Hello, blog. Sorry, blog. Sorry…I haven’t forgotten about you, but I have intentionally ignored you. I ignored you, not because there wasn’t anything to say, but because there was too much to say. And for that, I am sorry. I will try and catch you up.
2002 – (Woah…don’t start there, that was over 10 years ago…okay, fine…)
2006 – Our first trip to Africa, together. It was after this trip we knew our calling was to work with PAACS.
2008 – Move to Ethiopia with our very cute, but very loud son.
2008-2013 – Live and work in Ethiopia; add one beautiful girl. Realize the challenges to cross cultural living are just as hard as everyone warned about and we learn to strive for the dependence of the Lord for joy and sustenance. But at a cost.
So, now we begin where we left off. In November 2013, we returned to the states for a time of furlough or home assignment. The previous 16 months in Ethiopia, had been Paul’s most difficult of them all. He was experiencing the toll of stress. Chronic stress from all angles…and as we would soon learn, stress is cumulative and residual. We returned to the States, with the intentions of rest, reflection and seeking wise counsel. We were thankful that the first few months would involve the comfort of celebrating the holidays with family. In January 2014, we attended a debriefing and renewal week at Mission Training International in Colorado. What a great week that was for us as a family. Nathan still says his favorite place is Colorado. With the snow to play in and the view of Pike’s peak from our breakfast table, it truly was a week to be together with each other and with the Lord.
Here is Paul’s description of our week at MTI below:
“The experience at MTI was first class and we are very thankful to be have been able to attend. It was clear that the people running the show are highly experienced and have crafted a honed, professional experience over the years. It was a restful blessing to so clearly see that these people were knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Through the course of the week and in our counseling time, it became very clear that we have not been doing well in Ethiopia, that we are not on the bell curve, that we were already experiencing some of the consequences of chronic and poorly managed high levels of stress, and that something needs to be done. And we feel that this has moved beyond a threshold where it would be appropriate to maintain the same direction while only trying to make adjustments. Though we plan to return to Ethiopia at the end of March, we are confident that we need to transition away from Ethiopia for a period of time. It seems clear that the issue isn’t an acute event, but the accumulation of trials over time. A good friend offered a useful African proverb that helps articulate it, “We will not march today. We will wait until our souls catch up to our bodies.” We need to take some time for our souls to catch up. Though we earnestly hope and pray that God still has later service for us in the setting of foreign missions, we know for certain that He has service for us somewhere. In any setting, though, we want to be in a condition to serve well. And we just aren’t there right now.
This has been and continues to be an extremely difficult decision. There has been a lot of sadness and mourning, and we know that that will continue for a long time. But at the same time there is a deep-seated peace in feeling confident that this is the right choice.”
So, we have realized that we need to take a break from the mission field. This time includes a ton of transition. Coming off the field seems a hundred times more frightening than leaving for the field. And after talking to others who have also left the field, that seems to be a common assessment. Moving back to America in some ways seems exciting…”You mean, we get to buy a house? We get to settle ourselves in a community where we don’t come and go? I get to drive a car and remain anonymous as we stroll through the mall or park?” But it is also very sad. We are grieving the loss of not living in Ethiopia anymore. We are grieving the loss of a dream to live here longer and to immerse deeper into the culture. We are grieving the loss of a community and daily relationships that go beyond surface level conversations. We are grieving the loss of not working alongside the staff and PAACS residents at Soddo Christian Hospital.
And although this chapter of our lives together is coming to an end, I rest in the hope that it doesn’t end here. I know that God has a plan for us to carry out and we will walk faithfully in His steps into the next chapter. Maybe it is to return to the mission field someday. Maybe it is to support missions from the States, through prayer, giving, and emotional encouragement and care packages. But ultimately it is to stay focused on the goal of living for the Lord with others in mind.
So, we are flying out of Ethiopia on June 7th. We will be in the Dallas area for the next year and we will send an updated address once we settle. Thank you for all of your support through the years. We cannot thank each of you enough and we have felt well supported by your love, prayers and gifts. It has truly been a blessing to walk this chapter of our lives alongside all of you.