Upon reading other interns’ assessments and reflecting on HNGR readings and the purposes of HNGR, I often feel that my experience in Imugan is almost too good to be true. One of my assumptions before HNGR was that joy is not complete or true without suffering. Yet in Imugan, I found myself caught in a joy that seemed incomplete – I had not yet experienced much injustice here or perhaps the vulnerability in relationships that would allow me to identify with a person’s suffering. My prayers for the place felt shallow. I found myself questioning my willingness to see pain: Have I remained at an easy surface level in my relationships, fearful of truly entering into the heavier side of Imugan’s life? Am I blinding myself in the brightness of joy instead of training my eyes also to the dark? I had a vision of myself sitting on a sparkling white beach, facing the sea’s shiny waves. My back was purposefully turned to the dark unknown jungle bordering the sand behind me. So I prayed last week that God would adjust my eyes to hardship, that I would not only see joy but that I would understand Imugan more compassionately by allowing my face to be turned to see the darker forest. Then last week, Manang D, a young mother whom I often sit next to at Bible Study, sought me out as a confidante. Though I have usually been the initiator in friendships since people here are generally shy, she sought me out and told me about her alcoholic husband, who tears her apart by becoming verbally abusive when drunk. Along with the sadness that I feel at her revelation, I thank God for this direct answer to prayer, an opportunity to help hold a friend’s frustration and pain in my heart and prayers.
In many ways, I understand myself better through getting to know Imugan. We’re a lot alike. God has gifted her with insuppressible joy and has written hope all over her face. It’s a true joy that can’t help but rise and overflow to all around. There’s something deeper, though, pains buried in dark corners that require much prayerful determination and intentional vulnerability before she trusts others to see these things. Yet these darker corners are nearer to the source of welling joy than some would think. I think the closer I get to the darker pains of Imugan, the closer I’ll get to truer joy and life.