As most of you know we have 3 year old twins and Max who will be 22 months at the end of the month. These ages, being outnumbered by your kids, and the fact that they are all extremely active boys makes for some pretty tough times in a place where the luxuries of free parks and more than 5 playgrounds, hiking trails, and family within driving distance of your home were the options to choose from to burn energy, run around, scream, and do all those fun things kids are meant to do. We just don’t have that here in Liberia. It makes for some pretty tough days, and even tougher weekends when the twins don’t have school. We feel beat by Sunday night just to wake up Monday morning and hit the ground running.
This week has brought a multitude of challenges with our kiddos. Maybe it was the mix of my moms visit and then getting back into the swing of things when she left. But we have had some pretty exhausting, and behavioral challenging days with the boys. I have cried, and thought to myself what have we done? We have taken away their playgrounds and parks. Their trampolines and safe roads to ride their bicycles. Their little bit of independence to go outside and wander by themselves in the back yard. I have beat myself up, and just chalked their behavior up to being cooped up, not having the freedoms that we did back in Georgia, to their Grammy coming and having so much fun with her and then having to watch her go. I realized I was being a little too harsh with them, with their feelings. At 3 years old they don’t know how to convey their emotions or explain why they are acting a certain way. But after a horrible first half of the week I woke up Thursday and told myself that something had to change.
We have learned many many things while here. One of the most important being that our children feed off of our emotions. If we are calm, generally happy, and positive about the things that surround us it directly affects them and chances are their behavior can magically transition into calmer and happier. We have implemented a behavioral chart at home for the twins so they have the chance to pick something out of the prize pocket at night if they are on green in all categories by the end of the day. It has been working really well and we are so excited to have found something that seems to be helping at home.
I say all of this to come to my point of why we are putting ourselves through all of this. It’s not about Zach, me, Brady, Isaac, or Max. We are pawns in a much much bigger picture. We have met families in Liberia that have their children here with them, they all go through the same struggles we have gone through and are going through. But no one is giving up and no one is giving in. God has called all of us to live and carry out our specific tasks. Whether it is orphaned children, counseling and saving young girls from the sex trade, church planting, preacher training, eco-tourism, discipling youth, flying airplanes for missionaries to get to the ends of Earth and places that can’t be reached by vehicle, these are the people we are surrounded by here. We have eaten with them, our children have played, and Zach and I leave every single dinner, lunch, play date with smiles on our faces and fuller hearts. These are the people that inspire us. Some of them have commitments of years to live here in Liberia. Their children will grow up for a small portion of their lives in this place. Which makes our year commitment seem so small. We are so grateful for all of them. For all of their encouragement. It’s been eye opening to see what a life looks like that really has been handed over to Christ. To be completely and totally at His call. Where he leads, that is where you go.
As I walked the streets with Max hoisted on my back running some errands on Friday morning I saw his presence light up people’s faces. He had beads of sweat dripping down his chubby cheeks and his blonde hair was matted to his head but he waved to every single person that passed us on the street and wanted to give a pound to all of the people standing at the well pumping water a few blocks down. Liberian people are so so beautiful. They are vibrant and charismatic. But sometimes you have to crack the shell first. If they were old enough to be around for the Civil Wars and then endured the Ebola epidemic, chances are they have seen death. They have felt that pain of losing a loved one. They have lived a hard life. Smiling is not something you see like you see in Cartersville, GA where I’m from. Where you say hello when you pass someone on a run, or wave to someone as y’all stop at a 4-way stop together. Mainly because we have no idea. We have no idea what they have seen or felt. What they have endured and we probably never will. So when my little Max man waves and smiles that big toothy smile they laugh and laugh and smile right back and it’s one of the best parts about being here. It may not be money, and it may not be food, but it’s joy. That, to me, is a pretty good start.
A long time missionary, well known for his willingness to move his family to war torn areas and literally step into the line of fire to save children is David Eubank. Some of the things David says when he is asked why he would put his family in the dangers of war in the Middle East, “I don’t want to lose my kids. I’d rather die. But there’s kids there, and they count too.” And my favorite quote, “We do not want our kids to die—we try to protect them. But we don’t want to protect them from other people’s needs. We don’t want to insulate them from the real situation of the world or inhibit what God can do in their lives to help other people.”
I don’t know if my children will remember this year. But I do know that it will have a lasting impression on their hearts. We are so blessed to be able to serve alongside our children, even if they don’t fully understand some things. I pray for their health and safety daily. But I know that they are taken care of. Life in the mission field is not easy, add children and it adds more bumps in the path. But overcoming, getting over the bumps, that is when you truly see the fruits.
We are so excited that this may be the week the Best Version Project is ready for launch. Please be on the lookout!!
We love you all. Thank you for praying for my children. Thank you for praying for their health. We have been so blessed while here with that. Please continue to pray for all of the kiddos we are with here in Liberia that need those prayers also. The rainy season is upon us which means more malaria carrying mosquitoes. We just hope that we can aid any of the children in the orphanages we serve if they get sick. That we can get to them and get them well.
Until next time!