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?
Do not think this is directed at any one person but know that I have probably felt the pull to come “home” at one time or another in search of “safety.” We are not guaranteed safety in the Bible. Not once.
There are 148 students dead at Garissa University in Northern Kenya. If you haven’t yet heard about it start watching world news. It is sad. Tragic. An unthinkable act of terror.
In response someone wrote on a friend’s Facebook wall, “It’s time for you to come home. This could have been [your child].”
Of course it could’ve been one of us. It could’ve been one of us in Europe or China or Australia or yes, even “home” in America. Terror does not confine itself to Kenya. It doesn’t even confine itself to Africa or the Middle East. It is evil and it is everywhere.
Day-to-day life changes when living under frequent security warnings from our embassy, the Kenyan government and other world leaders. Once again we do not go to shopping malls at night or on the weekends. We avoid large gathering places. We do not travel to certain areas in the country. We listen to advice given and heed warnings about threats.
Yet, this does not define our lives. There are other places to shop or see a movie or go for an ice cream. There are other events to attend and places to vacation. Please do not mistake our carefulness for constant fear. We merely try to be “wise as serpents” while “innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
This does not make me brave. This is a day-to-day reliance on the goodness and faithfulness of my God. He is in control. Yes, He is in control even when circumstances seem out of control; even when terror comes to my country; even when suffering and sadness happen.
Easter just two years ago found us celebrating in South Sudan with teammates from 5 different countries and South Sudanese from many tribes. We cooked all morning over charcoal, went to church where there was much dancing and then feasted on lamb stew and rice from disposable plates under flame trees while sitting on plastic chairs. We shared the Gospel story through song, translated it into Arabic and some heard it for the first time. Our house was a place to hear of Jesus’ sacrifice and His love.
This year we celebrated in the comfort of our new home with friends and teammates who work in 3 different countries. A big bang from the night before meant the electricity was out through the night and into the morning disrupting my plans to throw a roast in the crockpot (not even an option in South Sudan). Instead we cooked with the gas oven and stove top to make the meal, a much easier medium to work with than charcoal. After church we gathered around our wooden dining table to eat off of matching ceramic plates and metal cutlery, our conversation focused more on encouragement for tired teammates while the meal was a taste of home, something not normally served in the countries they work. Our house is a place of refuge and a place to be refreshed.
Sometimes I wonder why God brought us to South Sudan and back again. I’m not sure I’ll ever know the answer for sure. Sometimes it feels like we were pulled out of the front lines only to be placed on the back burner; always hearing exciting stories but not quite able to participate in them. Yet both roles are important; that of evangelist and that of encourager to other Believers. There are many examples in the New Testament of both.
For now we are certain this is where God has placed us. Pray for us that in the role he now has us we will be effective in spreading the Gospel by supporting our teammates well and that if there is opportunity we will embrace it.
The new (to us) SIM caravan started its long 8,000 mile journey this morning, Thursday 12th March. There was a dedication in TX earlier this week with some of the major donors. Then our two pilots flew to Ohio to get loaded for the long trip.
Follow its progress on AIM Air’s website: www.aimair.org/main/caravan-project. The planned route is to St. John, Newfoundland in Canada, then the long trip to Ireland, on to Malta, Egypt, then Eldoret, Kenya and from there the short flight to its new “home” at Wilson airport here in Nairobi.
Please pray for the pilots and the plane during this long trip (approximately 5-6 days of flying), much of it over wide open water.
I have a love/hate relationship with this social media giant.
I hate that I get envious of other people’s posts about the awesome lives they are living (Read about my house envy here.). I hate that it skews my vision of others’ lives because of course who wants to post the terrible, horrible, no good very bad days for the world to see? I hate that it causes me to compare my body to others. Can we please stop posting pictures of itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikinis on the beach?! I hate that I waste precious time while my son naps scrolling through checking out posts or clicking on meaningless articles when I should wash dishes or write blogs, things that are difficult to do when Little Bear is awake!
Most of all I hate that Facebook is the home of sensationalism, that it is a platform to spread unchecked facts, hate, bitterness and inappropriate photos.
Yet, I love how it makes the miles almost disappear. I love that I can keep up more easily with close friends all over the world. I love seeing pictures of my friends’ kids, fun activities and motivational stories. I love that it gets information out quickly to a wide audience, like how this blog will post to Facebook automatically! I love how it mobilizes people to pray, like with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and recently when Little Bear had a really high fever.
Knowing that people in different time zones were praying for us even while we tried to get some sleep was priceless! More and more I am learning the peace that comes through prayer. I’m so thankful that Facebook enabled me to get the word out quickly and then notified me that people were interceding for us.
I don’t think I’ll give up Facebook but maybe I can work toward giving up some of those bad habits that Facebook brings out in me!