As I sit here in the office, typing these words to so many, my heart aches. How do I put to words the last few months? Overwhelming emotions, wonderful moments of rest, the blessing of familiarity and a refuge here at Johnson, the ache for the challenge of language and cultures in France, or the joy in feeling God’s purpose fulfilled in our lives. This is a tip of the iceberg of emotions that coming back to America has filled us with.
In passing people ask “So! How was France?” “How are things since you got back?” and there aren’t words to explain. How do you explain a year, which was so much more than a vacation? How can we explain that we fell in love with another world, that only those experienced in regular culture transition can get? It was home to us! To give an example of what I mean, Hosanna talks about France quite a bit. Specifically the people we shared time with. That was a crucial year for her development, as well as a huge chunk of her memories. She had no recollection of America, and transitioned back successfully. She is at a stage in life in which she is constantly absorbing new information. She has to move things to the back of her mind to take new things in. Yet, when we Skype call our dear friends John and Rachel in France, She LOVES seeing Pepper the dog, and remembers well that the Mumford family had a trampoline. She laughs with her French friends. Lucas, is a bit more in depth right now. Upon our arrival to America, we had only just left the Chicago airport when my tender hearted, confident little man said “Yep. This is America. I’m used to it.” If it were only that easy for ANY of us. After our 8 week church tour, when we finally got rested in Knoxville, both kids asked me every day for the first week “Are we leaving today?”, “Is today the day we are going home?” and I explained that this was our home for a little while. Even now, 2 months planted, when we leave and have to pack more than diapers, they ask if we are “Packing the house leaving” or just “Weekend leaving”. On the risk of being too vulnerable, I will say that I finally stopped having panics every time I walk down the hall and thought about packing our house back up. It occurs to me that maybe this will get better, but we still have a bigger journey ahead.
In the last few months we have been quite busy! After our arrival in Knoxville Bart began working for Pioneer College Catering (NO connection to Pioneer Bible Translators…really…it is completely wild that they have the same first name!) in the cafeteria on Campus. He worked the exact same position he is working now in 2010 before we left Johnson! It just so happened that the guy that was working the position had put in his 2 weeks’ notice the Monday before our arrival. People have told us we are lucky. I laugh and say “We know the King who owns the cattle on 1,000 hills! Luck has nothing to do with it”. God. Always. Provides. He has continued to provide for us through you, our financial partners and prayer warriors. Even now, as I am keeping tears back after a Skype meeting with a fellow missionary who now works stateside, my mind is overwhelmed with the ways our awesome creator has poured out His blessings on us. He has provided for unexpected bills. He even went as far as to provide furniture from other missionary/students who were moving into a furnished place. Within a week (7 days of 1’o clock in the morning unpacking) our house became home. Unloading totes from storage was the commonly known “Christmas” of stateside assignment that missionaries mention. We found things we had forgotten about and celebrated. There were also some moments in the weeks following when we stepped back and thought “Why don’t we have a toaster?” We realized we were more excited to have a microwave (see France posts if confused) and toasters really aren’t all that necessary. We use a small pan and it works the same and takes up less space.
We have stumbled into old friends and limited ourselves from making too many new ones. This is, after all, only a year and our hearts are still full. We have found a refuge hear at Johnson. It’s been called the “Bubble” before, because it does tend to cut one off from the real world. It would be easy to hide away here, and to some degree we have. Bart worked from 8:30a-1p 4 days a week and finished up a class while the kids and I slowly emerged from a lot of everything. Some days we stayed inside until lunch when we walked up the enormous hill by the cafeteria…and then we returned (Bart in tow) and hid away for awhile. Summer has come and classes have ended. Bart is finished at the Cafeteria aside from a few events that he is helping with. The emotions are becoming less extreme. We have finally established a routine, albeit beautifully chaotic. Some days we are barely home or inside at all. Hosanna is signed up for preschool at the Early Childhood Learning Center. It begins in the Fall. It is an amazing Student Teaching preschool on campus, and she squealed when I told her that she would be able to go. The Johnson University Teacher Education Program works alongside the ECLC and each Fall 10 or 15 little preschool children grow and celebrate learning with a Bible based program. Lucas is signed up for Kindergarten this fall and I am going through denial. I will probably cry the entire first week those kids are in school. That’s ok because I nursed them both though my chest bled and swelled, rocked them to sleep, taught them to walk, and watched them fall. I taught them to pray and love Jesus and others through my own broken attempts. Now a new season is starting and I am letting another teach them for a time, until our season here in Knoxville is over. Our hope is to home school them. Not because we think public schooling is wrong, but because I love teaching them and feel like God has given me that capacity.
Now May has started, Lucas just turned 5. Hosanna turns 3 in 5 days. Benaiah is 5 months. None of them are slowing down. So I cherish every second, every fit thrown, lesson learned, sleepy eyed smile, sticky handed high five. I look at the next 7 months and the last 7 years and my heart aches. Oh dear friends. The Bible says we are a vapor, a mist, a cloud of dust that blows away. We are created with a purpose, and God uses us, in all of the dirt that we are. He doesn’t wait. Our time isn’t our outcome, 10 years away. Our time is now. Until last week my heart was broken, thinking of the journey ahead and how many more times I have to pack up a house. I almost let my worry, my exhaustion ruin me. I was making myself, instead of collapsing in my Lord’s arms and letting Him make me. This summer we travel to southern Indiana for a couple of months. We have precious moments with the next generations. We get to pour ourselves into youth at a summer camp called Mahoning Valley. We get to challenge them and we get the challenge of convincing them that God wants them now. He wants them, not for what they will be, but for who they are. He wants them because they are His and He is faithful to His creation. They are priceless and powerful, as are we. We don’t get the choice to ignore a calling, or a command. The Holy Spirit, which was sent on the day of Pentecost didn’t suddenly die. The God of peace is alive and moving, whether He is moving you to pray in this moment, or rest, or maybe pack your bags and tell the nations (and generations) about Him.
When we return to Johnson in August Bart will recommence his classes and working at the cafeteria, the kids will start school and I will continue at home with Benaiah. I might decide to take an online class to get closer to getting my Bachelor’s complete. I would love to eventually (years in the future) complete a degree in Counseling, but this is simply a vapor, talking about the future and knowing that it is not in my hands.
Our teammates, Eric and Melissa Davis and Sophia, will be welcoming a baby boy to the world in August. We are thrilled for them and hope to be up to visit before he arrives. They have been devoting their time and energy to restoring a house that they will be able to rent while they are in West Africa.
Again we thank you for your consistent prayers and support. We continue to pray for those in West Africa and we ask the same of you. Pray for those working to share the Word. Pray for the people to be receptive. Pray for healing and transformation! Our God is a God of wonders!
In His great love,