It was May of 1989. I was 12 years old, and my family was getting ready to leave the country where I had spent most of my childhood.
We were leaving Liberia to go back to California for a year-long home assignment. We packed up our house and put all our personal belongings into the spare room. Another family would stay there for the year we were gone.
The plan was that we would return in the summer of 1990, and would live in Liberia for my four years of high school.
But during that year we were gone, a civil war broke out in Liberia. It got worse. And worse.
And finally it got so bad, that all the missionary women and children were evacuated. Then the men were evacuated. The compound where I grew up was bombed. Many Liberian friends were killed. We never returned. My family was re-assigned to Ethiopia.
We lost everything. Everything we owned was in Liberia, and it was all looted. I lost my sixth grade journal, the painting my grandmother made me, and my childhood treasures. More significantly, I lost my home country, my identity, my innocence.
I never got to say good-bye, either to the country or the people I loved. Liberia haunts my dreams; it remains an unfinished part of my life to this day.
Now, it's May of 2013. I am all grown up now, and our family is getting ready to leave the country where we've spent 10 years. We are leaving Tanzania to go back to California for a year-long home assignment. I am packing up our house and putting all our personal belongings into a spare room. Another family will stay in this house for the year we are gone.
And I must admit; I am anxious. The feelings are too eerily familiar to what I experienced as a child--packing up, leaving everything behind, assuming I will return. So I find myself worrying that the same thing is going to happen again this time....that I will lose everything.
It's a mostly irrational fear. Tanzania is a far more stable country than Liberia was in 1989. But the truth is, you never really know what's going to happen in Africa.
If there is one thing this life has taught me, it's that I must hold loosely to everything. Everything. I can't put down roots anywhere; I will never find stability. I will never grow old in one house. I may someday have to evacuate with the clothes on my back. Or, I may just get robbed blind.
But it's okay. Because it reminds me that I shouldn't love this life too tightly anyway. This life is not all there is, and it's definitely not worth fretting over.
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. C. S. Lewis