This is just to let you know that we made it back safely to Texas, where we are again staying in Suzanne’s Mother’s house outside of Burnet, Texas. Last week we were in Colorado Springs attending DAR, a week-long family camp debriefing of our time in Ghana. [read about DAR]
While we were there, Grace received news that her math teacher in Japan had died suddenly from cancer. It had been in remission, but after school was out and she went in for a routine check-up, they found her body riddled. She died three weeks later. The news sent Grace in to a rather dark place, because she had not known she was even sick. How I wished that email could have waited until the camp was over, but then I received one telling me my father and last surviving uncle had been in a terrible car accident. Dad was ok, but Uncle Luther (Dad’s twin brother) died later.
News like that puts me in a strange place, going clinical they call it, when the emotional process that should be happening gets put on hold while the things that must be done, begin. I still don’t know if I will attend the memorial service this next week, or wait for the big University/Church wide service in September.
DAR or Debriefing And Renewal was held in a camp like setting with about 20 other missionary families who had returned from the field, either last week, last month or six months ago. Some are back on furlough, some forever, some (like us) waiting to hear what is next. It was great to be back in a community of missionaries. We’ve being had been back a month and two days when DAR started, and while excited to be back in the land of drinkable tap water, nice roads, close family, friends, abundant food, and mono-colored currency, it had not started feeling like home, or rather like our home, or where we belonged. We learned, that’s perfectly normal, and saw that in our adopted tribe. I think the coolest thing about the whole weekend was seeing the instant bond the group of some 40 kids of all ages developed. Here they were, thrown together and within minutes of getting there, they were so tightly bound, you would have thought they had been together their whole life. Personally, I saw our Anna return. She is the rather shy one, the one who watches, and processes internally, and by day three at DAR she was back to the happy Africa Anna, the one who hugged on me, and said hi, laughing. The night before I was talking to Suzanne saying how much I missed our Africa Anna, and Suzanne said, “She is a teenager now, and will never be that child again.” How my heart sank, but then the next day, it leapt as she said “My Fadderrrrrr,” in her cute (and oh so convincingly) Ghanaian English accent. I’m so glad she is still there inside, I thought.
Suzanne and I got so much out of the stories of the other missionaries in our small group, seasoned veterans, returning after so many more years in the field than us. Almost all had had children while abroad, and now returning for the first time in their lives, that is the first time longer than a few month furlough, wondered how would my kids adjust. They too were excited to lose their kids into the pack that formed, hung together, stayed up late, dissed movies, and talked and talked and talked. I wondered, did they too see their cross cultural kid emerge once they got back into their tribe?
The drive to Texas was long, Google maps was right, it really was a 14.5 hour drive, and leaving at 1 in the afternoon, put us in around 2:30am. Along the way we listened to Anne Garrels , Naked in Baghdad, the NPR reporter’s firsthand account of the spring 2003 battle of Baghdad. [click here]. Throwing her thoughts in to the mix of our own, of debriefing, death, and seeing our siblings, my sister Sheron [read her blog, visit their website], or Suzanne’s brother Mick, and their spouses (or would that be spice) made for interesting drive conversation. Both were such faithful readers of this blog, and so we didn’t have to answer the question So how was Africa, a question I find I am dreading more and more, and able to less answer succinctly. It’s a question I find myself anticipating about DAR, and wonder if I shouldn’t go and memorize some of the great quotes about it on the Mission Training International site so I could answer succinctly. Too bad there isn’t a How Was Africa site. If asked now about DAR, I could say “ít was good to be in our tribe again, a place where we understood, and felt understood,” but that sounds so winey. We did learn that our daughters (Fox stayed back since he is returning to Ghana) want us to know that its time to buy a house—any house—and stay there. So if you are in a mood to pray for us, we could use those prayers. It needs to happen this week to enroll Anna in school. We have looked at many a house, and put in offers in on two, but THE HOUSE has not spoke to us. So later today, we’ll try again. It’s complicated since we’re trying to move to a neighborhood that Suzanne’s sister Mary might move to, if her house in Austin sells, which it hasn’t yet. So prayers are appreciated.
All in all it was a fantastic experience for the family and we are the better for it. It gave us tools to process what our souls are going through, and maybe will make reentry into these United States easier. It did feel weird not having Fox there, but there is a between high school and college camp we hope he will attend next year. So instead he worked VBS at my previous Texas church, and stayed with its pastor. Well done Fox.
August 2, 2008 – Today Suzanne and I have been married 22 years, or half her life (she turned twice that a few weeks ago). Grace turned a 16 at DAR, and now is one-third my age. Fox turns 18 in the fall, and Anna turned 13 while we were on our last trip to Lake Bosumtwe. Its been an interesting journey, so far, and I can’t wait to see what is next. Really.