’m sure your visit was different in it’s own way…i went on a mission trip to mexico almost 2 years ago and will NEVER be the same. i cried for 2 months after i got “home.” the “fog” hasn’t gone away…my life has become more clear in the middle of it. you just see things differently. how could anyone care about showers and cell phones when there are people living in boxes in the middle of nowhere?
    i know a little bit of how you feel and i appreciate you sharing it…putting it into words. it makes those of us that feel some of what you feel almost feel ok about feeling that way. if that made any sense.
    excited to see what God continues to do through you and those around you.
    peace of Christ.

  92. Ruth says:

    Thank you for this post. I moved to South Africa two years ago, and I struggle with the guilt of having so much (like running water and a washing machine) in a country where so many have so little. My biggest fear is that I will become complacent.
    I think we need to live our lives and do as much as we can in the situation that we find ourselves in, and attempt to open the eyes of those around us to the things that they can do too. It may be as cliche, but I believe ‘you can’t change the world, but you can change the world for one person’. Have courage, I believe you are doing just that, and it’s what you are meant to be doing.

  93. Shalee says:

    By taking baby steps and relying mightily on the One who brought you to such an eye-opening experience. Remember that if he brought you to it, he’ll get you through all these feelings to lead you to where he wants you to be… even if it turns out to be a ghetto. The wonderful part about it is that you’re not alone. You may think that you are, but you’re not. We’re here with you as much as you’ll let us be, trying to make changes without having stepped one foot in Africa.

  94. Proverbs31 says:

    Shannon, I didn’t have time to read the other comments, so I’m not sure if I’m repeating something someone else may have already said…
    Nonetheless,.. I have not been outside of the US. I have not seen things other people have seen. But I do know one this. When God leads you somewhere, he also equips you to go. He isn’t going to give you a “new heart and new head” and then plop back here in your old live and leave you there. God is faithful and God is good.
    Right now, God is going to give you what you need to make it through the day, one day at a time. Lean on Him, He provides. But as time goes on, I have no doubt that God will reveal ways for you to use your new heart and head, ways to serve and minister and love. I’m guessing that God knows you need some time to adjust so He’s not going to throw you straight into a project. 🙂 But I’m sure that when God does present you with some opportunity, you’ll know. You’ll pray about it, and you’ll know.
    God Bless you and keep you during this time of growth and transition.

  95. Worshipfan says:

    I haven’t had the time to read all the comments either so I apologize if I repeat something.
    There aren’t any easy answers are there? Change is just plain difficult and painful. God is changing you, you aren’t changing yourself,so give him some time to do that work….it may be awhile.
    You can’t take on the burdens of all of Uganda or all of the world, so I would encourage you to daily ask The Lord which burdens, thoughts and heart-tugs are from him. Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing and we would do well to follow his example. If God isn’t leading you in a particular direction, you don’t need to go there! There is freedom in just relaxing and asking every day for God to open your eyes to the need around you and then speak to your heart when he wants you to act.
    You hear from God….he will continue to speak!

  96. Jai says:

    Shannon, someone once told me that God never gives you vision or opportunity to do something He wants you to do without equipping you for the task. Continue to seek God for direction .. and please continue to “share” what He is blessing you with. (experiences, thoughts, fears,) The full path may not have been revealed to you yet, but God is NOT going to leave you hanging.
    Thank you for your obidience to share and your openess .. it IS making a difference…

  97. Greg says:

    Wow, what a great post. I have spent the last four years (after traveling to Uganda) struggling with the same issues – you put it into words perfectly. It’s very difficult to find anyone around you that understands. I feel the need to talk about my passion for the Ugandan people but all I get is a dazed over “I have my own problems, why do I want to worry about African orphans” look. So I’m doing something about it…I’m going back in about four months to help build a medical clinic. Uganda is in my heart and there it shall remain.
    Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone.

  98. the lazy reader says:

    I firmly believe that we must be the change we want to see in the world. As an individual, we cannot change the whole world but we can make small and great changes in the world. And that is all that we are asked to do. Mother Teresa did not set out to change the world. She did not transform India into a poverty free nation. She did not even transform Calcutta. But she made a difference in the lives of inumerable people because she chose to do something, every day. We can do the same. We may never help thousands or solve world wide problems but we can make a difference in someone’s life, every day. I always think that the greater my blessings, the greater the responsibility I have to share them. Small things can add up to great things over time and can be compounded when added upt with other people’s small things.

  99. Clare says:

    When I am faced with a fog of the impossible, I’ve been taught to fix my eyes on Jesus and say “It’s not about me.” Trite? Maybe. Short, sweet and simple? Yep. But fixing my eyes and repeating those words has never failed to clear up any foggy days I have. Clare

  100. Anonymous says:

    Hey Shannon-
    I received my new sponsor packet in the mail today! As I looked at my Ugandan child, Ivan, this morning, I was so excited to be sponsoring him.
    I’ve been sponsoring with Compassion for ten years now, and for the last ten years, Simon is the only child I’ve sponsored.
    After reading of you all’s trip to Uganda through your blogs, I was challenged and asked myself, “why haven’t you ever thought of sponsoring another child?”
    I met with my financial planner tonight. At the end of our session, he said, “You know, Beth, you may have this surplus income as a gift from God to be blessing His people. Dont forget that.”
    Thank-you for giving me an opportunity to use my abundantly blessed “surplus” American income to bless a child in Africa. At the end of all things, that will endure, and I’m so thankful to have the privelege of supporting Ivan. Your blog has made a such an eternal and kingdom difference to the lives of many, many children!
    Beth

  101. Tara Livesay says:

    I read your blog occasionally and always enjoy it. First time commentor I think?!?!
    I did not have time to read all the comments but wanted to say that what you are sorting through is SO beyond SO normal and even good. It means you care.
    We live in Haiti (originally from MN) and I cannot sort any of it out — the travel between the two places is actually hardest — staying put is easier – then I don’t have to make sense of the crazy HONKIN – difference between VAST prosperity and horrific poverty.
    This song explains it too —
    Sara Groves – The Long Defeat
    “It’s too heavy to carry – and impossible to leave.”

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