Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Celebrating Cait

I recently did an article for Evangelical Missions Quarterly on the potential of expatriate professionals to global mission. I’d been asked to write about what I do, but wanted to say something of more substance. “Tales of a Trailing Spouse” shares stories of several like me who, though professionally skilled and experienced, have set career aside to “trail” their mates on expatriate assignments in “closed” countries in the Middle East. Along the way each was drawn into surprising and fruitful ministry, with access and legitimate presence to people that would never be available to “full-time Christian workers.”

As I often do, I invited Cait to read and comment on the draft. Her exuberant feedback: “I love the article, Mom! And I see myself—I’m a ‘trailing daughter’! I love being part of the ministry you do in Abu Dhabi.”

The thing that is so cool about that is that Cait has been on a journey shared by lots of bright, able, well-trained professionals in this economy. She left the Albanian mission field to seek work in her profession (environmental health) just as the world economy crashed. She spent nearly a year in the US, during which she found few openings for which to even apply. Never idle, she washed dogs and cared for children, served her grandfather and enabled him to have a last year in his own home. She took some hard hits, too. A meanly jealous supervisor in one job; the employer’s health crisis and bankruptcy (yep, lots of unpaid wages) in another. A paid-for education in the school of what-the-working-poor-face taught her compassion for people she might never have noticed had she not lived what she lived. Then she joined us in UAE, hoping that jobs would be more plentiful. She continues to search.

Along the journey, all the emotions: self-doubt, loneliness, anger, confusion, regret. Seasons of ardent prayer; seasons of prayerlessness because it seemed all had been said over and over. Self-pity. Feelings of worthlessness, of hopelessness, of being the only one no one wanted.

Through it, I watched Cait lean into her Lord Jesus. Then came a season like the dawn of a new day. Reflections on biblical stories that celebrate quiet humility, unorthodox fruit, like Mary “wasting” her precious perfume to lavish Jesus’ head and feet so that it ran down and the fragrance filled the house. The value of investing in lives over financial or career success. The freedom to walk her own journey without anxiety or fear. A coming-alongside of Jesus in the things He holds dear. As I prayed from the sidelines, I saw Cait take on joy and gratitude around a uniquely-precious love of her grandfather and quiet opportunities to encourage others. I listened to words that showed she went deep with the Lord and journeyed hidden paths of nourishment and satisfaction in His presence most rare in 26-year-old Americans. I saw her grasp that God’s economy and values are not of this world, that her life and destiny are truly safe in His watch-care, and that what will bring Him glory unfolds in the mundane of everyday life.

Today, in Abu Dhabi, Cait is a catalyst for connections and community. The pair—Cait and our daughter-in-law Eda—are unstoppable hostesses and homemakers. I know her as ministry partner, whether it’s about cooking or communicating or taking her grandfather (who lives with us now) to medical appointments. She has become research assistant on my book for the Albanian church, organizer of all manner of dynamic fun for singles, willing help around the church, and prayer partner to several young women. Perceptive, solidly grounded, gracious communicator. Generous.

And yes, she continues the job-search. We continue to pray for sustaining and engaging employment for her. All the while, full of joy in her noble (yet fun) beauty, proud of her intelligent maturity, and oh-so-grateful to know her not just as daughter, but also as ministry partner and friend.

Happy birthday, from Mom