It has been one year since we left Ethiopia. Even just saying that out loud, seems strange. One year. August 6, 2013 we left our home in Hawassa for an early morning flight on the 7th. The majority of air travel in Ethiopia seemed to happen at night and our flight was scheduled to depart at 1:15am. The kids were exhausted by 2am when we could finally board the plane. I remember Andrew carrying David on the plane and putting him into the seat, as he had fallen asleep around midnight. David actually woke up the next morning in Istanbul, Turkey with no memory of how he got there; a little disorientating to say the least.
One year. My mind keeps going back to that. The past 12 months have been a whirl wind, guess we are still waiting to “get settled”.
It doesn’t seem like all that long ago when we were packing up our bags to leave for Ethiopia. Making lists upon lists. Just the other day I found a list from last summer, containing items which we wanted to bring back to Ethiopia when we returned after our furlough – guess we don’t need that list anymore.
So much time is spent in preparing to leave for the field. Truthfully, a person really does need to plan for a move to other side of the world. Knowing that one must pack three years of school books and kids clothes makes it harder. How much do you really expect your children to grow in three years? Then don’t forget about the shoes. The kids will probably wear them out before they can be passed down to the younger sibling, not like a t-shirt or a pair of shorts.
There are books written on preparation, sermons and lectures given on going, but it is harder to find people truthfully talking about returning. It’s not too difficult to have people support you in prayer while you are getting ready to go. Nor is it hard for people to continue to pray for you while you are gone, many will even give financially too. But what about when you come back? It seems that many people just don’t know what to do, including the missionary.
These are the things nobody likes to talk about. Many people say “that’s ok”, but you still don’t feel like it’s all ok. Other well intending people say “it will take time” but its been 12 months already, but maybe they meant 13 months will make it all better. Some people say “That’s the Lord’s Will” – like this statement should give me warm fuzzies all over. Or my personal favourite “It’s ok if you couldn’t handle it”, like that is some sort of comfort or reassurance to me. You just want to shout back – we didn’t want to leave!
It makes me remember all that “wonderful” advice we were given when we were trying to have children. I even had someone actually tell me “maybe you are doing it wrong”… Really?? They never knew how my arms ached and longed to hold a child, then to come so close, only to have it taken back. And now, not understanding what a missionary goes through when they leave the field, especially when it is a sudden departure like we had. I suppose they just spit out advice because they think it’s the “comforting” thing to do.
When a missionary comes back home, for whatever reason, they don’t fit. We don’t feel at home in our “home” culture anymore and we miss the old culture; it’s a terrible struggle between the two. Sometimes people like us even need to decide what is their “home” culture. Is it Canada? Is it Texas? Maybe an odd blend of the two. From Canada, known for peace, to Texas, where some women actually carry hand guns in their purses. Not going to get into the gun debate here at all, but there are two extremes of the scale; and both are supposed to be my culture? Where do I fit into that? That mixed up sense of belonging is not something that can be un-packed as quickly as my suitcase can.
All things considered we are doing quite well. For being willing to give a lifetime of missionary service in Africa, then having it suddenly cancelled, well, that was quite the adjustment. But the God who guided the Israelites through the desert, the God who led Joshua around Jericho, and the God who provided for Ruth in unexpected ways – is still the same God we serve. We will serve Him in Africa or in North America, wherever He want’s us to be.