It’s been nearly five years since we accepted the position to serve abroad. We are now in our third year of our second placement and we are in the throes of preparing for our first furlough. By the time we once again step onto U.S. soil, it will have been nearly five years since we have seen most of our supporters.
I should be ecstatic to be going “home.” I should be counting down the days until I can once again hug all my family and my friends, with my favorite cup of coffee in hand. People are going to expect me to be over the moon. I even expect enthusiasm from myself.
But, to be honest, I am not. I am not ecstatic, excited, or enthusiastic. To be honest, I don’t want to go.
I feel weary. I’m weary of explaining why we moved to Africa with our babies. I’m weary of explaining why we delivered a third child here and didn’t go back to the States for his delivery. I’m weary of having conversations about hard things to people who haven’t been here and won’t be able to understand in a deep way, no matter how good-intentioned the listeners may be.
I feel afraid. I’m afraid of questions that people may ask that I might not have an answer for. And yet, at the same time, I’m afraid of shallow questions that don’t get to the heart of what we do and why we’re here – of why we love being here. I’m afraid of blending into the shadows in a place that doesn’t really know me anymore. Here, I’m seen and known; here, I have a community.
I’m afraid of who I become when I’m there. The old habits that are too easy to pick back up again; the complacency that comes naturally when I’m in a place where life is easy.
I feel anxious. I’m anxious about others’ expectations that I can’t – or just plain don’t want to – live up to. I’m anxious about our crazy, ridiculous travel schedule that will have our family moving nearly every day for six months. (We do have some rest and down-times scheduled in, but most of the time we’ll be on the go.) How will our family handle all that travel?
I’m anxious about being “homeless” once again. I hate not having a place where our family can just be. We love our parents deeply and are incredibly grateful for their generosity for letting us stay with them between the long road trips, but it’s very, very different from having a place to actually just be a family. It is painful to not have a home.
At the same time, I’m already grieving leaving our home here. When we return, we’ll be moving to a different part of our host country. We’re very excited about this shift and know that it’s the right thing for our family and our ministry, but I love our community here. I love our town. I love our house. I love my daughter’s dance class and all my kids’ friends. I love our church!
I’m grieving our routine and normalcy. I’m grieving all the things we’re going to miss out on while we’re away: another ministry milestone as more students graduate, Easter with our church family, my oldest being able to celebrate her birthday with her friends, the annual women’s conference. I’m grieving a life we’ve made here and one that we love!
I feel hopeful. I am hopeful for all the beautiful things we will get to be a part of. I am hopeful for the wonderful family times and reunions we will have. I am hopeful that our kids will get to experience (and love) parts of our homeland. I am hopeful for times of rest and celebration.
I am hopeful that God will show Himself faithful time and again – and that is a hope that does not disappoint! His promise to go with us and before us is sure and He has proved Himself faithful over and over again in our lives. We can know that He will be faithful this time, just as He has all the times before.
We remember the truth of Isaiah 40:31: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Let our hope be in the Lord, and let us wait on Him today!
The writer and her family are both looking forward to this next phase of their life abroad and also grieving the past. They deeply feel the paradox that is cross-cultural living. She invites you in to hear the pains and joys of cross-cultural life. For those who are in this life, may you be encouraged. And for those who are receiving those who live cross-culturally, may you receive them well while extending grace on both sides.