Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Missing the Children

Leah and I are finding that it is very tough to be away from our children for such a long period of time. I don’t know how many times Leah has pulled out our big framed picture of the girls and shoved it into the hands of willing acquaintances.

We call them on the phone everyday, and we know that they are being well taken care of. I am even able to instant message Rachel occasionally. But we miss them very much.

The emotions are powerful because our schedule here is sparse and bare. We have no responsibilities except to attend classes and show up in the right places to eat. The coordinators give us ample free time, and so Leah and I have been surprised to find ourselves staring at each other saying, “Well, what do we do now?”

There is no rushing off to work, to take the kids somewhere, to pay bills, or to answer phone calls. Our lives have been stripped of busy-ness and petty chores. We are left to concentrate on nothing else but the essentials of living lives of Christian service.

And the effect is shattering. We feel exposed and vulnerable. We can’t escape to do chores, or play with the kids, or chat with a friend on the phone. We can’t get in the car and run off to the mall.

We’re stuck with each other, and a handful of other soon-to-be missionaries. Every once in a while, we look around and say to ourselves, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

Instead, we have to communicate. Leah and I are forced to talk about what our lives in Cameroon will really be like. We have to share expectations, concerns, and hopes. There is no hiding behind a smiling five-year old. We have to work it out here.

And we have to communicate with the other missionaries. We have so much in common with these people, for we have the same types of calling and similar souls. It didn’t take long for bonds to begin forming. We have much to learn from each other.

In particular, we are learning much from R.C., a Congolese bush pilot. Not only is he teaching me bits of French, but he is giving us helpful hints and tips about African ways and traditions. He keeps reassuring us, and reminding us that the most important thing is "compassion -- just love the people you will be with."

Leah especially has taken a shine to the US-2s. They’re all young, female college graduates (except for Andrew), and they call us “Mom and Dad,” and are already planning trips to see us in Cameroon. Leah calls them “our kids.”

But this experience would not be possible if we were not forced to set aside some important things in our life, like the children, for this period of time. Sometimes God must strip things away from our lives, like a tree shorn of leaves in the autumn, so that he can teach us dependence, trust, and contentment.

So we are learning these hard lessons. And counting down the days when the lessons are over!

Good night, Rachel, Chloe, and Mallory