On multiple fronts
A huge misconception that I had about home assignment was that it would be a time of rest and recovery. On previous flights back to America, I had the feeling as if a weight was lifting off my shoulders. A certain stress is ever-present as part of life in new culture. So 4 1/2 months in the land of fast food and smooth highways should be peaceful, right?
Rather than R&R, trying to reinvent Hermione’s time turner – duplicating ourselves in order to be present in different places at once – may best describe the reality of home assignment. Being pulled in multiple directions, juggling competing thoughts and needs. . .there is no drive-through window for the big issues in life. But there is a ticking clock, we are now under 60 days until we return to Kenya. Blessedly, this week we are finally coming up for air and having a bit of a break and process how we are dealing with the major fronts in our lives.
The first front is thankfully becoming quiet – support raising. You (our friends, family, churches) have been so generous, and we are unbelievably grateful. We knew that we would be provided for, but there is a huge difference between knowing and experiencing. So many homes opened to us, many late night conversations, wise counsel, laughter, and love – we are grateful for the physical and emotional support we have been given in addition to financial.
Second front – family. Big decisions are happening faster than any of us could have planned, and though timing is never perfect for huge life events, now really is the best time to move forward. My mom has Alzheimer’s, and at the beginning of the year we moved her to a community where she can have more support and attention. We are walking with her through one of the biggest transitions of her life – trying with everything we have to show her our love in the midst of chaos. It’s an emotionally taxing process for everyone involved – packing, labeling, phone calls, visits, emails, crash-courses in finances and the challenges as memory fades.
Sandra, my sister, is also getting married before we leave, and we are deep in the details of dresses and food, music and invitations. As we reach for the expertise shooting 200 weddings has given us, we hope that she sees how much we love her in the details and even the stress. Family sacrifices so much for us to be in Kenya, and we look forward to her wedding in the forest and adding yet another member to our family.
Family has been amazing in letting us show up at the last minute, feeding us, giving us beds and laundry machines, and making us feel grounded in this transient time. The girls are spending significant time with their aunts, uncles, nana, papa, and cousins, which is really important for their future time back in America for college and adult life. We have had great time with Madeline and Belle – homeschooling, dancing in the car, the different situations allow us to watch them grow up right before our eyes.
Third front – Kenya. Intertwined in everything we are doing here is the knowledge that we are working toward a return to the place in Africa that truly has become our home. Kijabe is on our thoughts and prayers as we keep up with our friends over emails and Facebook. As the government doctors strike continues on our colleagues are working beyond their capacity. Our hearts are always with them, and in the back of our minds the question of what the outcome of these days will mean for medicine in Kenya (which has a ripple-effect on Kijabe).
We talk about our life in Kijabe daily, interspersed with catching up on the joys and struggles of friends and family here. We have already done some 15 formal presentations in addition to the countless one-on-one conversations at a dinner-table or around the fire. Several really large presentations are coming in the next few weeks to large audiences. Arianna is a brilliant speaker, but preparation takes serious work and putting our life on display before thousands of people is intimidating.
While Arianna does much of the speaking about Kijabe, I am still very involved in Friends of Kijabe non-profit work. Two years of ground-work culminated in a wildly successful campaign to raise funds for patient bills, which to enables the hospital to continue to operate as usual even as elective surgeries are cancelled during the height of the strike. Connected to the giving are thank you’s, accounting, year-end statements, wire transfers, and all the moving parts that go on behind the scenes at a non-profit. And then the dreaming. . .the conversations about what doors could open in the future years.
So what does all of this mean? Ultimately that we are weary, but in good hands. Serge refers to this time as home ministry assignment, which is a great description. Serge knows what we are discovering, that we can only have a home in Kenya because of relationships in America, with family well cared for and a strong team in our corner. I feel like day to day and minute to minute we are both pouring out and being poured into, ministering and being ministered to.
And that is a beautiful thing.