In just a few hours, halfway around the world, my parents will board a plane and wing their way north and then west. Leaving behind them 40 years of ministry in a place that God called them to go and serve faithfully, leaving behind loved ones, predictability, comfort...
I didn't get a choice in the matter; they met and married there, and then after further education in the U.S., they returned with me and my sister.
I'm so very glad they were obedient and dragged us along with them! I've had an amazing childhood and youth. I came to know and love the Bushveld and witness God's creativity firsthand - everything from being chased by elephants to crouching down to watch the tiniest insects. I've eaten sun-ripened fruit from trees, witnessed thousands of golden sunsets, drifted to sleep to the liquid sounds of Fiery-necked Nightjars, but I've also witnessed death, hardship, and fear. A childhood in Africa is a lesson in life and death, and life is all the more precious for it. I may sound like I'm boasted and to be perfectly honest, I guess I am in a way... I'm proud of where I was raised and would not trade it for a thousand childhoods in suburban America.
Every few years we would return to America and I cannot tell you how out of place I felt... I look and sound American, but my thoughts and ideas probably couldn't be farther from those of a typical American girl if I tried. To this day I feel like a fish out of water - a zebra among horses, if you will. I don't fit in, but to be honest, I've never wanted to fit in. Growing up, our times in the US were temporary. We knew we'd be returning to Africa before long and so I didn't need to put roots down too deep.
That changed with college however. I've had the privilege--no, the BLESSING-- of returning to Africa a total of seven times since I left for college. I'm so grateful to God for making that possible - because He did! But things had changed, I always came back to the US... I'll admit that it was a sad day when I discovered I had lived more of my life now in the US than I had in Africa.
God has wanted me here in the U.S. and so here I am... I had to learn to sacrifice my plans and dreams to His perfect will. He has led and blessed me - I have no regrets. But even so, life for me here in the US still often feels surreal... it's like an extended furlough and I keep waiting for it to end so I can return to Africa Those visits back felt like going to returning to real life - life as I know and understand it.
So now that my parents are leaving Africa, I am grappling with the knowledge that home as I've always known it, has ended. Am I looking forward to seeing my parents? Having them around, an easy phone call or drive away? Yes, of course! But what people don't seem to understand is that as much as I missed them half a world away, knowing I could always return home, was such a relief to me.
Africa will always be home and I will go back, but it just won't be the same now. I feel uprooted, like a part of my identity is missing. A book of my family's life is closing (there is too much there for it to be a chapter).
I am realizing that this is a perfect opportunity for me to let God know I'm serious about following Him and His will -- I know I need to give up gracefully and not become bitter and angry about losing my home. All I can do right now is cling tightly to God and trust Him as the next book is written - after all, He holds the future in His hands.