Today I interview Rebekah DeVall, author of Waterfalls. Learn more about her journey navigating the big changes God’s taking her through and her reasons behind writing Waterfalls
. Also, if you wish to learn more about her inspiration for writing her book, check out the guest post she did on my blog yesterday, which you can find here
What was your life like as a missionary kid? Was it easy for you to adapt to that life right off the bat? What are some struggles you faced in that environment? What were some of your favorite things about that environment?
R: Honestly, I never knew anything besides life as a missionary kid. My family and I first went to the field for a cursory visit when I was 6 months old, and then long-term when I was four years old. So yes, it was easy to adapt to that life right off the bat. I learned Spanish effortlessly, playing with the neighbor kids over the barbed wire fence and running around the yard at church.
I think one of the biggest struggles is never completely fitting in anywhere. I will always be a little too American to be Bolivian, and a little too… odd, I guess? xD to be American.
My favorite thing about that environment? Well, I don’t think I really noticed this until we left the field, but growing up, I had experiences that few other people my age can claim. I’ve traveled hundreds of thousands of miles in a third-world country. I have two foreign languages under my belt. I can completely navigate the culture of Bolivia like a native (yes, even down to the swear words, if you wanted to know).
How did you come to terms with following God’s plan for you moving back to the US? Was it hard at first?
R: It took a very long time, let me tell you that. The last year or so before leaving Bolivia were actually the hardest time. They say anticipation is half the battle… but so is dread, haha! Fear of the unknown was a huge part of the battle, and that’s part of why I touched so much on it in Waterfalls.
Following God’s plan is nearly always hard.
Crossing the cultural barrier to come back to the U.S. – even if it’s “just for furlough” – is always hard.
Imagine, if you will, your parents coming to you today and informing you that, in a certain amount of time, you will be leaving everything you have ever known. You will leave behind your friends, your culture, the foods you love, everything… to visit a new place.
“Okay, that’s not so bad,” you say.
But then consider this. Everyone in the place you’re leaving is congratulating you. Because “Yay! You get to go to the U.S.A.! I wish I could! Enjoy your vacation!”
And everyone in the country to which you plan to travel is encouraging you to come “home”. There’s grandparents and aunts and uncles that are essentially strangers. Then travel around this strange new country from church to church, asking people for money. Answer the same questions over and over and over again. “Isn’t Bolivia in Central America?” “Do you have monkeys for pets?” “What language do you speak?” “Say something for me in Spanish!”
Listen to the same missionary presentation over and over and over again.
Answer the question again about how it feels to “come home”, all the while longing to actually go home, to the only culture you have ever really known.
And then realize that… wait. None of this was your choice after all.
I realize, looking over the section above, that I sound bitter. Honestly, this is where a lot of missionary kids go astray. It is so easy to be bitter against a God that drags us to a different culture from the one our parents grew up in, only to drag us unwillingly back every couple of years. It is so easy to be bitter against a God that makes us get up at 3 a.m. every Sunday morning in order to travel to a different church in the middle of nowhere… or the God that takes our parents and leaves us behind.
I personally wouldn’t change my life for another. But there are a lot of missionary kids that would.
In Waterfalls, there is a beautiful poem that seems to have helped inspire your book the most, although it was written back in 2016. At the time of writing it, did you realize how important it would become to this next stage in your life?
R: Wow, I’m glad you noticed that!
I actually had no idea at the time how much that little poem would affect me. This was back when the dread was first starting to kick in, back when I first realized that God’s will didn’t involve me in Bolivia for the rest of my life. It was around this time that I realized there was a deadline for my life as I knew it (Wow that sounds dramatic!). I had no idea how much this would play into the writing of Waterfalls. I can just chalk that up to another “coincidence” on God’s part!
If people could only walk away with one notion, one theme or idea, from Waterfalls, what would you like them to take away?
R: For my missionary kids, or people getting ready to go to the missions field – this isn’t easy, but you are most definitely not alone. It is human to doubt God. It is human to feel bitter at some point or another. But you are not alone.
For everyone else reading it – your missionaries are not perfect. They are trying their hardest to be a witness and a blessing in all of these churches. They want to talk about the field. They want to answer your questions. But these same suit-clad men and well-dressed (ish, let’s face it, we missionaries are often outdated when it comes to fashion) women go home and collapse in bed, just like you do. They lose their tempers and snap at their kids too. They struggle to trust God, just like you do. Furlough isn’t a vacation. Furlough years may well be the hardest years of their ministry. Your missionaries are human.
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