We’re a world away. It’s been almost three years.
Sometimes those seven years on the field feel like a dream, but the soil of that season clings in both hidden and obvious ways.
We went because of a clear call. We stayed through earthquakes, teammates leaving, medical traumas, kids coming unraveled, depression, and repeated changes in ministry direction as one door after another closed. Each dark season found us asking again if we were to stay. Yes, (and sometimes only that) was the answer.
Every now and then there were glimpses of fruit: a transformative conversation, a chance to share the hope we have, a sense that because of the love of Christ in us, someone was being changed. But the deepest soul-plowing, change, and growth seemed to be happening in our own lives. We were learning the long road of obedience, learning by experience a theology of suffering and surrender. And we kept planting seeds.
Then one day it was time to go. Literally, from one day to the next we were shown the exit sign. We asked again, and again, Are we to stay? And this time the answer was No. God was merciful in His clear guidance. How do we explain that? A myriad small things lining up, pointing in one direction. Several large things also pointing in that direction. Mostly, though, a deep inner sense that we were hearing Him correctly.
So we left. Packed up, said farewells, rode a couple of long flights, dreamed together about what was to come next.
And those seeds? Friends still sometimes ask about them. What do we think is the legacy we left? What do we hope will happen with the work we did, the relationships we formed, the tiny bit of the kingdom we tried to help spread?
We ask those questions ourselves sometimes, still—usually silently and while lying in the dark, feeling how strange it is to be here now, in this place, thousands of miles away. It feels like a wound that’s not quite healed or a slightly shameful scar. I don’t know why. Maybe because there’s no way to answer, though we feel like we should have an answer.
I don’t know what will happen to those seeds. Maybe the only ones that will grow and bear fruit will be the ones planted in me during that time, though some small measure of faith inside me believes that some of those seeds will sprout toward eternity. Someone else will water. God will give the increase.
I keep coming back to this: we obeyed the call to go, the call to remain, and the call to return. We did what was given us to do, and we know the way of Jesus better now. The rest belongs to Him.
Friends of ours from our church here in Baltimore put out an album recently. The band is Sojourne, and I’d love for you to listen to the title track, “These Seeds,” which inspired this post, especially if you’re wondering what will happen to the seeds you’ve planted (or are planting).
Rachel E. Hicks was born in the foothills of the Himalayas and spent the bookends of her childhood in India, with moves to Pakistan, Jordan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Hong Kong in between. She married her college sweetheart and managed to live in one place for seven whole years (Phoenix, Arizona) before God’s call moved them and their two young children to East Asia. There, they lived and taught holistic ministry alongside a local partner for another seven years. They repatriated to the U.S. in mid-2013 and now live in Baltimore, Maryland. Rachel writes poetry, fiction, essays, and blog posts and works as a freelance copyeditor. A few of her favorite things include: electric scooters, spicy Sichuan food, hiking, and unhurried time to read. Read more of her writing at rachelehicks.com.