Header Ads



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.

No comments