Loneliness. My loneliness was palpable. How could I get over loneliness? It plagued me. Here I was in the middle of an isolated village in southern Ethiopia. I was a new mother at age 23 years old with an 8 month old son.
Mark and I married in Ethiopia, attended language school together, and then moved to Soddu where our first missionary assignment was. It was there that we welcomed our first child, a son. Soddu was a big station with about 10 different missionary houses, many of them being occupied by medical nurses and doctors. We enjoyed the camaraderie which included game nights and potlucks with the other missionaries.
A young couple with small children worked about 40 miles from Soddu in a village called Waka. Waka is in the mountains and there was no car road to get there. The Hawkins had to go in and out of Waka by small airplane. When visiting in Soddu, Jenny said to me, “Amy, pray that you never get appointed to Waka. You will die of loneliness there.”
Eight months later our station head, Merle Dye, met with us. He told us that the Hawkins were leaving Waka and he needed to put another couple in there. He said normally he wouldn’t put a young and inexperienced couple into a hardship post but he had no choice. We were the only ones who were available to go.
So we prayed about it and accepted the assignment. MAF mission airplane flew us into Waka and we began our new life there. We had a generator that we ran at night for an hour or so, but since we had to fly in the diesel for it, we used it very sparingly. A wood stove heated our 4 room home and boiled all our drinking water while a gas stove was used sparingly for cooking when we didn’t have the wood stove cranked up. A special screened window with shelves in it and a door to cover it was used as a refrigerator.
We had a old tub that was old-fashioned and had feet. So when we got into it, we had to be sure we stepped into the middle because it would rock precariously.
The outhouse was not too far from the house, so I never had to worry about cleaning out a toilet because there was no toilet. We did have water that came down a hill through a garden hose for running water, but it was not too plentiful.
The thing I remember the most about Waka was the loneliness I experienced there. I was a new mom in a foreign country with difficult living circumstances with no other female to share my heart with. My husband was awesome, but I needed a girlfriend to chat with.
One day Mark said to me, “Amy, go out and visit someone. The answer to your loneliness is in your power.” Now that got me to thinking. Was I feeling sorry for myself in my new calling here on an Ethiopian mountain?
I made a choice to go visit someone. With Benjy on my back, I began the trek up the main road in our village. I branched off to a hut up on the side of the hill where I knew a young woman about my age lived with her husband and baby.
She was thrilled that I came. She pulled a stool up near the open fire and I obediently sat on it. I put my baby on the dirt ground near her little boy. The two of them began to play in the dirt together. I stumbled a bit with my Amharic using lots of gestures and smiles. We laughed as we watched our babies playing.
As I sat there contemplating what her everyday life was like, I began to get a new perspective. I wondered if perhaps SHE was lonely.
I learned something that day that I want to share with you. I learned 5 steps to get over loneliness . . .
How to Get Over Loneliness
1. Reach out to someone else who might need a friend.
2. Forget about your shortcomings and major on friendliness.
3. Stretch yourself with a relationship with someone different from you – someone who looks different, thinks different, is a different age, whatever.
4. Don’t have a preconceived idea of how to solve your loneliness. The world is your doorstep.
5. Enrich your life with people from other cultures. When you reach out to foreigners living in your community, you will be helping to solve other people’s loneliness! Kudos to you!
I walked back home with a new spring in my step. Our choices are powerful and I had made a choice to reach out to someone else while I was in pain. I wonder if she was thinking as she watched me leave: “I don’t feel so lonely anymore.”
Learning how to get over loneliness was not so hard after all. To truly experience healthy living, you have to learn how to handle emotions like loneliness.
What has helped you to get over loneliness?