Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Grizzly Bears and Tears and Saying Good-bye

Just an ordinary evening.

I was reading an animal book to Josiah and Lily before bed.  We came to a page with a pretty scary Grizzly Bear on it, and Lily got a little freaked.  I quickly turned the page and declared we would skip that part.

Suddenly, Josiah leaped off the couch.  He started crying hysterically and shouting, "I want to read that page!  I want to read that page!"  It was as if I had cut his favorite toy into pieces and fed it to the birds.

I just stared at him, stunned, for a few moments.  What the..?  Granted, Josiah has been prone to fits, but this was.....ridiculous.

I sternly sent him to his bed until he could get a hold of himself.  He proceeded to sit there and cry and yell for at least 10 minutes.

I reasoned with him.  I cajoled him.  I hugged him.  I threatened to discipline him (which is usually what would happen), but I stopped short because some sort of Mommy-instinct told me that this was not really about the Grizzly Bear.

Finally, as I was helping my hysterical child get ready for bed, he finally blurted out, "I'm never going to see Eli again!  And he is my best friend in America!"


There it was.

Grace and Josiah had been attending on-site classes once a week as part of our homeschool charter.  Eli had been the only other boy in Josiah's class, so they were definitely buddies.   And the day of the Fit of the Century had been their last day.

My little guy was grieving.

Of course, then Grace started crying over losing her friends, and Lily always loves a good reason to cry.  I tried to hold myself together as we talked about what we will be leaving behind, but what we will be gaining in return.

About this time last year, I wrote this post where I asked if you would be my friend in America.  And the wonderful thing is, you have!  So many amazing people have invited us into their homes and lives and hearts, and we have felt so embraced and so loved.

But the hardest part about that is that it was only one year.  We formed all these connections, which is what we wanted to do, and now we're leaving.  What am I supposed to do with that?

It's just sad, and hard.  And good, all at the same time.  Try explaining that to your kids.

Josiah finally calmed down.  "Will you pray with me, Mommy?"  he asked.

We thanked God for all the wonderful friends He has given us this year.  We are so blessed.

Our tears are evidence of that.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Just Being People

All year, we've been Gil and Amy, the missionaries.  Everywhere we go, we talk about Tanzania.  Almost every conversation is about Tanzania.

Of course, it's great and all and we love it.  But having that identity all year gets exhausting.  It's like trying to live up to some sort of ideal.  

But on Thursday nights, we got to be Gil and Amy, the people.  

When we came back to California, we asked our church leadership how we could best serve.  They asked us to take over the college group for the time we were here.  The current leader was overstretched and needed a break.

Of course, we were thrilled.  The college group at Faith is how we met each other, and we had also served as its leaders when Gil was in seminary 10 years ago.  We love college students!  

So on Thursday nights, we get to just be Gil and Amy, and hang out with this crazy bunch of students.  We get to teach on worldview, which is quite possibly our favorite thing to teach on.  We get to talk about college life and apologetics and modern culture and all things Disney (since there is a bit of a Disney obsession among certain members....).

The only thing weird about this year is that we knew a lot of these students when they were in kindergarten.  In fact, we were their Sparks' leaders.  

But we couldn't possibly be that old.  

We love you guys.  So thankful we got to do this year with you and just be Gil and Amy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I'll Follow You

Seriously, it's like I'm thirteen years old again.  My emotions are all over the place.

One minute I'm like, I can't wait to go back to Tanzania!  I'm excited about our new ministry and learning more Swahili and amazing pineapple and my friends and I LOVE MY LIFE!

And then, two minutes later, I am freaking out.  What are we thinking?  What if we are not prepared for this?  What if we let everybody down?  How can we possibly go live in AFRICA?  What if we blow it?  What if we get dengue fever?  What if we get robbed?  

Come on, Amy.  Get a grip.

When the sea is calm and all is right
When I feel Your favor flood my life
Even in the good, I'll follow You
Even in the good, I'll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves
When I wonder if You'll keep me safe
Even in the storms, I'll follow You

Even in the storms, I'll follow You  

Right now, I'm in that weird place between worlds.

HOPAC recently posted pictures of the Talent Show.  That was my baby for the last three years, and I yearned to be there.

During the same week, our home church started advertising their women's October.  I yearn to be there.

I see it in my children too.  One day, Grace will skip and jump and count the days until we go back.  The next day, she'll cry about leaving her grandparents and friends in America.  Why are you taking me away from them?  

People ask us all the time, Do you like it there?  Are you excited to go back?  Tanzania's home now, right?  

And I just sort of smile and laugh and say yes, because it's way too complicated to try to describe what I feel.

I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You

The tickets are purchased.  We arrive back on Tanzanian soil exactly two months from today.

When I find myself so far from home
And You lead me somewhere I don't wanna go
Even in my death, I'll follow You
Even in my death, I'll follow You

When I come to end this race I've run
And I receive the prize that Christ has won
I will be with You in Paradise
I will be with You in Paradise

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Sacrifices Most Don't See

When I was five years old and my parents were preparing to move to Liberia, my grandmother was so furious that she threatened to contact a lawyer to try to get custody of my brother and I away from them.

In contrast, last week my mom said to me, Your job is to follow God's calling.  Our job is to release you to pursue God's calling.

My grandmother really, really loved us and couldn't accept us being so far away.  My parents really, really love their grandchildren too.  Being separated from them by 10,000 miles is excruciating.  Every time we talk about our upcoming departure, my mom and I get all teary.

Most of the time, the emphasis is only on the missionary and the sacrifices they make.  But hidden behind the banner of missions are others who are forced to make equally difficult sacrifices--the ones who are left behind, and who didn't get to choose to be there.

We made the choice to live so far away from our families.  And yet, they have to suffer the consequences.

So today, I want to honor those who are our biggest supporters, our biggest fans, even though every day we are gone leaves a hole in their hearts.

My mom (known to my kids as Bibi) handles the American side of our finances when we are in Africa.  She is my personal shopper, and so many of my emails start with, Do you think you can find__________? or We just need a little bit more of __________.  She is the first one to be concerned, the first one to pray, the first one to listen.  When we are home, she stocks her closet with crafts and patiently pushes a four-year-old on her bike a mile to the park.

My dad (known to my kids as Babu) is the first one I go to with missions questions.  He is famous for his pancakes and even more famous for sneaking desserts to his grandchildren.  He has taken each child out for breakfast dates on numerous occasions, and dutifully rides the roller coaster at Happy Hollow--over and over.

And of course, Gil's parents love us just as much.  Grandpa does our taxes and is also an expert roller-coaster rider, and Grandma can find anything at a garage sale--even cars, which she has bought for us more than once.  They have driven an hour each way every Saturday just to watch all of our kids' sports games this year.  They drive an hour each way every Thursday evening to baby-sit while we lead college group.

I really can't imagine any two sets of grandparents who are so devoted to their grandchildren.  And yet, we continue to take those children away from them.

And yet, they smile.
And they support us.
And they love us unconditionally.
Even though they miss almost every birthday, every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every ball game.  Years go by before they see their grandchildren again.

But they smile, and they are so brave.

I know very well that this does not characterize all parents of missionaries.  I have a number of friends whose parents are bitter, or angry, or emotionally distant because of their children's decisions, and the missionary has to make the excruciating choice between obeying God or making their families happy.

We feel so blessed that our families have chosen joy, and courage, and unselfishness.  They have given us to God, and given us the freedom to follow Him, despite how much it hurts.

Bibi and Babu and Grandma and Grandpa, we love you so much.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

P.S. Oregon and Washington

Remember that cross-country trip we did in the fall?  Well, there were a few states we missed out on.

So for the last two weeks, we traveled in our Odyssey again, and this time we went north.  So you could call this the "post script" to our epic cross-country trip.  

We got to see all these wonderful friends:

Redding, CA:  Ron and Carolyn, the first director of HOPAC 

Quincy, CA:  Jay and Diane

Oregon:  Our nephew, Alex

Also Oregon:  Debbie, my wonderful friend from college

Washington:  Eric and Holly, co-workers and friends from Tanzania

Pat and Carol, long-time family friends

Janelle, and her brand new baby boy Samuel--only five days old!

Mark and Jan--friends from Tanzania

Jim and Lisa--more friends from Tanzania (principal at HOPAC)

Sean and Becky--my college roommate!

And we got to do all these wonderful things!

visiting Shasta Dam

at Jay and Diane's house....with their zip line and ultimate game room...they have the best house ever!

Debbie got us a sweet hotel room right on the Oregon coast

at Pike's Market in Seattle

Seattle Space Needle

Jim and Lisa took us to an amazing dinner at the top!

Four very good friends back together again

No one would really believe they are only six months apart....but they are sure buddies!

It was warm and sunny while we were in Seattle.  We were assured by everyone that we must have brought Southern California weather with us, which we were happy to do, of course!

Pretty special when children of friends become friends themselves.

Once again, we were blown away by the kindness and incredible hospitality of our friends.  How blessed we are!