Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”-yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” -James 4:13-15
My life is different from most of you in that I live, as a “missionary woman”, in a tropical land where the vibrant culture of people, plants and wildlife burst off the colors of my photos. And it’s truly a blessing that I get to experience this life, in this place, with my husband and children. I can remember as a young person dreaming of being in Africa, the thought of being near wild animals and living and learning from other people groups fascinated me. But in the course of my dreaming, I didn’t properly consider the realities that I would face, as a woman, in a foreign place such as Africa.
I’m a mother, completely filled with all the duties of motherhood. Does that sound familiar? As much as I’d love to be a woman who tackles the problem of improving education in the village, my responsibility to my children’s education consumes the majority of my life. Could I send them every day on a 45-minute taxi ride to a French-speaking school? Yes, but they’d be lost without the French language. Could we send them to boarding school? Yes, but they’d be faraway in Kenya.
A mother to four children, ranging from 1 to 13, my hands are full—of diapers, or legos, or soccer balls. Sound familiar? As much as I’d love to be excelling in the Sakalava language, I struggle, big time, with the language. Talk about grammar mistakes or putting sentences together in the wrong way—that’s me! At this stage, I feel stuck in my language learning. I’m just trying to keep a positive attitude and use my new language every day.
Kids who want 30 more minutes of “game-time.” And that’s video game-time. Sound familiar? As much as I’d love to be the woman who organizes the community to clean up the beach, I’m just trying to keep up with the organization of my house and family. Especially here. We’re in the middle of a busy fishing village, and it’s an awesome place to live! But it’s also exhausting. Our doors are open from 6 a.m. till 9:00 p.m. mostly because that’s just how you live in the village, but it’s also how you keep your house cooled down. The kids are outside the majority of the day with their friends, playing jump rope, soccer, tag, swimming, rowing, fishing, hunting, all kinds of things. Sometimes they just want to sit down and play a game of Minecraft.
When I dreamed of Africa, I didn’t dream completely. I failed to recognize the enormous place that church, family, and friends plays in my life. The church is here, but it’s different—very different. It’s a handful of believers worshiping in Sakalava and that is, absolutely, why we’re here! It’s a work of God, and I have to daily give myself to the work that He is establishing, because my soul misses worshipping in my language. Our parents and siblings are so far away. We don’t see them, and I miss everything about them, even the messy parts. And sweet, sweet friends …. Tears are filling up in my eyes, not because I pity myself or don’t have friends here, but because I realize that a friend is such a treasure in this lifetime. And I miss my friends.
You look at my colorful photos and we have true joy, we’re doing well, the kids are healthy, Bryan and I are sustained by the grace of God, but I always want to give you a fuller picture. I’m a mother, with the same daily struggles you have, only a bit dirtier and sweatier than you. The things I’m striving to conquer today are heat exhaustion, potty training, and figuring out what’s for dinner. When I forfeit time in God’s Word for these daily demands, my heart and life suffer. My hope is that I can do all these things with increasing grace and patience each day.