This post is by Noelle Juday, our May Pilgrim in Residence. Noelle writes at nbrynn.com and has a passion for storytelling. When she contacted me about the possibility of sharing about her own spiritual journey here at A Sacred Journey, I immediately said yes. The story she’ll be sharing all month is exactly the type of journey I want to share with and awaken in others—one which moves us toward mystery, and, consequently, draws us closer to our true selves and the Divine. Tune in each Wednesday in May for Noelle’s series and read the first post in the series here.
In 2008, in our mid-twenties and almost three years into our marriage, my husband and I began an epic journey halfway around the world.
We sold our house, gave away our cars and condensed our lives to two suitcases each. We bought tickets and boarded planes with the final destination marked: Chiang Mai, Thailand.
In reality our journey had begun seven years earlier when I went on my second summer mission trip to Thailand. During that trip, I began an unlikely friendship with a scatter-brained, but visionary Thai woman who was working as a translator for our team. Almost immediately, we connected in a deep, spiritual way and soon found ourselves dreaming of future ministry projects and planning international travel together.
And sure enough, the next summer I returned to Thailand to live with this friend, and from there we moved to Germany to live for several months, spending a few weeks in the Czech Republic along the way. Once back in the U.S., our friendship continued through emails and phone calls, while I wrestled my way through paying for and earning a degree.
I had already started making plans for my third trip to Thailand, when my would-be-husband and I met. We quickly fell in love and he enthusiastically began making arrangements to join me and two other friends on the trip. A few days after arriving in Thailand, he proposed. And so, from the moment we got engaged, Thailand was not just a part of my journey, but a part of our story, a piece of us.
Fast forward three years, two more trips to Thailand and countless hours in prayer and counsel over our intended move, and there we were, boarding for a new life halfway around the world.
Not two months into our move and new ministry, the foundations of our lives started to crack. My longtime friendship with the Thai translator and her church came to a heart-breaking, unexplained halt. We were told there was no longer a place for us in their community.
We suddenly found ourselves foreigners in a foreign land, with no friends and no purpose. While we questioned God’s plan amidst the pain, we leaned heavily into the Divine promises and theological certainties we had learned over the years. We were certain God would, “bring about good for those who love him,” and soon.
We resiliently found a “Plan B” and began work with new ministries. My husband became head English teacher for a new school to underprivileged children and I began a lifelong dream of caring for orphans by welcoming a foster child into our home.
Life was hard and lonely, but we continued to cling to hopes of impending good. We made a few friends and wrapped ourselves in whatever community and comfort we could find. We worked hard at learning to read, write and speak the language and devoted our days to the vulnerable and abandoned. We committed ourselves to the advancement of the school and fell in love with our foster son.
We had no idea the cracks were only signs of shattering yet to come.
Think of a time in your life, whether abroad or at home, when you felt like a foreigner—unwelcomed, unwanted, obviously out of place. What feelings does that memory evoke? How can you use this experience to live and love better today?