But There Are Bigger Struggles

“What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten?”

“Are there many active volcanoes in Ecuador?”

“Does the government allow you to preach the Gospel?”

This makes the third year my family’s been able to video chat with Ms. Gail and the kids at Canal Lake Bible Camp. I look forward to talking with them. They always have such great questions about our host country and our ministries. Some questions I wish adults asked more frequently.

Towards the end of our interaction with the kids, one little boy introduces himself, takes a deep breath, and launches into his mission-related curiosities. About the food, the attire, the climate. And then,

“What’s the hardest thing about living in Ecuador? What’s your biggest struggle?”

We’re asked this question every year, and every year I give the same answer. It looks like I’m giving it thought, but it’s an automatic response. “I get homesick a lot. And boy, do I miss speaking English!”


But there are bigger struggles than the language. Struggles that I can’t explain in five minutes. Not to an elementary-schooler. Not to anyone my age. Not even to an adult, no matter how interested or sympathetic they are.

So I tell them, I tell you, that it’s homesickness. That it’s speaking Spanish.


I don’t mention that I still don’t feel accepted as a part of the community here in Paute.

That I’m shunned by most of the girls, and I question every guy’s motives for friendliness.

That I’m painfully conscious of everything I say and do, because it’s a reflection on missionaries, Americans, and Christians everywhere.


I don’t mention the hurt I experience by being forgotten by my peers in the States.

That I feel the need to live up to a certain image when I’m back on missionary furlough.

That I feel completely detached and isolated from the American culture, and I have no idea what its expectations are for me.


The misgivings, the doubts, the battles I’m fighting, they aren’t things I often share.

Because when I do, most of you can’t relate.

And it’s frustrating.

You can’t relate to years of having jokes made about you, in front of your face, in a language you can’t understand.

You can’t relate to someone trying to barter a few acres of land for your hand in marriage… when you’re thirteen.

You can’t relate to being ostracized by an entire town who wants nothing to do with you or your God.


So I’ll tell you that my struggle is with the language, and it will just be easier for both of us.


  1. Rhonda McPherson says:

    Thank you so much for sharing what is deep in your heart and soul. You’re right, most of us won’t be able to relate. But, now I know better how to pray for you. I ask for your forgiveness, for not being more obedient and praying more often for you and your family. I thank you for doing what I am not able to do and ask that our Father, keep you safe and strong.

  2. Your honesty is refreshing, but heartrending. I pray that God will give you that flesh and blood friend, your age to share with and to support you. That the adults around you will hear your heart and be able to relate to your needs. Though you are right to be concerned about your testimony for Jesus, just fall more and more in love with Him, and don’t be uptight about how others see you. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Deborah says:

    Oh my. Your words just spoke to me greatly. I had to pull the car over to finish reading! It is point on Madeline, what you say. Unless you’ve lived it, you can’t possible understand. Just want you to know Mr Thomas and I pray for your family’s ministry and will pray more specifically now. You are never forgotten by me, and God has great plans for you. Keep smiling for Jesus

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