For the past 2 years, I have been on call for the hospital every 3rd-4th night since I finished my language training. I have been in the hospital nearly every day, and aside from planned vacations, our lives have revolved around the people and events in that place only 200 feet up the hill.
Next week will mark the beginning of a 5 month mandatory furlough in the US as we transition from Samaritan’s Purse to Serge, and for a stretch of days, the hospital will not define the structure of our daily life. Kijabe will hold our hearts, our minds, but not our schedule.
These two years have been a time of incredible breadth and inexplicable depth. We have laughed with abandon. We have sobbed with deep angst. We have struggled with dilemmas of impossibility, and emerged in the vision of the possibilities those questions produce. We have shared meals, shared everyday conundrums, shared breathless walks up the mountain. We have thrown temper tantrums, worked through misunderstandings, and reveled in the challenge of getting fruit or planning baby showers. We have watched barriers melt away and have come to know our colleagues as friends and our acquaintances as confidants.
I have marched through the howling wind to the locked hospital door under the African stars more nights than I can reasonably count – to breathe for a baby, to comfort a mother, to greet yet another family who has brought their child to us for help. I have shared chai with the nurses and learned their stories. I have stood side by side with our amazing staff as we struggle with the wisp thin line that sometimes separates life and death.
I have watched green and nervous interns grow into strong, empathetic, and confidant clinicians. We have danced at weddings, connected over nyama choma (roast goat), said goodbye to friends moving on too soon, debated difficulties, and watched our children grow.
And in all of it, we have grown deep roots in this Kenyan place of the wind. . .
But while we have put down connection here, we have watched a parallel world move on without us in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
We have met nieces and nephews over FaceTime. We have seen jobs change, engagements and weddings happen. We have watched families fall apart and felt much too far away. We have watched children that used to greet us with hugs grow and become little people and real adults that don’t know us nearly as well.
We have seen the specter of what would have been if we had stayed.
We have celebrated in disjointed texts and videos what we would have done in a dinner party in our home. We have tried to connect well by words or overthought emails what would have been better to say with a hug and a quiet night of silence over a bowl of ice cream or a glass of wine. We have had the iPad passed from face to face as we try to connect on the holidays and realize with quietness we are the only ones not there.
Sometimes we have spanned the gap well. Other times the distance seemed to great or too painful, and we have retreated into the excuse of the ocean that separates us.
We live with daily contrast of settling but leaving, of building bridges while severing other connections. This paradox follows us in the beauty and strain of the day to day.
And so furlough, which is mandatory for most overseas missionaries, is daunting.
We are coming home.
We are leaving home.
We are unsure of the definition of the word home.
We are the same, yet deeply changed – but how we have changed, we have no idea.
We want to reconnect as if time has not passed, but we are aware – in story and pictures – that 2 years is a long time. Time has passed. Things have changed. Paradigms have shifted.
We want to share our story – but our story is also our life – our very real and often very messy life. So how do we share – how do we balance the tales of joy and tales of heartache? How do we capture two years in 30 minutes? How do we set the vision of the next ten years when we do not know the next twist or turn?
So we are returning to the US with anticipation, with joy, with hope of reconnection. . . but we are leaving with trepidation.
We will land with a few bags, out of fashion clothes, lots of hugs, and hearts tender and vulnerable.
We are excited and nervous, ready and yet unsure.
America. . .t-minus 10 days and counting.