You may notice the seemingly contradictory title I’ve given to Part 2.
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog the past few months know the repeating theme has been one that recognizes that home is no longer a place for me. It is everywhere and it is nowhere that God is and asks me to be. Granted, there are places where things are more familiar and I am a normal, functioning member of society that understands all the cues, subtexts and responsibilities that come with living there (i.e. America), but home has a fuller meaning than mere familiarity now.
That being said, I am now leaving one home for another.
I woke up with a start about a week or so ago, and just looked around my room… across my cement floor that needed to be swept, my mosquito net above me like some great cage, the pictures of my family and friends on my wall. Each image was made fuller with the sounds of a typical morning in the village: greetings between the mamas come to draw water from our tap, the occasional chicken breaking into the only song that God has given them to sing, Pilot chasing the cat around the yard. I took all this in in what felt like a millisecond and the typical morning was abruptly punctuated with this reality that felt so heavy:
This isn’t forever.
What is it about being young that makes us feel like whatever we’re inside of at a given moment is eternal? What is it about a commitment for a time, like college or a job or even a year on the mission field that makes us think things are forever? When you reach the end of what you supposed to be “forever”, as if you’re standing on the edge of great expanse of the light that Reepicheep was said to have found at the conclusion of the sea… What are you supposed to do?
I’ve felt like the Great Deceiver, especially with my kids, walking around knowing that I’m leaving them soon. To have little Albert look up at me, with his eyebrows all furrowed into his typical face of concern and have him ask, “How many more days?” or to hold Kasian as he relaxes in my arms with the untainted trust that only a four-year-old can give… to watch tubby little Lyda and Shofri play their games in the yard or to have one shy girl from Standard 6 ask me if I’m leaving for forever… It’s too much to imagine thatI could potentially be saying goodbye forever. It’s even worse to imagine all the little ones that I’ve spent time with stretching upwards in height and facing all that growing up entails without me.
Albert will become a teenage boy in only a few years. Keli will start Standard 1 in January, along with Venaci, David and countless others. Gasipa will graduate from Primary school in two or three years. Baby Paskali will start talking in just a few months; he’s already learned to walk during the time I’ve lived here. Wini just finished Standard 7 and she’s only a few years away from being married with little ones of her own. Jerry is learning to read in Standard 1 and is top of his class.
It sounds terribly egotistical. After all, what was I? I didn’t give birth to any of these children. They aren’t mine. Maybe it’s more of what they were to me than what I ended up being to them. God was gracious tome and gave me welcoming little arms, and open little hearts to a “very, very white” girl who was a stranger in a strange land. Children understand better than most adults how to treat someone who feels left out or odd, and they have been my little guardian angels since I arrived here. The greatest irony of missions for me has been feeling like the people I’ve been sent to love and serve were actually sent to serve and love me.
To imagine having learned this new way to live, knowing my Tanzanian family, growing with my team, facing the “great, wide somewhere” and then to simply say, “It’s been real”, and then leave seems ridiculous.
I feel like on the morning of the fourth, when we’re supposed to begin our drive to Dar, the great joke is going to be revealed and I’ll just laugh and say, “Just kidding. I’m staying here! How could I actually be leaving?”
There’s so much I’ve learned to love about you.
There’s so much that I’ll miss about you.
And it’s mostly your people–my friends.
It’s every moment I spent, barefoot, covered in dirt, running with my babies, laughing and visiting with the mamas, worshiping in a new tongue, cooking over charcoal, sitting on my rock at 6 am watching the sunrise during my devotions, teaching bible stories to the kids, pretending I knew how to teach English and also how to handle medical problems like typhoid or cholera, smelling the fires burning on our mountain, drinking in all the song and color and life that burst from every khanga, every person, every second of relationship here. It’s how real God became to me, more thick and audible than any other place…and how I will always feel like He is also called “Mungu” and how there is no one like Him. It’s how I won’t have to lose that just because I lose this place.
Yes, I’m excited to be in a country where I can wear pants and have my family with me and enjoy overpriced, whipped beverages from Starbucks. But I know for a fact at the end of the day, when I finally have a chance to “rest” in my own room at home in America, in silence, I’m going to open up my camera just so I can hear my kids’ voices again because it’s too lonely to be without them.
Tanzania, you were the hardest thing I’ve ever had to live through and you were the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
God teaches us each different. He is not an “one size fits all” sort of Lord, besides the fact that His one time sacrifice was enough for each of us, from every tribe, tongue and walk of life. He pulled me overseas with a week warning, decimated every form of familiarity and comfort and brought me face to face with all my fears. That isn’t the story for everyone, but it’s part of my story. And I love Him for it.
And so, here I am, at 22 years old, living out the story that maybe I chose, maybe I was given–maybe both (I’m honestly disinterested in spending more time theologizing about which it is)–like we all are. Some are married, some are engaged, some have babies, some are moving, some are starting new jobs, some have direction, some don’t. And some are returning from Africa, unsure of what the future holds, but full of hope.
It is all beautiful.
It is all worth celebrating.
Every bit of it.
the things that made your heart soar
and the things that make your heart crack.
You aren’t doing something wrong because your story doesn’t look like someone else’s.
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded that there is nothing better than to be happy…people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. Talk is cheap… Fear God instead.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:11 – 13, 4:7
Do whatever you do, and live wherever you are as if it’s a divine charge entrusted to you. Love your wife. Love your husband. Be in love. Be single. Be in school. Be working. Be like everyone else. Be different. Make coffee like you’re painting the Mona Lisa. File documents away like everything you touch is imprinted with His kingdom. “Living for God”, as we’re so apt to phrase what we imagine to be spiritual living, doesn’t have to be as vague or idealistic as we’ve made it.
This is my challenge to you all, and to myself. I’m on that missionary high that’s nearly as bad as right before I came out here last year. It feels like nothing can bring me down, like everything in my life makes sense, like I’m a part of a big adventure that’s only just beginning. And when that feeling is disrupted by the reality that being home, living with my parents, being unemployed and having to re-learn how to be an American, I will still cling to that truth.
I am more or less ready to go, and more or less not ready to go.
But I am not alone in it all.
Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.
– Philippians 1:25 – 26