The other night I dreamed that I found a garage sale here in Costa Rica… a real, American style garage sale. I spent the majority of my dream “shopping” and finding wonderful bargains. But when I went to pay I discovered that the only money I had in my pocket was a faded, out-of-circulation $2 bill and an old Confederate Bond from the Civil War. (No, I haven’t watched Gone with the Wind lately.) Both of those bills might have been worth something just for historical value, but not at a garage sale. I was disappointed to have to give up my great bargains.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m complaining, because I’m not. I know that there are plenty of people in the world with far less clothing than I have. But I get so sick of my wardrobe! We are in our 4th year of this term, and I haven’t bought very many new items for two reasons. One, clothing is super expensive here- like 2x or 3x the price in America. A friend of mine found a blouse with a Marshall’s tag still on it. The tag said the cost was $17.99 but the Costa Rican price was more than $65 for that blouse. It’s sickening! Second of all, I have yet to find a store that regularly carries my size. You know how all those size 1s and 2s and 3s, all those extra small items that get left on the rack in the U.S. and you think, “Of course no one bought this. Who is really this size except junior high girls and starving super models?” Yeah, well all those left over wafe-sized clothing items get shipped to Costa Rica where EVERYONE can be a size 2 no matter what your body shape! So realistically, I don’t fit into the clothing here and I’m as ordinary as vanilla when it comes to body size.
So new clothing is not available or affordable. And we don’t rotate our closets for the seasons here unless you count pulling out umbrellas and rain boots during the rainy season months. I see the same clothing in my closet day in and day out. Things are getting very thread bare and worn. Moths are eating some things and the sun is fading others. Seams are fraying and undergarments are literally “holey underwear”… and I don’t mean we’ve converted to Mormonism. Every time I fold laundry I pray that the Lord would keep us covered for another few months until we go home on furlough. I remind myself that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and God provided every day so that not even their sandals wore out! I need that miracle for our family.
I used to wonder at (and be a little ashamed of) missionaries coming off the field. They always looked so woefully out of style and faded. “Shabby.” I thought. “Why can’t you just buy a fashion magazine and see what the rest of us are wearing before you get off the plane looking as out of place as Micheal J. Fox in Back to the Future.” Hey McFly! But now I know. Now I know that even if they wanted to be in style- it just wasn’t possible. The money to buy clothing wasn’t there. The variety of styles and sizes might not have existed in their field. And clothing had become a utility- serving a purpose without being fashionable. They had, by necessity, chosen function over form. Now I understand.