Traveling Light with a Heavy Heart

Austin, TX – Couple simply loves living with their three children in their tiny house of 50 square feet, complete with a cat and dog. Here’s an interview with them about how wonderful they are and how you should feel guilty for actually wanting your own space away from everyone who lives with you…

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve come across numerous puff-pieces about people minimalizing their belongings and living spaces to maximize deeper meaning in life in return.

Good for them, but my last couple of years haven’t gone that way.

When we lived in South Dakota our family was settled for the first time in our marriage. We had more house than family, so we became foster parents. We had a semi-grumpy cat inside and a weedy garden outside. We canned fruits and vegetables in late summer. I hunted, well tried to hunt, in the fall. Our summers were filled with road trips, lazy afternoons at the lake, and lots of evening swimming sessions at the city pool. Our winters were slow and cold, but brought their own wonder and beauty. Over the years we made the big, strange house we moved into our home, complete with our own furnishings and decorations. Piano music filled the living room and laughter filled the basement. 

One year ago we moved away from it, and now we are about to fly ourselves and all the belongings we can reasonably take to another country. No, we won’t be moving into one of those tiny houses once we get there, but our van can only carry so many extra pieces of luggage for our flight. We are traveling light.

The first stage of downsizing was when people we knew and liked came by and picked out stuff they wanted to take home with them from our house. Then we sold items we knew we didn’t really need and also ditched things we had moved countless times, but couldn’t justify moving once more. This included my mostly worthless baseball cards and ancient video game systems.

Over the years I had amassed quite the library in my home, and 97% of it had to go away. I gave away theological and biblical books to family and friends, but even they didn’t want them all. I took the rest to a pastor’s conference to give out for free, where some disappeared, but a few boxes still remained. Eventually, the Goodwill Store in Jamestown, North Dakota received some rather top-notch theological works. They might still be sitting there today alongside stacks of Amish romance novels.

After we downsized to a moving truck we packed most of our furniture, décor, and knick knacks into storage, because this past year we’ve been living in someone else’s furnished home. But now the time has come to downsize yet again into what will fit in our airplane luggage. I’ve been calculating my stuff 50 pounds at a time.

While traveling light we’re also juggling the last stages of fundraising, the bewildering visa process, and saying our goodbyes. To family. To friends. To places. And to America—the only country I’ve ever called home, although election season isn’t a bad time to make a getaway.

Some people think all of this must be so freeing, like those puff-piece clickbait articles seem to say. But It’s not. It’s hard.

My youngest daughter calls life back in South Dakota the easy life, where all her friends were, where she could just ride her bike around town, go get a frozen drink at the local pharmacy, and walk a few blocks to go swimming. She doesn’t have to say it, but the last year has been hard for her. For all of us.

And it’s only going to get harder. All of this unsettling change is just to get us to the starting line. But, then again, they don’t let just anyone come to the starting line of a serious marathon. You have to qualify for it.

The missionary life is pretty crazy. Sometimes we can get numb to it when we see a person every four or so years, watch their presentation, and walk by them on our way out of the church building. I don’t think people do it on purpose, but sometimes missionaries are almost by default considered the career minor leaguers of church ministry who couldn’t preach well enough to stay stateside.

What two years of qualifying for this starting line has taught me is that I can’t do this alone. We leave everyone and everything we know to learn a new language and culture. Oh, and we raise funds to do it, as if that’s just a throw-in on top of everything else, like when Genesis says, God made the stars also. It’s overwhelming and beyond my natural capacities.

When God called us to be missionaries I was and continue to be thankful to answer, “Here am I, send me.” And I can only answer that call by God’s strength and grace alone. But I’m not that happy tiny-house missionary with a puff piece about me just yet. I’ve been lamenting the losses the past few weeks.

But what keeps me going is setting my eyes on what’s ahead: sharing eternal glory in southern Brazil. And there is a great cloud of witnesses surrounding the starting line, from those who have gone before me to those God has introduced me to the past two years.

May we continue to look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who took on our human nature and was born naked and whelping like the rest of us. As Job reminds us, we both come into this world and leave it naked. In between, traveling light isn’t so bad, especially if it’s with a purpose. And there is no greater purpose than the Great Commisssion.

- Brandon