Friday, October 25, 2019

Anybody Out There Looking for People Like Us?

The main benefit of using a free little Google blogspot is I've never felt the need to do any advertising in this space.

Until today. Because today, I'm advertising, um, us. Gil and I. Our family. Anybody out there looking for people like us? After 16 years in Tanzania, we're moving to America, and we are starting over. We are open to wherever God leads us.

It feels weird to write about this, because we are still all in here in Tanzania. We are still very much fully immersed in our life and ministry here. We love our life; we are not anxious to leave. July still seems very far away and it feels early to start thinking about what will be next. Yet rationally, we know that it's not that far away, and we need to start planning.

It's been a really long time since we've lived in America, so we're pretty out of touch. Yes, we are checking out job listings and doing a lot of research, but I also have over 2000 people reading this blog, and most of them live in America. So.....hi guys! Want us to be your neighbors?

In all seriousness though, I'm wondering if any of you might have some ideas for us. Mainly because we aren't just looking for jobs that could use our set of skills and experiences, but because we are looking for a unique kind of community--a school, a church, or a neighborhood that will be a healthy place for our unique family to transition to life in America.

Whether it's a community or a job, we really could use your two thousand sets of eyes and ears out there to help us find a good fit.

Ready? Here we go.

Regarding community: We would love to know where pockets of African immigrants are living in the United States. Or maybe refugee communities, or multi-ethnic immigrant communities. We would love to hear about churches or schools that have high populations of refugees or immigrants. We would be thrilled to know about Christian schools or college towns where there are thriving international student ministries.

Regarding jobs: Gil and I are "all in" kind of people. We love holistic ministry; hospitality is our thing. We have extensive experience in education, theological training, TCK ministry, cross-cultural ministry, and missions. We would love to find a church, school, or non-profit that sees our experience overseas (and our multi-racial family) as a advantage, with something unique to bring to an organization. I'll write a little more about the specifics of Gil and I at the bottom of this post.

Bonus points if the community or job is in or near California. But even if it's not, we want to hear about it. (Be aware, though, that northeastern winters might kill us. So you'll have to tell God to make it really, really clear if we're supposed to head out in that direction.)

So. Got any leads for us? Feel free to share this post with anyone you think might be interested in us. Or send me your ideas to everyoneneedsalittlegrace(at)gmail.com.

Here's a little more about us:


Gil and Amy Medina have been Reach Global (Evangelical Free Church of America) missionaries for 17 years. We have four Tanzanian kids between the ages of 8 and 14.

Gil Medina, age 42
BA Biblical Studies, The Master's University
MA Theological Studies, Talbot Seminary

Experience: 2 years in church planting (youth ministry), 3 years as a college ministry leader, 8 years as Bible teacher/youth leader/chaplain (grades 6-12) at an International Christian School, 6 years as a theological trainer for church leaders in Tanzania.

Gil is a visionary, strategic thinker. He is a gifted Bible teacher and preacher, and specializes in taking complex theological concepts and making them understandable and relevant. His favorite teaching topics include Life of Christ, Romans, and Worldview/Apologetics, and he designed his own curriculum for almost all the classes he has taught. He loves discipleship, especially with young people. His other interests include photography and sports (he has coached youth/high school soccer and basketball for 20 years), and he is an avid reader.

Ideal positions include: Bible teacher (preferably post-high school but open to high school as well), international student ministry, college/young adult ministry, church outreach director, missions training/mobilization.

Amy Medina, age 42
BA Liberal Studies/Teacher Education, The Master's University
Post-graduate California Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential

Experience: 7 years as an elementary school teacher (grades K, 2, 5 and 6), 10 years as a part-time teacher/assistant chaplain/youth leader, 3 years as a school board member, 3 years as elementary school principal at an International Christian School (150 students, 20 direct reports).

My specialty is in being task-oriented, detailed, and efficient. I love training and encouraging others to do their jobs well. I love teaching kids and anything having to do with Christian education. Biblical worldview integration is a particular passion of mine. I am an avid reader and writer and a quick learner.

Ideal positions include: Administrative assistant for a school or non-profit organization, church children's director, refugee or immigrant ministry, international student or TCK ministry, ESL teaching, missions mobilization, elementary school education. (Though I absolutely love my job as a school principal right now, I won't be looking for a school leadership position in the near future.)

Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Some Things Just Make You Laugh With Delight

On Gil's bucket list for our last year in Tanzania was to see baby sea turtles hatch, one more time. We had seen this remarkable event several years ago, but our kids were too little to remember it. Gil had several contacts that were letting him know when a hatching would take place, but this particular beach is over two hours away, and he could never get us over there in time.

As we were driving to the beach for our vacation last week, Gil got a text: There would be a hatching the very next day, and it was only about a mile away from where we would be staying. How very, very kind of our gracious God!

Watching baby sea turtles hatch is one of life's most extraordinary experiences. The conservationist who opened the nest told us that we must not touch the turtles or carry them to the ocean. It's extremely important that they make the journey themselves, because as these tiny creatures frantically bolt their way towards the sea, their pea-sized brains are actually taking a GPS pin during their frenzied 50 meter journey. And someday, thirty years from now and after swimming thousands of miles, the females lucky enough to survive will return to the exact same beach to lay their own eggs.  

Some things are just so astonishing, all you can do is stand in awe, marvel in wonder, laugh with delight. 












Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Longest Friends


Last week was mid-term break (it's not called "Fall Break" around here; we don't have "Fall") and we went to our favorite beach for four days with our friends Tim, Emily, Caleb, and Imani. For all six of us Medinas, they are some of our longest friends in Tanzania.

We met Tim and Emily in 2002, just a few months after Gil and I had arrived in Tanzania. But what really brought us together was that Tim and Emily adopted Caleb just months before we adopted Grace. Then, Tim and Emily adopted Imani just months before we adopted Josiah. Caleb and Imani were Grace and Josiah's first friends, and now, their longest friends.

Tim and Emily don't live in Dar es Salaam, so we don't see them often--usually just a couple of times a year. They live in a remote part of Tanzania doing incredibly cool things. But for many years, whenever they were in town, they would stay with us, which meant that their kids and our kids did a lot of life together. In fact, for a few years, Caleb and Imani would join our kids at HOPAC whenever they visited.

Getting my children together with Caleb and Imani is always an amazing delight. Their personalities mesh perfectly; they enjoy each other; they bring out the best in each other. And their shared life stories make their relationships particularly special. And of course, Gil and I think their parents are pretty awesome too.

So last week was a magical four days with perfect weather, moonlit games of Capture the Flag, beach bonfires, giant succulent fish dinners, and laughter. Oh, so much laughter. It was Tim and Emily who first introduced us to this perfect beach many years ago, so it was fitting that we got to spend these days with them there--during what might be our last trip to this beach.








Reading Stronger Than Death





And since I'm feeling pretty nostalgic these days, knowing that these kind of times are coming to an end for us, I'll take you on a trip down Memory Lane with the Medina kids' friendship with Caleb and Imani.























Thursday, October 17, 2019

Yes, the Kids Know


Do the kids know? What do they think? That seems to be everyone's first question when they hear we are relocating to America.  

Yes, they know. We talked about it with them hypothetically for a long time, and they were the first people Gil and I told when we made the decision. 

Michele Phoenix, who has written extensively on the impact of transition on missionary kids, wrote: "Those who repatriate to their “home” country aren’t just moving from one state or province to another. They aren’t just losing a measurable number of people, places and 'sacred objects.' It’s the intangibles that exacerbate their grief and intensify their response to it. Missionaries’ Kids who are enduring transition have lost the languages, sounds, aromas, events, values, security, familiarity and belonging that have been their life—an integral part of who they are and how they view the world. When they leave their heart-home, it feels as if they’re surrendering their identity too.

Moving back is more than a transition for many MKs—it’s a foundational dislocation and reinvention that can take years to define and process."

I read this and nod, Yes. I experienced all of this myself, when I moved back to America at age 14, after spending much of my childhood in Africa. It was hard. I grieved a lot. I struggled with belonging and identity. Yet for me, my passport matches with my country of birth. I left a house in San Jose, went and experienced life in Africa for six years, and then returned to that house in San Jose. I had a sense of place in America. My children do not.

America is, quite literally, a foreign country to them. Though they are the children of missionaries, they won't be returning "home," they will be immigrants moving to a new land. They will be leaving their home--possibly forever.

We told the kids the news in June, just a few weeks before we went to the States for the summer. That trip was a good gift. It helped them to process the idea of leaving while they were visiting America, yet knowing that they still would be able to return to Tanzania for another year.

A lot of big emotions came out this summer. On a walk through my parents' neighborhood one evening, one child (who doesn't often get angry) expressed a mountain of anger about what is ahead. You are taking me away from my country! Anger at us. At circumstances. Let it out, I said. It's okay to be angry

Another night, I heard a different child's muffled sobs late in the night. I sat on the floor next to the sleeping bag and just listened. I don't want to leave my friends! I'm not going to know anybody in America! I'm not going to have any friends! I could relate to that, so I cried too. I don't want to leave my friends either, I said.

My biggest girl spent all summer doodling, I am a TCK on every piece of paper her pencil met.

In the past, they've always been excited to visit the States. McDonald's, Disneyland, Target: The Promised Land of Shopping and High Fructose Corn Syrup makes everybody giddy. But when we told them we would be moving there? No excitement. At all. Just tears. And a resigned acceptance. I recently asked Grace if there is anything she is looking forward to in America. Well, my family is there, she said dully. I'll be happy to be closer to them. That was all.

Since we returned to Tanzania in August, life returned to normal. Our days are full and we want to live fully without the weight of leaving over our heads. Besides, though a year is short for me, it is long for a child. There will be time for grief later. But I know it's coming. 

I struggle to find a category to put my children into. They are not typical missionary kids, since they belong to Tanzania more than Gil and I do. We didn't bring them here; they already were here. Moving them to America is probably similar to adopting older children internationally, except not quite. Traditionally adopted kids are leaving an orphanage--something sad--and joining a new family--something redemptive. But my kids won't be a leaving a sad situation. Grace is middle school president this year, and got bumped up to the high school varsity soccer team--as an 8th grader. Josiah is the fastest kid in his class. They'll be leaving a life that they love--a perfect life in many ways--surrounded by kids just like them, kids they've known since they were babies.

One of my kids asked, Can I go to a non-bullying school in America? I can't promise them that. I can't tell them everything will be okay. I can't tell them it won't hurt. I can't guarantee to myself that this will all turn out right in the end, that this is the right choice, that I won't have any regrets. So I worry, What have I done to my children?

The hardest year in my childhood was the year I turned 14. Liberia was torn away from me, my family was relocated to Niger, but before we could get there, we were relocated to Ethiopia. I found myself in a new country with no friends, no familiarity. I was grieving Liberia deeply. There was no high school for me, so I sat day after day in the elementary school library, by myself, trying to teach myself French and Physics through correspondence classes. By December, I was begging to go to boarding school, so in January, I relocated to another country again, transitioned again, grieved again--this time I had friends, but not family. And then at the end of that school year, my family was evacuated from Ethiopia and we began life in the States....again.

My parents' plans had been for me to spend all my high school years in Liberia, in stability and sameness. Transitioning through three countries and two schooling systems in the course of one year was not part of that plan, and all of us shed a lot of tears and endured a lot of stress. But you know what? I look back on that year as crucially important in helping me become who I am now. I grew up that year. My faith in Jesus became my own. The people I met and the things I experienced, even though it was a short time, indelibly impacted my "becoming."

I cling to this memory as I look towards taking my children through the biggest transition of their lives. I can't make it easy on them, and that crushes this mama's heart. But easy isn't always best.

Just last night I read this quote from one of the wisest women I know--Elisabeth Elliot:
And we parents, I'm sure, suffer sometimes a hundred times more than our children suffer. Although we think that the situation is worse than it is, what we can never visualize is the way the grace of God goes to work in the person who needs it. 


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Leaving.



We will be leaving Tanzania in July. Leaving and moving back to America.

Yeah, I'm kind of freaking out by seeing that in writing.

From the very beginning, way back in 2001, when people asked Gil and I how long we would stay on the mission field, the answer was always "indefinitely." We always knew we were in it for the long haul. We wanted to be overseas missionaries. Period. That was our life goal. There was no end in sight.

Of course, that's not to say we never wanted to leave. Anyone who has read this blog for a number of years knows that there were plenty of times I pined away for a different life. But we were long-haulers. And God always gave us good reasons to stay.

But as the years went by and we made more and more of a life for ourselves here, growing deep friendships and millions of memories and seeing the fruit of long-term ministry, the desire to leave disappeared.

Gil and I had decided, long ago, that when our eldest, Grace, started college, we would relocate back to the States. That always seemed so far in the future that we didn't really give it much thought. But then our kids started growing up. And we realized, that as wonderful as their lives are here, that we are setting them up for some serious identity issues. They are Tanzanian-born and raised, yet they are culturally American. Well, sort of. More like, culturally international. Being at Haven of Peace Academy is a perfect environment for them--they are surrounded by kids who also have mixed-up cultural identities, taught by teachers from multiple countries, living in a sort of pseudo-world of people just like them. It's awesome. But it's a bubble that will eventually pop....and then what?

Schools like HOPAC work for a lot of missionary kids and third-culture kids, because those kids have a passport country to return to--a place that should, at least a little bit, feel like home. But our kids, though they have U.S. passports, have never really lived in the States. Their childhoods have been peppered with several months here and there of chaotic, wild-ride, living-out-of-a-suitcase visits to America. They have no idea what life there is really like, and it's definitely not home.

We have our issues, America and me. It's not like I'm totally thrilled that I'm handing my children an American identity. But like it or not, it is what it is. And Gil and I are hoping and praying that by starting this transition while our kids are still kids will help them in the long run.

So beginning a couple of years ago, Gil and I had hypothetical conversations about when would be a good time to relocate for the sake of our kids. Then, a year and a half ago, we were caught completely off guard by circumstances that would limit our time in Tanzania. There's a lot I couldn't write about, and I still need to be vague, but you might remember when I started writing about the uncertainty we were facing about our future. In fact, there were times when we wondered if our departure would be imminent.

I recently found this in a school journal Josiah wrote last year. This entry was from a little more than a year ago:



So yeah. There's that. 

Since we were already thinking that we would need to relocate to the States sooner or later, the other issues we've been facing have pushed us to make the decision for sooner. Thankfully, we do still have this school year. We are incredibly grateful that God made a way for us to still be here.

For a while now, Gil and I have talked seriously, but hypothetically, about leaving next July. Let me tell you something--it is much, much easier to talk about a hard decision hypothetically than it is to actually make the decision. But by June, we had finally made the decision. Getting the words out of my mouth was excruciating; it felt like someone else was talking. I cried when we told our ministry partners. I cried when I told my parents. I cried when we told our missions committee. I cried when I told my staff. And now I'm crying as I write this, because now it's in writing. Each time I say it--or write it--it becomes more real. 

Gil and I will have lived in Tanzania for sixteen out of our nineteen years of marriage. I was twenty-four years old when we moved here--twenty-four! I am now almost forty-three. It feels like a lifetime. I don't even recognize that twenty-four-year-old girl who moved here. So how can I possibly know who I will be in America? 

We will be starting over, totally and completely. The two cities where we have ties are some of the most expensive in America, so it's unlikely we will go there. We don't know where we will live; we don't know what we will do. We don't know where our kids will go to school. It is very strange to think about how one year from now (which isn't very long at all), my life will look absolutely, entirely different than it does at this moment.

I have a lot--a lot--of processing to do. Even though we've known since June, I couldn't write about it publicly until the news had gone through all the proper channels first. But despite how difficult it is to write about this, I am relieved to finally be able to. This space is where I process. I'm glad you'll be here too.