Thursday, November 20, 2014

There’s No Place Like Home

Since we can’t go back to Liberia right now because of the Ebola crisis, many have asked what we do while we’re in America. Obviously we don’t have regular 8-5 jobs to get up and go to every day, but we aren’t sitting back with our feet up either. In fact, we keep a very busy schedule.

While our hearts break for the devastation in Liberia, we are still enjoying a break from the difficulties of living in a third world country. That’s not to say we don’t miss many aspects of our life there too.
For a Halloween costume contest at PetSmart, Angel dressed as the cowardly lion, Noah dressed as the scarecrow and Audrey dressed as Dorothy. We’ve had quite the Wizard of Oz theme going on in our lives these last few months. That might explain why Audrey has insisted on watching the Wizard of Oz every night before bed for two weeks straight. There is something in there that she relates to. There is no place like home.
Since coming back to the States, John-Mark has continued to work, any chance he gets, on the Bible translation project. But besides that, we’re taking the opportunity to visit and update our supporting churches and partners. In the last month, we had over 50 meetings with about 15 of them being formal presentations. And yes, that is with two toddlers in tow. 

In the last month or so, we’ve slept in 15 different places, in 8 different states.

In the last month, Audrey and Noah have met hundreds of new wonderful people, bonded with them, and then had to say good-bye. We feel greatly blessed to get to spend some of this time seeing people we love most. And then, occasionally, we’d feel the Ebola stigma and not get to see some we love.
And yet, Audrey’s prayer list before each meal remains more or less the same. “Dear Jesus, thank you for bringing Angel back to Audrey’s house. I pray for Mulbah. Mohammad. Makemeh. Small John-Mark. Daniel. Mamasan. Mamakula. Uncle Steve. Amen.” These are her friends in Liberia. There is no place like home.

As we crossed states lines, Audrey and Noah clapped and cheered, excitedly saying, “We’re not in Kansas anymore! We’re in Tennessee! We’re in Kentucky!” As exciting as these moments are, Audrey is also left saying out loud, “Where is Audrey’s bed? Audrey’s house is in Africa.” Similarly, Audrey and Noah’s 2-year old cousin, Caleb, who’s family is on deputation, exclaims, “We don’t have a house anymore! Our house is gone!”

Such is the life of missionary kids. They rarely feel settled and children especially are left wondering, “where really is home?” As they grow older, they try to figure out how to answer the question almost everyone asks, “So, where are you from?”

Entering Emerald City: getting cleaned up and putting the best foot forward to meet the wizard where one will be deemed worthy enough or not to be granted their wish. Many pastor’s kids and missionary kids feel to some degree, a pressure to always have their act together. They feel they are expected to behave perfectly because they are constantly on display. Everyone is watching the missionaries and pastors. Moms and dads also feel the pressure at church and during presentations to keep their kids under complete control and then beam with pride as their toddler prays out loud a heartfelt prayer all on her own. After all, if a missionary doesn’t have their family completely under control, how can they possibly have a thriving ministry in a third world country? Of course most people probably are not being judgmental at all. We put the pressure on ourselves.

So, to fight to urge to look and act perfectly during presentations, we’ve tried to give the kids space to just be themselves. Since Audrey is the most vocal, she has done the most embarrassing things while visiting partners. Including, but not limited to: telling a friend that her baby has funny eyes (even though there was absolutely nothing unusual about them. She told one middle aged woman that there was a baby in her tummy. And worst of all, she repeatedly called another proper, Southern woman, Janis, by another word ending in "is" and starting in "p". And we even let Audrey lay down on the floor in front of the entire congregation as we gave a ten minute update. That happened twice. We try not to push them to perform in front of groups to do the amazing little things we know they can do. We recognize that these two little ones have been through a tremendous amount of transition in the last couple months and just like the rest of us, need grace. As we say in our presentation, we are regular people with doubts, fears, and struggles just like everyone else.
So, in the coming months, we will brave the lions, tigers and bears (also known as the Wisconsin winter). And since Audrey’s little ruby slippers don’t seem to magically bring her back home to Liberia, we’ll wait out the Ebola storm and make the very most of our time on this side of the rainbow.