We aren’t really home. I’ve mentioned that. But we do have a lot of people who have taken care of us so far on our home assignment journey.
- We always had a place to stay, whether an entire house or one bedroom or in little Bear’s case a laundry room or kitchen!
- We enjoyed meals in homes, meals in restaurants and meals in parks.
- We enjoyed fresh produce from backyard gardens and farmer’s markets.
- Little Bear received clothes and toys.
- I received much needed maternity clothes!
- We’ve made many new friends and caught up with old ones.
- People have given of precious time and finances.
- Church members have organized lunches, dinners, get togethers, lady’s nights, baby showers and more.
- Pastors have given up their Sunday sermon time.
We have received an outpouring of love from our community that spans from Florida to North Carolina to Michigan to Minnesota and to Washington State, with so many states in between. Thank you. We appreciate you. We appreciate your sacrifice. We appreciate your time. We appreciate your friendship!
This is such a funny concept. Not funny, haha, but funny weird, strange and abnormal. We are on home assignment and yet we are not home. We don’t even have a home for the 7 months we are in the United States. We have places to stay. We have other people’s homes. We have hospitality shown to us in many ways. But we are not home.
For me this is the hardest part about home assignment.
I am a wife, a mother, a homemaker and yet there is no home for me to make. Our space is not our own. We are living each and every day in close community with others. My main job is to take care of my family and yet I am displaced from my kitchen. My grocery shopping consists of picking up snacks for the road and occasional fruits. We have stayed in 14 homes with at least 11 more to go; sometimes staying no more than one night in each place. We are habitual guests.
Already, Little Bear slept in airports, playrooms, kitchens, closets and under tables. His little tent bed is moved from space to space but thankfully he adjusts quite well. At his young age he has traveled more miles, seen more of the United States and visited more countries than I had when I got married!
Each home treated us exceptionally. We are grateful for the hospitality extended to us, the chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. We love the personal time spent in each home as it gives us the opportunity to connect more closely and go deeper.
Now imagine being a “couch surfer” as a family of three with one on the way for 7 months. Can you imagine it?
There are so many things we love about home assignment but the flip side is true as well. There are so many things we love about life in Kenya. Here are a few of the things we miss:
- Praising God in Kiswahili
- Cheap fresh fruits and veggies
- Our home
- Working on airplanes
- My sewing machine
- The crazy fabric market
- Prayer time with our team
- Sleeping in our own bed
- Celebrating weddings and new babies
- Nights alone as a family
- Game park camping
- Bear’s tools
- Lovely weather
- Our big land cruiser
- Ethiopian food
- Women’s Bible study
- Bear’s tools
- Riding the dirt bike
Home Assignment is refreshing in so many ways. Here are just a few of them:
- Meeting new family members. The count so far is 4 new nephews and nieces and lots of new cousins.
- Reconnecting with old friends.
- Sweet corn
- Being outside after dark
- Smooth roads
- Encouraging churches by sharing how God is working overseas
- Being encouraged by what churches are doing here in the USA
- Long summer days
- Extra time for studying God’s word
- Ice cream
- Walking on the beach
- Date nights
- Morning coffee with Mom
- Safe water from the tap
- No padlocks on our doors
- Parks: slides, swings, jungle gyms
Things that Never End
There is the song of course. I probably don’t have to write out the lyrics for you to picture the little lamb and red curly-haired woman singing…
“This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people… started singing it not knowing what it was AND they’ve been singing it F-O-R-ever just because…”
Go ahead just try not to hum a bar. Now good luck getting that out of your head!
Worse than that song running circles in your mind all day, are the goodbyes that are a never-ending cycle for us. A friend once told me that goodbyes just make room for more hellos. What a sweet way to look at it but… in my mind that doesn’t ring true.
Every goodbye I say tears a little piece of my heart. I have to work hard not to let the scar tissue grow tough, callous and indifferent. I have to work hard to allow new people in, to make new friends. My survival instincts tell me to shut people out, to close off and remain aloof.
Our life is one of constant transition. I’ve mentioned that before. Yet, even if we remain in the same country, the same city, our friends are always coming and going; whether for home assignment, another field of service or to their passport country for good. If you add to that our coming and going for home assignment and the flood of goodbyes to family and friends you can see how the cycle is one of continuous grieving.
This year several hard goodbyes are imminent. Some of our closest friends are leaving. I’m conflicted in my emotions. I’m excited for the next chapter in their lives while at the same time extremely sad to see them go. It’s hard to say goodbye to any friend but especially one whose passport country is literally on the other side of the world. However, the tears haven’t come. My grief is silent as I try to look on the positive side of things. And while I know that in time I will make new close friends for now I’m simply missing my old ones and possibly eating a lot of ice cream.
I’ve developed a relationship with a vendor, Beth, in the open air fruit and vegetable market just 15 minutes’ walk from my house. Therefore I don’t normally take advantage of the Friday specials mentioned in Grocery Shopping: Part 1. Instead I grab a back pack and some extra plastic bags, walk to the market, load up on fresh items I need for the week and walk back, many times very overloaded! I love Beth’s smile and the interactions we have. She almost always tries to encourage me to use my Swahili and often I leave with an extra present or two for being a long time, repeat customer (or because Little Bear is just so cute and friendly!). By the time I reach home I am tired and sweaty but feel accomplished.
I carefully wash everything, especially the items we like to eat raw. In the past I obsessed about keeping things REALLY clean. I washed them in bleach water and rinsed them in filtered water. Now I’m not nearly as meticulous, besides bleach can’t be healthy either! I use filtered water and vinegar for most things and let air dry on a towel.
A trip to the grocery store means working around Little Bear’s naps, a normal mommy thing, and unpredictable traffic patterns, a normal Kenya thing. I also evaluate security risks for the day before choosing where to shop. As I pull in to park the guards search my vehicle. Pushing the button for the parking ticket also raises the gate and I carefully maneuver our lifted monster truck that is too tall to enter most parking garages. Little Bear and I enter the store where a female guard checks my bag and my person.
Then it’s shopping as normal. I make sure to stock up on things like Bob’s Mill grits and Heinz ketchup that might be missing from the shelves next time I come. While I can buy a bag of chocolate chips, at about $6 per bag it’s usually out of my price range. I buy milk in 500ml bags and can have meat packaged in any amount I want as long as I use kilograms and not pounds.
Checking out I can pay using cash or credit and have my groceries put in “paper” bags (which are actually plastic) or boxes. Then to the ticket machine to pay, pack everything in the truck, out the gate and back home. I’m thankful that I no longer have to climb to the fourth floor with all my food items. There are perks to ground floor living!
Some things are harder and some so much easier!
Bagels? Let me fill in the order form, email it and await my fresh, homemade bagels that come via delivery to my door within 24 hours. Delicious!
Strawberries, tortillas and English muffins come on Thursdays. Michael makes the trip every week from Kijabe (about 1.5 hours) with these tasty items. He weighs the strawberries out into bags and hands over English muffins in sets of 12. All I need to do is text him in advance with my order and they arrive right at my front door.
Eggs? Every Friday a Mama carrying stacked flats of 30 eggs each in a basket will come straight to my door, the basket strap slung around her forehead to bear the brunt of the weight. She waddles through our compound doling out eggs as the needs arise.
Mangoes, apples, oranges, bananas? Any other fruit in season? Fridays are your day for these. Another Mama comes with bags full of these scrumptious fruits ready to sell at your doorstep.
Then there are those days when I don’t feel like cooking or my plans go awry like when I failed to notice the chicken needed 1.5 hours to bake rather than the 20 minutes I allotted. Many restaurants offer free delivery via motorbike. That day we ordered Domino’s Pizza!
What a life eh?