But part of the missionary rhythm of life is supposed to include the "home ministry assignment" (a.k.a., furlough), the periodic return to one's supporting churches to report and encourage and ignite vision, the refreshment of reconnecting with family and the familiar. In WHM that is approximately 1 year in 5. This has basis in the Biblical principle of sabbatical, 1 year in 7, an acknowledgement of the creation pattern of work and rest, a challenge to the life of faith, a counter-cultural turn from relentless forward progress. We took ours in 2000, a memorable year in Baltimore when we completed MPH degrees at Hopkins and had live-in rotating grandparent help and bonding. And since then we've had a hard time seeing beyond the wisdom and goodness of remaining rooted, with shorter trips as family crises or the needs for meetings arose, always pushing the sabbatical/HMA time a bit further back. Now with Travis and Amy Johnson on the team, as we've thought about how to manage HMA again in 2010, we've seen God leading us in good but painful paths. Back to pilgrimage.
First, Scott has been asked to take the job of Africa Field Director with WHM. This is an honor for him, and us, as we are fully committed to WHM and Africa, and love the various teams, the people and the work. It allows us to step aside for new leadership to arise on the team level, and yet to remain intimately connected with the tiny part of the Kingdom that we've been privileged to witness. It is, however, a job that requires him to travel and communicate in ways that are not compatible with living in Bundibugyo full time. And secondly, our mission leadership and family have been supportive of the idea of a short America-based HMA (mid-July to Dec) and a longer near-Nairobi-based time. We have a commitment from Kijabe Hospital for both of us to work half-time there, so Scott can be a Field Director and I can be a mom, having 3 of our 4 kids at home (it's right next to RVA) . . while still practicing medicine in Africa which is our passion. And in a place where we can learn and grow, for the good of Bundi and places like it some day, as well as our own good.
All that came together last week when Scott was interviewed for the Field Director job, and accepted. In my heart it came together when we were in the process of thinking about our year and my mom called ME and suggested pretty much this very plan, before we could have told her anything, even though it involved sacrifice and loss for her. It was a goose-bump, Holy-Spirit-leading, moment.
And I have to remind myself of all that, because right now, the whole plan feels very, very sad. WHM asked us to wait until Thursday to begin talking about the job and changes. So we booked out our days on Thursday and Friday to spend going from person to person, group to group, to explain face to face how our job is changing. Scott walked our friends through the news of the new job, and its implications. I mostly sat next to him and cried. Though WHM is a very small organization, it is a good thing for our friends here to find out that they now have an advocate in a "higher" place, that we remain with the big picture ongoing work. However, it is NOT a good thing to introduce a thousand kilometers of separation, to break our daily community life, particularly for the kids who have become part of our extended family. I grieve that for myself, and for them. I grieve the pain we are causing the brave souls who have taken us into their hearts, who have risked friendship, who hoped we would not be one more in a long string of departing people, who could easily feel dehumanized as expendable objects of ministry. They are not. This change ahead in July is already an excruciating weight on my heart.
My dad died four years ago today. He left well, thankful for what was behind, not afraid of what lay ahead, and trusting the process into God's hands, well aware that he could not delay it, let alone stop it. As a pilgrim he did not cling to home. I find it hard to strike the right balance of fully entering into this world as if it was home . . . and remembering that it isn't. Entering relationships as if they will last forever . . . and bravely enduring the "for a little while you will see me no longer." Being a pilgrim and a stranger, but journeying towards home.