I Wrote a Short Story!

Dear Readers,

For those of you who’ve been long-time followers of my blog, you’ve read about my journey to India this year and my journey back home to the U.S. It’s a home that I don’t love, but I want to.

Throughout the past month, I’ve been somewhat silently working on a short story. When I began it, I didn’t really know where it would end. I allowed the story to tell itself. What has come out of that has been the best writing I have ever done, a short story called “Gabrielle and Tom: Three Days with an Israeli in Goa.” Experience really does give your writing the power that it needs. I have finished after 60 pages! If you would like to read my story, I will be selling it. Let me know and I will get in touch with you. Thanks! To the creatives, KEEP CREATING! Take a break when you need to but never give up the beautiful art that can only come through your hands. The world needs more artists!

Included below is an excerpt of my story. Check it out! Please consider supporting this small artist and purchasing my story! It’s only $5!

 

 

 

While talking together, Tom and I dove into touchy subjects for most people, but it didn’t seem like anything was out of line or inappropriate for us. We talked about everything. I loved hearing his stories and he was enraptured by my stories. We enjoyed throwing shade at our respective countries. He was fed up with the hypocrisy of Israel, the military, and its highly Orthodox people. The hypocrisy pushes people away from embracing Judaism. Personally, I was done with America’s love of guns and hatred of people of color and women. I opined that the U.S. loves to exploit people of color and our countries but when the time comes to return the favor and help us, they’re not there. A prime example of this was how the U.S. responded to Hurricane Maria’s aftermath in Puerto Rico and the tragically unnecessary loss of life that followed.

When in the U.S., speaking about these issues is always so daunting unless you speak with a socially-conscious white person or another person of color. The rest of the time, people call you a “crazy liberal” or “race-baiter”, disregarding the valid and factual points you have made because they don’t like your skin color. But with Tom, because he was not American, it was so easy to share my opinions without fear. I told him what really happens behind that shiny façade America loves to wear. He learned about the mass shootings, the police shootings of unarmed black people, mass incarceration, and the Latin immigration crisis. I argued that because only rich, old, white, straight men had all the power in the U.S., we were all suffering. I shared the history of my country, pointing out that it was, again, the rich, white, straight, men’s abuse of people of color that led to so many issues in lower-income communities of color with ramifications still affecting us today. With little experience in these highly esoteric American problems, Tom nodded, asked, “Really?” every so often and eventually joined me a little in berating “the white man”. We mentally shook hands with each other.

“So, Gabrielle, you talk about white men. I’m white, too, right?” He gently asked the question, challenging me but not intending to offend.

I hadn’t thought of him like this. He, as an Israeli man, had no part in any of the egregious acts of violence my ancestors endured, but he wore the same skin as those who did. He could be considered white, but I suppose that when I think about white people, my mind reverts to slavery and oppressive acts. He was not culpable for that. Besides, he was Israeli. He was Middle Eastern.

“Well, you’re from Israel, so I guess I don’t really think of you as white.”

“You know, my family actually came from Ukraine and Russia.”

“Really! Did they…uh…come after the Holocaust?”

“Yes, they did.”

“And the rest of your family back in Ukraine and Russia. Did they…?”

“Oh, they all died. All of them.”

He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders as if this were commonplace. My ancestors were murdered by racist white men centuries ago. His were murdered by racist and anti-Semitic white men just a lifetime ago. You can’t quantify suffering, but this thought gave me pause. His grandparents must have fled to Israel right after the Holocaust, just when Israel became a country. As hard as it is for me to live with the ramifications of slavery, segregation, and the continuing colonization of Puerto Rico, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to cope with the knowledge that just a few generations ago, you would have been exterminated for being Jewish, for being who you are. He thought I was strong, but that kind of history produces profound strength. I could see that he had it in droves. But, I could also see that his heart was soft. He didn’t serve in the Israeli military, which is generally required, so I wondered what had happened to him to prevent him from serving. Was it religious beliefs? Heavy emotional stress? Tom was funny. He made me laugh each time I saw him, but his quick jokes were often dark. He claimed this was an Israeli thing, and it probably was a part of that culture, but something in his eyes told me that he was tired. He was tired of living in a country where war is constantly threatened. Where it’s common to see soldiers with guns walking around every day. Where you could lose more than one best friend in war. Where you have no choice in whether or not you want to risk your life for your country. Growing up in that type of environment undoubtedly produces stress and his artist’s spirit was heavy. His shoulders had taken multiple beatings, but he threw them back and carried on. An artist’s heart and spirit are malleable. This is not to say that we are weak. We are strong, but our strength lies in our ability to express our emotions, to feel pain, and to transform that pain into art. The courage it takes to create a piece and share it with the world is striking. Not everyone can do that, because it’s not simply something you make, but it’s a part of your soul. If someone criticizes your work, what are they saying about who you are as a person?

 

 

Gabrielle G.

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Addressing the Little Girl Inside (Reflections)

Readers,

It’s not easy to be an adult who has suffered an abusive and traumatic childhood. From our infancy we know what it is to feel true fear, but not fear of some stranger swooping in and stealing us or something of that nature. No, this fear is more personal. This fear exists in the home. It thrives in the home. It was birthed in the home and there it remains. While outside of the home, one feels some bit of freedom of expression and liberty to exist in the way that is truest to who they truly are. But, there’s always that block. That wall that has erected itself around our hearts in an effort to protect our souls, but in reality, if that wall is allowed to continue to stand, it will actually prevent us from being able to bare our souls at all to another human being. This is why so many of us formerly abused kids find it so hard to genuinely connect with other people, especially in a romantic relationship, if we’re able to even get to that part at all. 

The fear that we experience is fear of our own relatives, most often a parent, or both. The home is the one place where we are supposed to feel safe, protected, seen for who we are and accepted as such. Instead we’re met with vitriol when we fail in their eyes. We’re punished in odd ways for not passing their tests or meeting their standards of behavior. We are treated as though our very nature and place of being their child is the major problem. In the backyard pool, when we swim over to our parent, hoping to play around and splash with them, we’re not even looked in the eye. We’re pushed away, literally, and told to leave them alone. We don’t recognize this as abnormal and abusive until we’re 17 years old, babysitting over the summer, and see how the kids’ father lovingly interacts with them in the pool. We see our parent hide themselves away either at work or in their room, blasting the TV, hoping to drown you out. We’re told not to enter their safe space, to leave them alone, and we find something else with which to occupy our time. We won’t know that this is abnormal and abusive until we’re 12 and sleeping over our best friend’s house. When her father comes home from work, he pulls off his work boots and immediately goes to greet his daughter, kissing her forehead and asking about her day. We immediately recognize for the first time that something is indeed wrong with our relationship with our father. We begin to silently cry and to avoid any questions about what’s wrong, we turn our face to the couch and pretend to fall asleep.

Remember when we pretended to fall asleep on the couch when we were little just so our dad could pick us up and bring us to our bed? We didn’t do that all of the time, but sometimes we just wanted our dad to hold us, to carry us, to guard us. That hardly ever happened. As we grew up, we began to see that our father was a flawed person, prone to outbursts of anger and fond of four-letter words. We learned that in our father’s eyes, we were bitches, evil, burdens, and a waste of money. If our dad had had a second chance, he wouldn’t have had kids. Well, at least that’s what he told us in the church parking lot as we waited for our mom and brother after service. When we became a teenage girl and eventually a young woman in college and beyond, we started to fully understand just how damaging our childhood was. We haven’t had a romantic relationship with any man and we can’t help but wonder if it’s because we have high standards as women of God, or if it’s because we’re incapable of trusting a man enough to let our hearts lay bare before him. When dad tells us that he’s babysitting his new girlfriend’s grandkids or taking some kids camping, we can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy. We never had that with our dad.

Trips were always terrible, always full of fighting and anger. Our memories of holidays are drenched in pain so we say we have no holiday traditions and roll our eyes at the families who wear matching Christmas sweaters and sing carols while decorating the tree. We can’t help but wonder if the powerfully pro-black part of us is really overcompensating for the white part of ourselves that we hate. We don’t consciously know that we hate our white half, but we do. How could we not? When the white man who was supposed to be the exception turned out to be like everyone else? Knowing that our father called our mother a “spic” and a “Latina whore” really breaks us down but we try to remember that that happened in 1995 and things are different with him now. We try to mask how we really feel about our relationship with our dad. We know that if we only tell him good news, or what’s good in his eyes, and if we keep a positive spirit, he’s happy and more apt to talk to us throughout the week. We try to always smile for him, performing, and remember that we used to do that as a little girl. We say that things are good with our dad now because he’s a Christian and we see real evidence of heart transformation in his life. And we’re happy about that. We know that our dad was abused as a child as well, and because he never received divine healing, he in turn imparted that abuse onto our small shoulders. He didn’t know the weight of the load and we didn’t know we were receiving one until it became a hump on our backs, unwilling to really budge, but will do so just enough for us to know that it’s there. It moves around from time to time, stretching itself over the expanse of our back. We feel it there. We remember the feelings from our childhood. We cry. We wonder when this will end, if it will end, and how. We are not alone in feeling this. This is part of my story, yes, but tell me, how many other kids could this story describe? I imagine…countless grown up kids’ faces, masquerading behind the facade of adulthood and independence while in reality yearning on the inside for real love. That yearning often presents itself as frustration, sensitivity, or being “thin-skinned.” My skin is a little thin. I’m easily hurt, because being hurt is more familiar to me than feeling free is. But, I want to be free. Instead of shaming me for my sensitivities, can you show me how to be free?

Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far, far away from here.

Gabrielle G.

Why I Took Off My Purity Ring – True Purity of Heart

Over this past weekend, I made a decision. I won’t wear my purity ring for the time being. I may change my mind, but I can’t say for certain if I’ll go back to wearing it.

I’ve worn this ring for ten years, since I was 14 years old. I currently have a little tan line where the ring used to be. I remember the exact moment my Mom bought me the ring from a local Christian bookshop. I actually asked for the ring. I knew that sex was for marriage and I wanted to wait, because my Mom told me it was the right thing for a Christian girl to do. To me, and to the church, purity simply meant not having sex before marriage.

I faithfully wore that ring for a decade, but I assure you that my heart and my actions throughout that time were anything but pure. Because the purity culture in which I was raised taught me that purity = no sex before marriage, and that’s it, I really thought I was pure. As a person in my late teens, when I discovered pornography and masturbation, I thought, “Well, I’m not having sex. It’s bad, but it’s not THAT bad. It’s not ‘sex before marriage bad.’ What I’m doing isn’t the worst sexual thing to do.” I wore that purity ring while engaging in sexual activity that was absolutely impure. 

I wore that ring when I snapped at my Mom, when I yelled at my brother, when I fought with a friend, when I took little things from hotels or restaurants, when I lied, and when I considered having sex with a 39-year old man I hardly knew. The church taught me that purity could be boiled down to only one thing, and I hadn’t broken that rule, so by their standards, I was pure. When my Christian girlfriends confessed that they would make out with their boyfriends, or dry hump, or have sex, I inwardly praised myself for not doing that. In my mind, they were impure and I was pure. 

When I engaged in deviant sexual behavior, I was aware of my shortcomings and failures. I felt so guilty each time I’d look down at that purity ring, elegantly decorating the ring finger on my left hand. I didn’t know why I felt so guilty, because I was still a virgin. I was pure. I was engaged to Jesus. My virginity was a gift for my husband. I was staying a virgin for my husband. An emphasis on girls’ purity is prevalent in the church because women are tempting. This is what the church taught me. 

Now that I’m 24, almost 25, I’m rethinking everything that the church taught me. And it’s good. I’m not sure I will get married. So how can I say I’m refraining from sex because of some imaginary future husband? I should say I’m denying myself sex because I want to honor Jesus with my body. Although I don’t personally understand why sex in a long-term committed relationship is wrong, and I don’t really see that clearly mentioned in Scripture, I’m going to refrain until I’m 100% sure. I don’t want to give my virginity to someone and then regret it when I figure out the truth.

I removed my purity ring because I know that purity is not confined to what I do with my vagina. I no longer subscribe to purity/modesty culture, which is closely linked to rape culture. A woman’s worth or purity is not defined by her sexual past, present, or future. She is not less pure because she has sex. I am not more pure because I don’t. Purity culture teaches that kissing, touching, and hugging always lead to sex which is why the church produces 25 year olds who haven’t dated or kissed and don’t know how to get married because they don’t understand relationships. Exhibit A is yours truly.

Purity has to be the essence of who I am. I should not be envious of another woman’s looks, bank account, or degrees. I cannot lie to make myself look better or to get out of a bad situation. I will check myself when I see an attractive man and will try not to ogle him. I will not be an angry woman, snapping at people and alienating myself, refusing to listen to differing opinions. I must give of myself and my possessions to those in need. I have to go out of my way to help another soul on this journey back home to God. I will love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind.

That is purity. That is true purity. No sex before marriage is a mere fraction of what purity truly is. 

Gabrielle G.

Purity Rape Culture and Gender Inequality in the Church #ChurchToo

Trigger Warning: mentions of rape, pedophilia, and sexual assault/abuse

As a purity ring-owning 20-something woman, I’ve had countless opportunities to brag about my purity, feeling a smug sense of pride each time a sister in Christ confided in me about her sexual sin.

“We dated for a few months, and then we gave in to temptation. I wish I had waited.”

Yeah, that was dumb. She should’ve been smarter.

“Gabby, we had sex and I got chlamydia. Then after I stayed away from him for a while, but we had sex again and I got herpes.”

Wow, how pathetic. She got an STI from her boyfriend and went back for some more? Good Lord. She’s weak.

Throughout my entire adolescence and for all of my early 20’s, I prided myself on being the virgin, the pure one. I never considered that no guy had actually asked me to be his girlfriend, to go on a date, or to have sex until I was 23 years old. That external sexual struggle wasn’t an issue for me, so I hadn’t been faced with that difficult decision. “Should I indulge in sex with him or should I wait?” never popped into my head until just two years ago. And when that opportunity presented itself, I toyed with it multiple times. I considered it. I talked about it with the guy, flirting with my first chance at real physical pleasure. I thought about the specifics: what I would and wouldn’t do in the bedroom. I never said yes to the guy, but I definitely almost did. I was extremely close to doing it with someone I hardly knew at all. I think the only thing that held me back was the fact that I was a virgin, and still believed that virginity was special.

Can you imagine the torture it must be to be in a long-term relationship with a guy or girl, love them with all of your heart, and not be able to express that love through sex? I wonder that anyone can resist that. It truly must be the Holy Spirit who keeps them in check.

Why did I consider giving my virginity to a man I didn’t really know? I wish I had a more honorable answer, but I only have this. He complimented me in a way no man had done before. He told me I was beautiful, intelligent, passionate, and incredible. He said that I was a great woman, unlike any other woman he’s known. Looking back, I see that this was a ploy to get inside my panties, but at the time, I slurped it up like an Oreo McFlurry: delicious, sweet, cheap, and oh so bad for you.

In addition, I was at a spiritually rocky place and began questioning everything that the white evangelical church had taught me throughout my entire life. I was tired of blindly following rules and I wanted to have some fun. Besides, was sex before marriage really a sin? Was ____ really a sin? Was ____ actually wrong? Could I do ____? What if I did ___? All of these questions consistently rolled about in my mind, tossing and turning, stealing from me sleep, joy, and peace. After studying the Bible on these various topics, I never came to a real conclusion about any of them and to be honest, I still am unsure about a lot of things. I hope to get those answers as I grow older in age and in faith.

Because I cut my teeth on a purity-drenched Christian rape culture, my understanding of true purity of heart was deeply flawed and created by rich, old, white Christian men. According to most prominent Christian leaders at the time (and even now, let’s be honest), if you have sex before marriage, you’re impure. Masturbation is impure, although for boys it’s more understandable. After all, men have high sex drives and women don’t have that desire nearly as strong as men. If you have homosexual attraction, it’s best to quiet it. Don’t mention it or you’ll give life to it. If you engage in homosexual sex, not only are you impure, but you are perverted as well. There’s something innately wrong with you and your sexuality. It’s an abomination, so you probably are, too. If you’re pregnant, don’t get an abortion. How dare you? It was your choice to have sex. Live with the consequences. In this situation, children are treated as a punishment. That kind of derails the pro-life movement, doesn’t it? If you use children as a means to punish the women who have sex, then you don’t really want to protect children. You want to punish women and shame them. Now if a woman or girl is raped and becomes pregnant, she’s told to keep the child because clearly God wants the child to be born, which is why He allowed her to become pregnant. 

Men in the church who prey on little girls, little boys, and women are protected by other men who dare not subject their church or ministry to the ramifications of public knowledge of this abuse. We hear of affairs that pastors have with members of their congregations almost weekly. Internet porn is a real struggle for many pastors these days. Pastors are divorcing their long-term spouses and marrying younger, more attractive spouses as they become more well-known (I’m looking at you, Israel Houghton). 

While this is happening, countless women in the church are being physically, emotionally, verbally, mentally, spiritually, sexually, and financially abused by their husbands. They’re told not to leave their husbands because their good hearts and faithful walk with Christ will eventually help their husbands. After all, a soft word turns away anger, right? Be soft, ladies, as you’re supposed to be. Like you’re programmed to be. Women are told that they must be silent about abuse and misconduct. If a man does it, especially if that man is in church leadership, don’t tell anyone. His career would be ruined. Would you really want to do that to a man who’s doing God’s will and work? Imagine all of the people that won’t be helped because you decided to make a big deal out of nothing. Every man has urges. He just made a mistake. Let it go. Besides, you’re a very attractive woman. It’s only natural. You must have men throw themselves at you all the time, right? You should expect this. As a matter of fact, you should cover up more and silence yourself so you won’t be such a temptation to these struggling men of God. If only you didn’t wear those tight jeans that night. You know, what you wear determines whether or not your brother in Christ sins. You chose to wear those tight jeans. You knew that your Christian brothers would stare at you. Why don’t you respect and honor them? You should help them as they struggle with their manly sexual urges. See, you just don’t understand how hard it is for men to resist. Men are sexual and visual creatures. Make it easier for them. Cover yourself. Hide yourself.

On the off chance that a pastor who has been caught abusing or assaulting someone comes forward, he is praised for his honesty. Wow, it must have taken a lot of courage to stand up before your congregation, the people who trust you and idolize you, and admit that you forced a teenage girl to perform oral sex on you when you were her youth pastor. (Hey, Andy Savage. I’m talking about you.) When they do admit their mistake, their sin, it’s often veiled under a false narrative of “It was consensual.” or “I couldn’t help myself.” or “It happened 20 years ago.”) For example, Andy Savage initially claimed that what happened between himself and his student was “a sexual incident that happened 20 years ago.” What this does is place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the women who were abused or assaulted. It blames them for their dress, their speech, and their behavior. It belittles them, by emphasizing how old this incident is. How silly is this woman for now bringing up what happened so many years ago? Of course, when the pastor admits these things, he’s clapped for. Who’s clapping for the girl who was assaulted and/or abused? Why isn’t she being praised for her honesty, courage, and commitment to justice? 

Because women are naturally temptresses, of course! This belief has infested the Christian church since the time when men began to take over and dominate the faith. We know that the early church was an imperfect group of people committed to gender equality, ethnic harmony, and social justice. Women had churches in their homes and were called partners of the faith and the mission. Jewish believers were scolded when they wouldn’t eat with Gentile believers. The poor were brothers and sisters with the rich. It wasn’t complete, but it was a beautiful start.

Something shifted. Something altered the path of Christianity forever in an awful way. Justification of the subjugation of women became commonplace. Reasoning for slavery of people of color was generally agreed upon. White, Christian, straight, land-owning, English-speaking men were the chosen ones, the ones to whom Christianity and its development belonged. This has continued for centuries.

We women are just now fully free to reclaim equal right to the Imago Dei. Well, women in the west are. Our sisters around the world do not have such freedom of speech and being. So we speak up for them. We stand and say, in our tight jeans and shirts that women are made in the image of God as well. Men are not the standard of human. Only men and women together image the complexity and fullness of God, although we can never completely attain that, of course. 

Women are not naturally temptresses. Our bodies are appealing because God made them that way and He doesn’t make mistakes. He makes no bad things. Our bodies are good. What we wear is our choice. It’s between us and God. Should a man inappropriately touch us or decide he wants to sexually assault us, our clothing is not a factor in that. It’s entirely his choice to abuse the Imago Dei in us. Because what he decides to do with our bodies, he is actually doing to God as well. He insults our Creator by damaging what He created in love and beauty. 

Women have equal opportunities in the church. We can be pastors, preach, teach, sing, dance, pray, evangelize, and minister just like Jesus did. I’m not going to say, “just like men”, because men are not the standard of a Christian. Not all of us are content being at home as wives and mothers, putting our spiritual gifts aside in order to support our husbands with their spiritual callings. Men are not called to more. Men and women are both equally called to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ from shore to shore, sharing the truth, loving others, and living a mission-minded life of joy in Him. 

 

Gabrielle G.

 

 

Andy Savage eventually resigned as a pastor from his church. Interesting how men are given the choice.

When Your Sibling Passes for White (Biracial Struggles)

(The boy on the left in the Superman shirt is my brother. My elder sister is in the middle. I’m on the right.)

 

I’m a brown woman. That’s obvious. When I step out onto these American streets, the world perceives and receives me as a Latin woman, a Latin woman with incredibly curly hair. Wait, is she black? Maybe she’s both…My identity, while I may be slightly ethnically ambiguous and have a French first name/German last name hybrid, is as a Latina. Most people are sure that I am of Latin descent when they meet me.

My brother looks like a white man. His name isn’t Juan, Carlos, or Miguel and we have the same last name. On paper I’m white. On paper and in person, he’s white. While this has definitely produced some varying experiences for us, it hasn’t become a point of contention in our relationship until recently. 

After 45 was elected, it seemed like my brother and I were on the same page. We both despised him and mocked his supporters every chance we were provided. I enjoyed poking fun at Trump’s supporters and Trump himself in the very beginning. But, then everything grew more serious. Latino kids were harassed at school. Muslim women’s hijabs were ripped off in public. Foreign Muslim people were banned from entering the U.S. 45 openly shows his racist, orange face every time anything remotely related to people of color is brought to his attention. He constantly belittles women of color on Twitter and whenever he gives an interview. NFL players became “sons of bitches.” Black people continue getting shot on the street by police and 45 is silent about it. Then it escalated to putting Latino children in cages, even babies, and indefinitely separating them from their parents. Now, they’re still caging them but they’re caging them with their parents. 

Throughout the past 1.5 years of 45’s presidency, although it feels much longer, my own ethnic identity has so deeply shifted and because my brother and I already aren’t very close, it caused problems. I began to look within and without, reading about Puerto Rico’s history more and more, asking questions about my Puerto Rican family’s racial history on the island, and meeting other Latinas who also didn’t look quite like Sofia Vergara or Eva Longoria. I found a community of Latinas online with varying skin tones, from fair to dark, with curly hair just like mine. Or if it wasn’t exactly like mine, it was even curlier and equally fabulous. We talked about our respective childhoods and learned that we all grew up in such a way that when we occupied white spaces, such as institutions like public school, college/universities, or the office/corporate world, we felt shunned for being “other.” We were deemed too brown or black. In Latino spaces, we also felt shunned for being “other.” We were too dark or our hair was too curly. Maybe we didn’t speak Spanish fluently. Whatever the reason, we never found a space where we truly fit in and were accepted. We were always considered “too something” by someone. To ourselves, we were simply Afro-Latinas, women who grow up in between the black and Latin world, all the while knowing that in reality those worlds are the same.

While all people of color grow up in this country aware that white people, as the majority (for now), have preconceived notions and stereotypes about us, when rejection comes from the very people who are supposed to accept us, it stings more. That pain lasts for quite a long time, a lifetime, I’m sure.

I’m proud of my blackness. I’m honored to have been blessed with dark, tightly curled hair. I’m happy that my body is thick. I love my full lips. I’m enamored by my dark eyes. I wouldn’t want to look any other way. My brother looks just like my opposite. He shaves his head now, but when he had hair, it was medium brown and straight. His eyes are dark like mine and his lips look like mine, but his skin is extremely white. His phenotype, coupled with his name, means that he has the luxury of passing as a white man in a country ruled by white men. 

I have no such luxury. I cannot hide my Latin identity. I cannot hide my blackness. What my name disguises, my appearance reveals. I am not ashamed of who I am, but my appearance and gender mean that I will suffer more than my brother will. We had a fight today and he mocked me a bit and said, “You’re not black! You’re Latin! Stop with the black thing! You don’t fear the police! You don’t have the same experience! No one is trying to lynch you!” 

While he’s right in the sense that I have a different experience than a darker brother or sister, I am black. I do fear the police. I fear Southern white people. While the police may not treat me badly because I’m black, they may treat me like garbage because I’m Latina. I won’t know which. There is a huge problem in this country where white people think that racism doesn’t exist because we don’t have lynch mobs and segregation. Fun fact: we do have segregation. Everywhere. But, just because no one is calling me the n-word or the s-word on the street or trying to hang me from a tree doesn’t mean that I’m not treated as inferior because of my ethnicity or gender.

Because I’m a woman, and particularly a woman of color, I am fetishized and objectified on a constant basis. I walk down the street in NYC and hear, “Ay mami!” “Ohh sexy girl!” “Love your hair! So curly!” “Love them lips!” My hair isn’t just curly hair: it’s sexual. My lips aren’t just full lips: they’re erotic. My body is turned into an object that men shout at and desire for their own sexual pleasure. 

At work, I’m treated as if I’m not fully competent because I’m a woman and because I’m Latina. Do you know how hard it is to teach English to a room full of older, Latin-American men? Firstly, they doubt my capability because I’m young and then they doubt it because I’m a woman. Latinos have a deeply ingrained machismo culture that needs to end. I’ve had male Latino students ask me if I’m really qualified to teach, if I actually have the Bachelor’s degree I told them I have, and how old I am. When a male student from Mexico disrespected me and I verbally showed him that his behavior was not acceptable in my classroom, I went to my white male boss, who’s in his 30’s. When I shared with him what I said in response, which was perfectly appropriate for the situation, he smiled and giggled, saying, “Mhmmm! I see you’re getting a little sassy there.” What was meant as a time for me to seek affirmation from my superior that I did the right thing turned into him using a Latina stereotype to laugh at me about what had occurred with my student and to diminish the problem. Every day at work I’m told by white male colleagues that I look really beautiful, or that my hair looks great. No other woman at my job receives these unwanted attentions. They’re also all white women.

I said all of these things to my brother today, crying while he rolled his eyes, and realized that although we share the same blood, we have absolutely distinct experiences in this country. He will never understand what it’s like for me to walk around in the beautiful brown body that I have. I will never understand the freedom he has as a white-passing man. I think today my brother finally began to understand my pain and where I’m coming from when I make comments about the ridiculous things that white people do people of color every day and how we have to fight for our rights as people of color.

It’s a step in the right direction. I just hope I have the emotional strength to continue on, pushing through the discomfort, so he can finally see what it’s like to be me.

Gabrielle G.

Being a Young Afro-Latina (Thank You, Gina Torres!)

For many of us who claim “Afro-Latina/o”, finally finding a label that suits our identity is refreshing. More than that, it affirms who we’ve always known ourselves to be. Not everyone agrees with assigning labels to people, but to quote one of my favorite TV shows, “Dear White People”, “Without labels, people in Florida would drink Windex.” Our brains are programmed to categorize and label things in an effort to understand what’s safe, what’s unsafe, what’s new, what’s familiar, etc. So, I like labels. I love labels. I identify with labels. It helps me process and understand this perplexing world and my identity.

As a little girl, I didn’t really know that I was much different from everyone else. I knew I didn’t look lily white like many of my schoolmates, but I also didn’t have very dark skin like my black schoolmates. I definitely didn’t look like my Asian schoolmates. Mom spoke a little Spanish at home and we ate a lot of rice and beans. Well, I ate the rice with the sauce from the beans. I thought that beans were disgusting until I was in my 20s. I had heard that we were Puerto Rican and that Dad was white, but it didn’t lodge in my mind as anything of true significance, or as anything that might cause me problems later in life.

When I entered middle school, I began to become more acquainted with my ethnic identity. This was around the time when I started to see that I was quite singular: no one looked like me. In fact, no one who looked anything like me shared any similar hobbies or tastes. The other Latin kids at school were odd to me, because they were so unlike me. They were loud, didn’t pay attention in class, dressed in an urban style, and only associated with each other and with the black kids. I suppose I wasn’t considered either because they didn’t want to associate with me. I didn’t like the music they listened to. I didn’t like their clothes. I didn’t like their accents. I didn’t like how LOUD they were in class. I’m sure that some of this stemmed from growing up in a whitewashed educational system that taught me that “white is right” and anything that differed from that standard was incorrect or inappropriate, but of course I didn’t realize that until I entered college.

Some of the Latinas had curly hair, but it didn’t look quite like mine. Their curls were loose and they fell in long layers down their backs. They could sweep it up into a ponytail and their hair would swing from side to side. My hair only swung like that when it was wet. Any other time, if it were in a ponytail, it became a curly puff at the nape of my neck. I hated it. By God’s grace, I love my afro hair now. But, that’s the thing. At the time, and for many years after, I didn’t recognize my hair texture as afro hair. I was taught that Latinos and Black people were two different groups. Yet, we had so many similarities. We looked similar. We were often grouped together, usually called the “urban” and “ghetto” kids. How could we be strongly distinct groups if we had so many similarities?

So why did I have hair like that? Why did the other Latina girls have different hair? Many of them had straight hair. The Colombian and Venezuelan girls had long, straight, black hair. Their lips were smaller than mine. Their features sharp. They looked like a blend of indigenous and European heritage (I didn’t know this at the time.) The Puerto Rican girls had hair that was similar to mine, but not quite as textured.

I grew into a young Puerto Rican/German woman with no understanding of my true ethnic identity, as I saw it. I knew I was Latina, but I didn’t see myself in the Latinas at school and definitely not in any of the famous Latinas at the time. The early-mid 2000s was not a good time for Latinas in Hollywood. Well, Hollywood still isn’t welcoming to Latinas and if they are, you wouldn’t find an Afro-Latina in a starring role. I’ve yet to see one of us in a strong, lead role, where no one is a maid, a temptress, a teenage mom, or a thug girl. I knew about Jennifer Lopez, but she didn’t look like me. She had light-colored, straight, long hair. Her lips weren’t as large as mine. I remember seeing Rosario Dawson star in “RENT”, and I learned that she was also Puerto Rican. But, I felt like she looked black. That confused me so much. How could she be Puerto Rican if she looked black? Puerto Ricans aren’t black. They’re Puerto Rican. Right?

Until I was in my early 20s, I was left in this binary and felt absolutely unsure about where my place was. I never identified with any Latina that I ever knew, either because of the difference in our respective phenotype or a difference in tastes or behavior. The latter is another story. Then I heard about Gina Torres. As a nerdy girl, I loved the TV show “Firefly” and the movie “Serenity.” I loved Gina Torres’ character. She was a black badass woman with an adorable white husband who loved her strength and brought out her soft femininity. I loved their dynamic. I LOVED her hair! It was curly and looked like mine, although it was a bit longer than mine. Her lips were large like mine. The main difference in how we looked was the drastic difference in skin color. Her skin is much richer and darker than mine. In fact, I had cousins who looked like her. Hmmm. Maybe…

A simple Google search told me that she was Cuban and my mouth hit the floor. My heart jumped! I knew that Puerto Ricans and Cubans, besides being neighbors, were closely related people groups. What does all of this mean?? I explored the Internet some more and discovered the term “Afro-Latina.” A Latin person with African roots. A black Latin person. Equally black and Latin. All at the same time. Latina magazine interviewed Torres five years ago and she’s quoted as saying, “My view of myself doesn’t change. I know who I am. I’m Cuban American, both my parents are Cuban–one was a little browner than the other one. That’s who I am. I feel sorry that it’s taken so long for the film industry to figure it out and to catch up.” This incredible discovery prompted me to research Puerto Rico’s history through two courses on Puerto Rico at my alma mater, Hunter College in New York City.

While studying there, I learned the full history of Puerto Rico, from the time of the peaceful Tainos, the dehumanization of African slaves brought by Spain’s colonizers, the U.S.’s colonization and sterilization of our women, Pedro Albizu Campos and The Young Lords (both Afro-Latinos as well), and the current state of the island. Typing in “Puerto Rico” in your search bar will bring up countless articles about what our island is suffering and what we have survived thus far. I encourage you to do some reading.

I realized that I was an Afro-Latina. This explained my hair texture, my voluptuous body, and my full lips. My skin was lighter than Gina Torres’ skin and other Afro-Latinas because my father is a German-American man. Although my skin is fair, my African blood runs strong through my veins. I had to learn this in school and on the Internet because my mother never told me that we were black. She doesn’t see herself as black. I suppose you could say that she hasn’t been awoken to the truth of her Afro-Latina identity. But for me, finding out that there is a name for what I am and who I am felt so satisfying and validating! Now when people are curious about my ethnic background, I can proudly tell them that I am Afro-Puerto Rican and German. When people ask why my hair is so puffy and curly, I can tell them that it’s because I’m black. When they ask, “How can you be black? You’re Puerto Rican…and your skin is light.” Then I can tell them the story of my isla, Puerto Rico. The only way we’ll achieve a deeper and more widespread understanding of Afro-latinidad is by telling our stories to others. When that story has been shared enough, we must change the story from  simply “Black Latinos exist” to “This is who we are. Write about us. Make movies about us. In fact, let us do it ourselves. Because we have a lot to say.”

 

Bendiciones,

Gabrielle G.

 

Being a Curvaceous Woman in India

Although I’ve been to India three times and two of those times my body was openly discussed like an object meant to be shown and commented on, it still hurts and shocks me each time it happens. I didn’t initially expect these comments because although I’m larger than many Indians, meaning I’m taller and bigger, I don’t see myself as fat. I have a large bust and a large bottom. The Lord has given a more curvaceous body. In fact, my body is actually quite common among Puerto Ricans, but I’ve yet to see a young Indian woman with my exact body type. Usually the ones who have my body type are older and have children, hence the large breasts. Any young girl who is bigger usually has a small chest and small bottom.

The first time this commentary on my body happened, it was 2016 and my Indian “father” told me I should marry someone “my size.” Now, here’s the issue with this: a good marriage isn’t determined by a person’s body size! That’s incredibly narrow-minded. More than that, my Indian father is overweight as is his wife. Almost every older married Indian couple I know is significantly overweight; much larger than I am. Physical fitness is almost completely non-existent in India, except for those who perform physical labor for a living or for those who can afford gym memberships. Many Indians eat a lot of food, especially carbs and junk food. They love sweets, fried food, and soda. Even the vegetables are fried. Suffice to say, many Indians are as unhealthy as Americans. Yet, they still think it appropriate to make comments on a person’s weight or size, ignoring the fact that they themselves are overweight and unhealthy.

During this last trip to India, my weight was commented on so many times that it began to make me feel insecure. While I lost weight in India from eating simpler foods and eating less than I usually eat, because I’m not short and skinny with a small chest and small bottom, I’m considered “fat” in India. In fact, my size is the largest that the stores carry, although in the U.S. they typically carry about 4 or 5 sizes larger than me in clothing stores. India is in Asia, so it’s to be expected. My feelings about this would be totally different if I were in Korea or a place where most people are shorter and thinner than me. But, I was in a place where many people look like me, just with smaller breasts. Also, the men typically have large bellies but their bodies aren’t discussed at all. It’s just seen as normal. If a woman has a small tummy, God forbid. She’s fat. The hypocrisy is incredibly annoying and although I love my Lord, I just want to flip them the finger and tell them to go freak themselves.

The most poignant and somewhat funny experience with Indians and their word vomit is when I stayed at this couple’s house for about a week. The husband and wife were very overweight. Well, the wife was overweight and the husband was obese. He was 300 pounds at least. The wife and I had chai one night and as we sipped it and nibbled on biscuits she told me that my Indian father, the same one who commented on my weight two years ago and the same one who is himself overweight, told this couple that I was “big like them.” Okay… the wife is about 50 pounds heavier than me and like I wrote above, the husband is at least 300 pounds. I’m not “big like them.” Because my Indian father said that I’m “big like them”, they fed me too much food. I don’t take more than one plate of food most of the time but the wife kept trying to feed me two to three plates of food which I rejected. She offered countless snacks all day. I made the mistake of saying I loved Thumsup and she made me drink two cans of Thumsup every day. The funniest and saddest (yes, it was both) experience is when they took me out to this food court in a mall. I assumed that we were going out for an early dinner. They ordered pizza, momos, and Chinese noodles. We all ate a lot and I left feeling so stuffed. We all did. Less than an hour after we got home, as I relaxed on my bed watching a movie with their son, the wife came in and told me that dinner was ready. I was shocked. How could anyone possibly eat more after we just ate all of that food? I stared at her in disbelief and said that I was full. Her face looked confused and she asked, “Really?” Yes, really…I then went out to the balcony to call my mother and after about fifteen minutes, she came out and told me to go eat dinner. I told her no, thanks. I’m full. A half hour later she came in again and told me to eat dinner because her father was waiting for me. I again told her that I wasn’t hungry. One last time, just before bed, she asked if I was hungry, and I said no. At this point, I was so annoyed that I wanted to yell at her and tell her that just because she thinks I’m “big like her”, I’m actually not. I don’t eat more food if I’m already full. I don’t eat junk food all of the time. In fact, I prefer healthy food, although I do have a weakness for Thumsup. Just because I’m larger than some Indians doesn’t mean I’m like them. Clearly, I was very angry.

Why is it that in India if a person is not thin or small they’re considered fat? No middle ground exists. Not at all. It’s almost as if my body type is so rare there that they see it as fat, although it is not. I’m just extremely voluptuous. It’s literally impossible for me to find bras that fit my breasts and I have to buy the largest pants possible just so they’ll fit my bottom well.

These comments are annoying, infuriating, and discouraging. I already stick out because of my hair texture, my skin color, and my linguistic/cultural background. If you’re wondering why I don’t tell them to shut up, it’s because Indians don’t know that these comments are offensive. Amazingly, they don’t know. They freely talk about people’s skin color, hair texture, pimples, and weight with no fear. They are just common subjects up for discussion. So, if I responded in anger, they wouldn’t understand why. This is probably my least favorite thing about Indians.

P.S. One of the weirdest things is that the women comment on weight all of the time, but some of the men actually like bigger women.  There’s this odd fascination with tummies and thighs there. The sexy women in Hindi films who do their sexy dances usually have little tummies and that’s seen as sexy. I wonder what’s really underneath all of this…

Why I Left India (Starting Over Again)

Friends and Readers,

I didn’t think I’d ever write this blog post, but here we are. In life, we have many plans but the Lord changes them when they don’t suit His ultimate plan. It’s hard to adjust to these changes especially because we so often have no idea what His ultimate plan is, besides everyone coming to salvation through Jesus Christ.

I went to India with the plan of never coming back. I fully intended to leave behind everything and everyone I had ever known, start a new life in India, and “follow Jesus.” After over a decade of following Jesus, I still have this warped understanding of what it means to follow Jesus and who Jesus actually is. In my mind, especially because of last year, I see Jesus as a stern, almost dictator-type. That sounds harsh, and I know that’s not who He is, but that’s how I feel. If I do something wrong, or maybe not totally in His will, God is going to punish me. God is going to hurt me. God is going to kill me. This is how I relate to God now. It’s not correct or healthy. Jesus will help me overcome this and learn the truth about Him and what it means to follow Him.

This is why I left India. How could I possibly stay and commit for a year when I’m so unsure of what I really believe? I believe in Jesus and want to follow Him, but I have no concept of what that could actually look like for me. I’ve been told that it’s best to give up all of your possessions, leave everything behind, and be a missionary overseas, constantly denying yourself every little luxury, even something as small as a haircut.

If I have to handle money, buy myself things, and be around temptation (material and sexual), I feel guilty and like I’m not doing enough. In my mind, I’m not doing enough if I have a job here, make a life here, buy myself nice things sometimes, and also give of what I have to the world.

I also left India because of all of the tumultuous things that are happening here in the U.S. From Mexican immigrant children being put in cages by old, rich, white people to black people still getting shot, attacked, or arrested for no reason, I realized that I can no longer sit out of the fight. I had to come back and see what I could do to ease the suffering of people who look like me, and people who look nothing like me.

While I’m back, I’m going to keep fighting for justice. I’m going to finally envelop myself in genuine Christian community. I’m going to start doing things that I like to do. I need to find out who I am, what I like to do, and what I want to do with my life. I feel like I’ve lost a big part of who I am and what I like. It’s time to rediscover that.

I don’t really have much more to say, because I’m still processing everything. Thank you guys for your prayers.

 

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

When People Choose to Die

With two well-known people committing suicide this week, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, it’s difficult to stop ourselves from asking “Why?”. Society tells us that if we have money, love (or sex), a great career, and a famous name, we should be contented and desire nothing more. Yet we consistently see people end their lives when they do indeed “have it all.” What causes this? I’m not sure I can say for certain, although I also suffered from suicidal thoughts twice in my life. I know what it is to feel trapped in your current life, unable to be set free from the ties that the world and your own actions have tied around your ankles and wrists. I have been to the point where I’ve felt like I might take my life and I sat on the floor, staring at a bottle of pills, and frantically calling my mother because I was afraid of what I might do. Not once did I really desire to end my life, but it felt much bigger than me. It felt like the enemy himself was attempting to end my life.

 

It’s so hard to begin to process what could possibly push a person so loved by the world, so financially secure, so famous, to end their life. I’ve seen and experienced a portion of the suffering around the world and I know that people who live with nothing, who have been abused, very often do not take their own lives. Sometimes they do, but usually you see people push through until the end. So, what causes suicide if it’s not life circumstances? I believe it’s something much more sinister than anyone can imagine. Oftentimes you’ll see people write, “Wow, he/she had a lot of demons.” “Man, they had so much personal suffering.” Don’t we all suffer inside of our minds and souls? Don’t we all have “demons” we must battle each day and night? Of course. I’m not sure what propels one person to take their life while another can battle on in life, but I’m not a psychologist. I can only speak to the spiritual aspect of this terrible thing.

 

I haven’t read all of the Bible, but I know that there are several people in Scripture who want to die when their life circumstances turn sour. Job and King David are two examples. But we never actually see a believer commit suicide. The two times I’ve seen suicide mentioned in Scripture were when Satan attempts to convince Jesus to kill Himself and when Judas Iscariot, filled with the devil at the time, killed himself. The first instance is particular to Jesus but we see forms of it today in spiritual warfare. Satan told Jesus, “If You’re really the Son of God, throw yourself off of this cliff. The angels will save You.” The other instance is when after betraying Jesus, Judas Iscariot hangs himself in his grief and shame. Those two instances were facilitated by Satan himself. Satan is the father of suicide.

 

Suicide is the unnatural death of a person at their own hands. They are choosing to stop their lives and to go into the great unknown. Although we believers have a glimpse of what awaits us, a foretaste of glory divine, we don’t really know what lies beyond this planet. So, to choose to leave what is known and to venture into the unknown, especially not knowing if heaven or hell is real (in the case of so many people), it must take great desperation. That person must be in a mental state so low that the only viable option for them is to depart from this earth and go to another place, even if they don’t know what that other place is. I believe that suicide is the work of Satan himself. It comes from the pit of hell. God is the One who first breathed life into our bodies, the One who fashioned our bodies together in our mother’s womb, the One who consistently allows our hearts to beat and our lungs to breathe. He is also the One who decides when our time on earth has finished and then He takes our lives. If we are believers in Jesus, He sends His angels to bring us to His dwelling place, heaven. If we are not, we are cast down into the fiery depths of hell. That’s what Scripture teaches. To take our own lives is to go against God’s plans for us. If we decide that today will be our last day on earth, but God wants us here another 40 years, we are defying God. We are saying that He is wrong. That we cannot handle life anymore. That life isn’t worth living at all. We aren’t saying these things out of a place of selfishness, as so many people say. Rather this all comes from a place of utter hopelessness. In fact, many people who take their lives believe they are doing their family a service by removing themselves from the picture. They are not selfish. They are desperate.

 

There are believers who take their lives. Although it’s more difficult to find those in the Church who will openly talk about this, it does happen. John Piper tells of when he had to help clean up after the suicide of a friend who struggled for years with depression. This man was a believer. John Piper says that in that moment, a person isn’t in their right mental state. They’re so far entrenched in depression and darkness that they do not fully understand what they are doing. God has mercy for this. God understands. He understands what it is to suffer. His Son, Jesus Christ, suffered on the cross for us and died, giving up His Spirit into His Father’s hands, willingly dying to bridge the wide expanse that existed between us and God. Through His death, we are now united with God forever and nothing and no one can ever take us from the LOVE of God! God is Lover, Father, Friend, Counselor, Protector, Brother, and Savior.

 

Should you find yourself in a place where you are considering suicide, or if you’re being tormented with unwanted suicidal thoughts and aren’t sure what to do, I have some advice.

 

  1. Tell someone you trust.
  2. If you don’t have that person, call a suicide hotline.
  3. If you don’t want to do that, call the police and tell them.
  4. Seek counseling from a licensed mental health professional.
  5. Consider medication as a way to lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  6. Put your faith and trust in God!!! (This is really number one)
  7. Get connected with a local church and share about your suffering.
  8. Keep pressing on.

 

I love you all. I’m always here to talk if needed.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Obedience to God is Painful

“When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love Him” – Elisabeth Elliot

 

For those who are not familiar with Elisabeth Elliot, and if you’re not please research her extraordinary life, she is best known as a sacrificial missionary to a small tribe in South America. This tribe murdered her husband along with several other men and left her a young widow with a baby in a foreign land. Elisabeth Elliot had a choice: stay in South America and continue to witness to this tribe or move back to the United States and raise her baby in peace and safety. Shockingly, she chose to stay in South America for some time and continue the work that her husband, Jim Elliot, and she began together. This decision is incredibly surprising to me and when I think about it more in depth, I can’t fathom how a person whose husband was just murdered by those people could stay in a place where she would risk her life, her daughter’s life, and her happiness all just to share the love of Jesus. Had she gone back to the United States, I’m positive that she would’ve remarried in due course, had a lovely home, and brought up her child away from all of that chaos. Yet, she chose not to do this. When examining Elisabeth Elliot’s life, it’s clear that the Holy Spirit Himself did this mighty work through her and she was simply a vessel for His purposes. There is no way that a human being alone could possibly make this decision, which tells us that God did this.

 

I’m sure that there were times on the mission field that Elisabeth Elliot became homesick. There were times that she cried herself to sleep, missing her husband and mourning what could have been. There were times that she had stomachaches from the food, headaches from the heat, and sleeplessness from the bugs. At times, she missed the food, movies, music, and clothes from the United States. She certainly missed her family back home. I know all of this because I too live overseas and work for the Lord. Although I’m just starting out and have been here for about 2 months, these feelings and experiences are already setting in. I miss eating macaroni and cheese. I miss being able to drink tap water. I miss takeout Chinese food and Thai iced tea.  I miss caffeine-free Coke Zero with lime. I miss Panera’s chicken caesar salads and iced chai lattes (although now I have the real thing.) I miss Checkers’ cheeseburgers and fries (beef is banned in Gujarat). I miss bacon. I miss conversing with anyone I saw in my native language, English. I miss quality television (Indian TV shows are so bad, I’m sorry to say). I miss decent music (there’s this weird autotune-heavy music here in Gujarat and I despise it). I miss people knowing that they can’t take your phone and look through your photos (they don’t even know who the people in my photos are!!!!). I miss people not interrupting my private phone calls or video chats because they want to say hello to strangers. I miss people not watching me as I work on my laptop. I miss privacy (I don’t think it exists in this village…) I miss people not touching my things and using them without asking permission (some things, like lip balm and makeup brushes, SHOULD NOT be shared). I miss wearing jeans and leggings without incredibly long shirts over top. I miss feeling comfortable in crowds of people, not fearing that some man would try to touch me or steal from me. I sort of miss toilet paper. I miss reliable Internet connection. I miss sipping cocktails at NYC jazz clubs and swing dancing (alcohol is also banned in Gujarat). I miss being able to go outside and walk to the corner store to buy snacks (stores don’t exist in this village). I miss riding the train to work, earning my own money, and going back home to my own apartment. I miss cooking for myself. I miss seeing ethnic diversity. I miss my family. I miss my dog.

 

I don’t miss the mass shootings; the fear that someone would explode some homemade bomb in the train station or on the street. I don’t miss hearing about a different black man gunned down for simply existing. I don’t miss hearing how the police were called on black people for, again, simply existing. I don’t miss the cutthroat competition in New York City and the lengths people have to go to just to earn their daily bread. I don’t miss how no one talks to each other and how making friends is extremely difficult. I don’t miss how expensive basic items are. I don’t miss hearing about Trump every single damn day from news outlets. I don’t miss the pressure from white American contemporary Christian society to appear to have it all together and to be a nice, quiet, happy, middle-class, does Operation Christmas Child and nothing else for the world, put-together Christian.

 

I find myself here in this village, just three weeks ago joyfully committing for a year to teach here, and intensely doubting my decision. While I was so certain before, I’m so hesitant now. The task set before me is larger than I had expected and it terrifies me. The Lord told me that I would be working in the realms of child marriage, mentorship, education, and suicide prevention. Working here in this village checks off all of those boxes! Countless people here have told me that they want me to stay because so many people come and go. No one stays. I’ve been told that the teenagers here have no guidance whatsoever. They’re on their own when it comes to boyfriends, girlfriends, and their future studies. They don’t have anyone here to invest the necessary time in their lives to make a genuine impact or improvement.

 

This is what I long to do. This is what I’ve been shaped by God for. Now that I’m on the cusp of beginning my teaching year here, I’m frightened. What if I fail? What if their problems are too much for me? I have problems of my own. What if something bad happens to my family back home? What if I get sick? What if I “go crazy”? What if my depression and anxiety come back and I’m in this foreign country, in a village of all places? What if the loneliness is crippling and I feel isolated for an entire year? What if, what if, what if? I have a choice. I can go back to the U.S., get a job, and try to recreate that life I had in NYC. Or I can choose to press on, to push through, and to stay here. I have to give these questions and fears to God. I was absolutely certain that God wanted me here just three weeks ago. Nothing substantial or tangible has altered in my life during that time. So I’m assuming this is all my own fears combined with an attack from the enemy. He thinks he’s clever but I see what he’s attempting in my life. He won’t win. Jesus has already won it all. We’re simply playing out the roles designed for us by God Himself; playing our roles until the author steps back onto the stage and reclaims what is rightfully His. Oh come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly! Set us free from these fleshly chains.