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The Packing and the Unpacking


Editor’s Note: Lay Missioner Rhonda Eckerman discusses the uncharted waters of packing “do’s and don’ts” within the process of moving to her new mission site at the US-Mexico border. She shares the difficulty of packing tangible items, as well as the necessity of intangibly packing moments that bring a sense of home.


I recently packed my belongings to move to Douglas, Arizona where I plan to live for the next several years in community with those on the border. I had no idea how much anxiety this would cause as I deliberated on what clothes, shoes, skincare products, hair products and other items to pack. There is no missioner’s handbook with a chapter on packing “do’s and don’ts” for me to reference. The struggle between living simply and taking only what I need versus taking what I want and not necessarily need, was making me just a little crazy. I found I added and then removed items in my “take” pile and often felt guilty when I put in the “take” pile something somewhat luxurious and not necessary. For example, a stack of books that I would love to re-read, my blender, or a manicure kit with an electric nail file. Yet the list of “important and necessary items” grew as I included pictures of friends and family, a cork board to display these pictures, and a canvas bag of art supplies. I had become so obsessed that I found I was often packing in my sleep!

I was so preoccupied with the task of packing that the fact that I would be facing a more difficult task of leaving behind my friends and family completely eluded me. Once again I decided to change my list of important and necessary items removing the books, pictures, and art supplies so that I could pack in my bags one or two of my friends. Sadly, none of my friends would agree to be part of my “take” pile. So I had to go back to my original list.


Arriving at my destination after driving from Colorado Springs, Colorado to my new home in McNeal, Arizona, I spent the first day unpacking my car, carrying out so many bags, boxes and suitcases. It was when I was almost finished that I began to have an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and fear. What was I doing here? Am I sure this is God’s plan for me? However, these doubts did not stay with me for long as I began to unpack the pictures of my friends and family, encouraging cards and the handmade notebook of inspirational quotes from my friend, Nola. I have so much support and love that it never really mattered what I packed.

Here is what I know, I will not be the best choice to author the chapter for the missioner’s handbook on packing “dos and don’ts”, but I do know it is important to pack what brings you comfort and joy.

Rhonda is a Returned Missioner who served on the U.S.-Mexico border. As she prepared for her time on mission, she often reflected on the verse where Jesus says "I thirst" (John 19:28). Her first encounter with this verse was upon reading about Mother Teresa, who had such zeal about these two simple words. Focusing on the thirst of Jesus helps Rhonda draw nearer to Christ and love more deeply.