Editor’s note: Joel Barkman grew up as a missionary kid. Kara had never considered missions. After they married, they felt God calling them to reach Spaniards through art and music. They signed on with SEND, raised support, went through training — and now they’re gone. But they’re taking us with them. For the next year, Joel and Kara will share here about their experiences as first-term missionaries in Spain. Click here to read about how they felt before they said goodbye, and here for their first dispatch from Spain

By Joel Barkman in Span — Well, it happened. Everyone said it would happen, but I thought (hoped) it wouldn’t hit me like it did. I’m a missionary kid, after all, and I’m supposed to be more flexible and easy-going than others. I think my pride in that identity made it that much harder when that point — being totally frustrated and feeling helpless in this new culture — finally did hit me.

It wasn’t a big deal, really — it was the buildup of small events leading up to the moment when I felt entirely overwhelmed.

Back in March, we bought (and paid for) some furniture at a store near our new home. Our couch was delivered within two days, and we were told that our living room chair and headboard were two weeks and five weeks out, respectively.

When we called in two weeks for our chair, they told us another month. A month came and went. Our headboard arrived, but still no chair.

We were getting excited to wrap up this whole chair-procurement process, but disappointment hit again.

Just about every time we wanted to ask about our furniture, we needed someone to help us, as we were not yet advanced enough in Spanish. One month turned into two, and finally in May when we went to check on our chair (by ourselves this time), they told us one more week. We were getting excited to wrap up this whole chair-procurement process, but disappointment hit again. When we checked a week later, they told us to come back in July!

Up to this point, I felt like I was able to keep my calm, as we had co-workers who had to wait up to several months to get their orders from this same store. In our broken Spanish, we explained as best as we could that we wanted our money back. The lady helping us looked over our receipts, looked kind of confused, then handed us some cash, rambling on about something. Eager to get out of there, I just said, “Vale, vale,” (“Okay, okay”) and we headed out to the car.

That’s when Kara asked, “How much did she give you back?”

In my rush, I hadn’t even counted the money, and I had signed off on the return after receiving only half of what we had paid!

Now the situation was even more complicated. We called our “big sib” — a fellow global worker who had helped us with our initial shopping, but he was too busy at the moment to come help us out. He suggested we head right back into the store and make it right, but that was the last thing I felt like doing at that moment. I was afraid they would just say, “Why did you sign it if it wasn’t the right amount?”

Thanks to Kara, who was feeling less fed up with the whole thing than I was, we went back in and explained the situation (again, in very broken Spanish) as best as we could.

The whole situation had me exhausted; I honestly haven’t felt that overwhelmed in a very long time. And I couldn’t figure out why.

It ended up not being a big deal, and we got the rest of our money back without any hassle. But the whole situation had me exhausted; I honestly haven’t felt that overwhelmed in a very long time. And I couldn’t figure out why.

Looking back now, I think I had very high expectations of myself. I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed or helpless; my pride wanted to prove that I was up for anything. I wanted to be strong, but God quickly reminded me how dependent on him I am.

Thankfully, Kara had more grace and patience with me than I was having toward myself, and was a great encouragement to me. I am so grateful for Kara’s help and companionship, and continue to grow in awareness of my own pride and helplessness, and how God alone can sustain me, whether I realize it or not!


More from the First Year on the Field