It is hard to believe that our trip to the states has come and gone. Our visit was intensely blessed by time shared with those we love. We were able to spend time with friends and family and touch base with many of you who have been following and supporting us on our African adventure. I hope that we were able to fill you in a bit more thoroughly on what we have been up to over here. Many of you expressed how surprised you were at the scope of outreach that makes up Neema House. It was incredibly nice to be able to have conversation and answer questions. I often times feel like I am writing blindly on this blog, trying to guess what you might want to hear about as we live our life here. I loved looking into faces as I told our stories and showed pictures. There were several times when I realized that the eyes of the person I was talking to had long glazed over and they were chewing on their arm trying to get away. It was as if the flood gates sprang open and we were able to pour into all of you these thoughts and feelings that had accumulated over the past 13 months.
Before we could blink, our trip was over, we were back on the long, long flight over the Atlantic. During the last week of our stay in the states, as we bought and prepped and packed, my mind often wondered about how we would feel to go back. I knew I wanted to go back, in fact I was eager to go! If anything, the trip cemented in my mind the blessing of our calling to Tanzania. Still, I wondered if what we would feel when our feet hit African soil would be joy or dread. I wondered how my girls would react, since they had so enjoyed being with family and friends. They loved all the museums and activities we had done over the five week holiday. They liked hearing only English and not being yelled at (people frequently call out Mzungu, which means white person) as they walked down the street. As a missionary parent, you are constantly second guessing your decisions about living in a place of discomfort and want. Or at least perceived discomfort and want as you look at what all the ‘normal’ kids get and have in your passport country. This is something I have to lay at the Father’s feet on a regular basis, knowing that the call was for our family, and that He has the girls in the palm of His hand.
None the less, as we were returning I wondered how they would handle the transition back to our ‘normal’ Tanzanian lifestyle, void of constant entertainment and socialization. When we walked out of the airport and I breathed that first breath of tropical air, I absolutely had the sensation of complete joy. I was back and I was GLAD. I heard Swahili and it made me happy. I saw a swarm of African faces and it made me happy. I smelled the tropical flowers mixed with big city and it made me happy. I was so happy to be back. As we started the drive back, Tabitha curled into me and cried. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me it was a “bad day”. My heart broke when I knew she was grieving. I have learned something so important about myself, and my youngest child shares this with me, we are delayed feelers. The sadness I am feeling today, was probably caused by events that happened days ago. Tabitha happily waved goodbye to Grandma and Pa and jetted away from America without a tear or a backwards glance, but 24 hours later, she was feeling all the sad feels.
We practice letting our girls have their own feelings about our lifestyle, acknowledging that they can not like something or wish to be somewhere else, and that is okay. We do not try to convince them to feel differently, and so far this has worked really well for us. So in that sad moment, I agreed with Tabitha that it was a sad day, even though in my heart, I was doing cartwheels of joy to be back. She was quiet most of the car trip to Arusha, as was Camille, both exhausted by 40 hours of travel. Then they started to recognize landmarks. There is the gas station we go, the restaurant we like, the grocery story. We were on our road, then at our gate. The gate opened and the girls bounded out of the car in sheer excitement. I watched in awe, doing in my heart what my travel weary body refused to accomplish. They ran around the yard… THEIR yard. They pet their dog, careful to avoid her pees of excitement. They embraced their goats. They called for their tortoise, who did not come running. By the time we got the door unlocked they had circled the house twice and worked the animals into a barking, bleating frenzy. The door swung open, the lights were flipped on, and it happened. Just like I had hoped and prayed it would, we all walked in and together we felt Home. That feeling of being gone to a foreign place and returning to the place you belong. The girls ran to see their room, and I walked to see mine. We turned on every light and looked in every space. It was glorious. We had come home, the place we had fought to make familiar.
Many people asked me if being back in Texas made me want to stay in America. I knew the answer was no. I did not want to stay, but I did not know if I wanted to back in Tanzania either. I love it here, I loved it last year, but it is so hard. What our trip taught us, is everything is hard. You people living in America, your culture is hard. As Christians you have to fight the onslaught of Satan every minute as you work to follow the Messiah in a land filled with materialism, greed, luxury and convenience blinding one’s eyes. Us in Tanzania, we fight different battles that are no more or less hard, and force us to constantly face our human weakness and need for grace. I know I am glad to be back, not because this is the only place that can be Home, but it is definitely the place that God has called us to follow the Messiah as we live our life. That is what we are all doing, is it not, following the Savior wherever He has put us. Meeting the needs in front of us. Raising our families the best we can, despite our surroundings. I think what made our year first intensely difficult was this, we were used to battling Satan and accessing Yahweh in a manner that had been practiced in a culture with very different vices than the one we are currently living. Satan does not use the same techniques here. He whispers very different lies and assaults with very different arrows. It has taken a bit to realize, and returning back to the states completely highlighted that home is not just where your stuff is, not just where you have a job and do community. Home is where you engage in spiritual battle and work for the kingdom of Heaven. It looks different place to place, but we have the perfect example, and His example is appropriate for any continent. Love your neighbor, do unto others, and seek with all your heart. I am thrilled to be doing these things in Tanzania, I honor you as you do them elsewhere, and I praise Him who makes it all possible through His life, death and resurrection.