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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Re-Entry Repeated, it never gets easy

Here is why it never gets simple to live a fractured life.

We should be experts at this, but sometimes the reality just smacks us in the face once again.  I'll describe a bit of it here so you can remember not to glorify the exotic cross-cultural worker life too much.  First, there is the aching grief of goodbyes.  Our kids are now ages 20-25.  This is a stage of independence and accomplishment and they are all admirably brave in navigating those realities:  moving across countries and states, finding apartments, buying plates and beds, writing papers, finishing labs or exams, changing drivers licenses and car registrations and insurance forms, dealing with medical care and taxes, connecting with churches and friends.  They do 99% of this without our input.  And that's hard.  Sometimes it's nice in your college and launching years to know that your parents are within a day's drive, or could show up for a weekend or attend an event or buy you a meal.  So being immersed in a fraction of that for two months and then flying several continents and 8000 miles away hurts. 

Likewise our moms are in their 80's.  This is a stage of independence and accomplishment of a different sort, they are plucky and resilient in their own brave ways, driving, cooking, connecting, serving, supporting, exercising.  They lean a little on our sisters, and on their friends and community, but they also live 99% without our input.  And it's also hard to know that we can't show up for a doctor's appointment, or take them out to a meal, or surprise them for a birthday.  Neither expected to invest their lives in mothering and then live with such little contact for so many decades.

So the return starts with hard goodbyes.  There is a little suspended out-of-time journey of darkness, video screens, cramped legs, meals on trays, that I actually love (movies and food and dozing and no responsibility).  And then we land right into the chaos of the airport in Nairobi, where luggage is being randomly thrown on two different belts and taken off by any and everyone, trying to find our bags (we did), and we drive in the darkness of a throbbing city and up the Rift Valley escarpment and it feels like home as we are embraced by old friends and team.  But we're tired and jet lagged and pretty quickly the sheer onslaught of minor difficulties reminds us that we aren't called to ease.

For example, in our 48 hours back, we found:  our internet modem exploded and had to be replaced (trip to the Safaricom shop and about an hour of forms and reboots), our toilet is leaking so the bathroom floor is wet (at least we have one), our clothes left in the closet have rat droppings enfolded and chew marks (laundry, traps) and our shoes molded, someone tried to break into the front window (they broke it but didn't get in), our houseworker who cleaned while we were at the hospital one day a week quit because a family she worked for previously returned (sounds small, but trusting someone in your home with everything for two years and then returning to find her unavailable was sad), the path we ran/walked on for daily sanity has been closed off by a wall of rock and thorn (for security they said, so now we have to find a new longer route around), in our absence our landlord did projects with our water tank that destroyed our little sustenance garden (we'll have to replant and wait), and we are sharing our home for the rest of July with college students on an internship (which is big-picture great but of course another change to come home to). Kenya also decided after we left in May to give two months for all foreigners to do a biometric registration exercise (as our friend says, in the days of Caesar Augustus . . ) so we barely made the deadline of spending our second day back going to Nairobi to report with our documents and be counted, which is always a stressful and unknown process.  Scott almost lost his life to a speeding motorcycle going the wrong way on a divided highway we were crossing as pedestrians. The Massos and Bethany are departing for a long season, and we will say goodbye tomorrow.  They are some of our best and longest-term friends.  More grief.  All to say, that from moth-and-rust-doth-corrupt realities of a two month absence to re-orienting to life that has shifted in significant points while we were gone, re-entry is HARD.  

And that's just the background stuff.  There are already so many Serge issues with teams and the retreat that we've tried to keep up with while in the USA (and it was much harder than one might think to keep our minds/hearts divided and focused back here, so we dropped a lot of balls), so we are hitting the ground running but already feeling out of breath.  Plus we haven't even gone back to the hospital until Monday, where no doubt there will be new people to work with and habits, rounds, meetings, medicines, etc. will have changed and we will be disoriented and catching up from behind once again.  I probably can't remember any Swahili.  Sigh.
There are bright spots for sure, a dog thrilled to see us, a comfortable bed and mosquito net, new neighbors who are also old friends come to spend six months on a research project, meals proffered and community restored.  We do love and choose this life and work.  But some weeks the cost is more evident, and more steep, than others.  Jesus said it would be, we just like to forget that.

Thanks for journeying with us by reading and praying.  And remember that if we're this disoriented by a transition we've made uncountable times (though it's always a little different), redouble your empathy for all the people we lead for whom this cycle of loss and learning and the constant imbalance of re-entry hits hard.


Sarah said...

This was so helpful and timely. My dear friend and her family (3 young children) arrive for a 2 month visit to MN following a 2 year term in Uganda with EMI. I have been fixated on how I am going to fully embrace them emotionally, only to say goodbye in 2 months. I just recently noted that the deep ache of their absence in our life had lightened a bit. This adds so much insight from the other side. You all are seasoned at this and it's HARD. I always look forward to reading your blog. Thank you for being so frank with your readers. I also can't wait to read you children's books to my little ones in the next year or so. They are beautiful on my daughter's bookshelf. I also love the reminder that Jesus said this would be hard, but we always forget. Thank you, Jennifer & Scott. Your labor is a great encouragement for this Mama in the thick of raising little ones in MN.

Roberta Simmons said...

Once again ... as so many times before ... you have deeply touched my heart with your words. So real. So honest. So hopeful. So strong. And somehow joyful. All at the same time.