One of the most clear messages I have ever received was to move to Liberia. It took a year and some months after Zach had heard and felt his call. Mine came later and showed itself so profoundly I could not say ‘no’ or even give it a second thought, even though before this specific moment I had not even humored Zach with an, “I’ll think about it.” I knew our family was supposed to be there from the minute I stepped off the plane, to the first time Zach got behind a wheel and got the confidence to drive, to our first family trip to an orphanage together, and countless amounts of trips after the first where we saw our children growing in faith and love. To the friends we made, to the people that believed we made an impact on them when in turn it was just the opposite, they had the biggest impact on us. To my daily errands run with Max on my back in a pack, sweating through my shirt just 10 steps out of our front gate, to each “boss man” (what we would call a pound or knuckles) he gave to total strangers along the way and seeing smiles a mile wide. Although our commitment in Liberia was shortened I have to remember the 6 months we had there, although it seems brief now, I know the work we were able to accomplish will have a lasting impact. I also know the work continues, the work in Liberia is unfinished.
I always thought the transition to Africa would be the hardest, but I was very wrong. This transition back to the states has been much harder. The circumstances in which we returned were not ideal, there was no preparation for us to come back to the first world. We didn’t get to return to our friends to say goodbye, the boys didn’t get to see their school friends and mentors that they have grown to love, I didn’t get to look the women who have been helping me keep my head above water some days, in the eye and tell them how much they all mean to me and how without them I don’t know if I would have made it. I didn’t get to go to the market one last time to get potatoes from my lady who lays her hand on my shoulder every time I’m there and tells me how good God is. Zach went back alone and packed up 4 of the 21 bins we brought in the beginning to bring home, everything else was given away to the people we love, expats and Liberians. Through FaceTime calls he would walk around the apartment and ask what was needed, what I wanted him to pack. I wanted to say nothing because we were going to come back when Isaac got the okay, I was dead set on this those first few days. But I have to be accepting that is not our plan right now. It’s been a hard thing to accept, that call that was so clear coming to such an abrupt halt. But we must trust Him and know that this is all happening how it is supposed to happen.
The boys and I got home 2 weeks before Zach. Each day brought a new challenge of culture shock. I apologize to my dear friends who have reached out with a thoughtful message, I have read them. The response has been lacking and for that I am sorry, but I never would have dreamt that I would feel so closed off from a world I knew so well just 6 months ago. Each thing I do whether it’s by myself or with my children has a new level of appreciation, whether it’s getting ice from the refrigerator, loading a dishwasher, drinking from the tap, bringing my children to ride bikes on a trail, playing on the playground, driving my van, or buying bagged lettuce at the grocery store. All of these things have a new level of appreciation. So much appreciation that I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt that I CAN appreciate these things when others can’t, when our friends, the people we have come to know and love just can’t.
Impact. Liberia has had a lasting impact on our hearts. From our first month there, to our trip into the bush as a family and the first meeting of Etta, to Teresa’s sickness and passing, to children getting much needed malaria medication, to hundreds of children becoming available for sponsorship through the Best Version Project, to each and every person we met from our security team at the compound, to the maintenance staff, to the barber that cut the boys hair, to the men and women that struggle with addiction on back and side road behind our compound that Zach made relationships with, to some of our keke drivers that we got to know, to our children’s teachers and directors at school, to all of the children encountered at the orphanages and those that are there taking care of them (especially the closest one to us that we frequented often), and finally to all of our missionary friends that are still there. All of these people and their stories will forever be in our heart.
What happened to Isaac on furlough was a miracle of divine intervention. Only God has timing that can be set so perfectly that what was happening in Isaacs body happened in a place he could get immediate assistance. This is not the first time our fighter has had this kind of intervention. When he was in the womb and he and Brady were diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, we were sent to have a rare surgery at 18 weeks gestation in hopes to reverse the syndrome. The doctors told us the chance of Isaacs (the donor twin) survival was very slim. They believed the connections of the blood vessels between he and his brother were what was keeping him alive and the severing of these would likely result in his passing. Divine intervention. Isaac came into the world at 3 pounds 12 ounces 16 weeks later. He fought for every breath at first, and ultimately beat his brother out of the hospital by 2 days. It is extremely hard to get these moments out of my head now. It was traumatic at first, remembering those moments carrying his body to the place we would sit for what seemed like an eternity for an ambulance to come. How I stroked his cold pale face and begged God to take me, begged God to intervene. I thought of every single mother that has ever lost a child and now I make it a point to pray for those very special mothers every single day. They are not thought about enough.
Isaac is well now. If you have seen us or him around our town he is back to his rowdy little boy ways. He is going to have a follow up appointment with a doctor here to make sure all is well and the surgery he had fixed the issue. He has been eating fresh fruits and veggies like they are going out of style, and has been completely healthy since the surgery he had. Thank you for all of the prayers for him. We are overwhelmingly grateful to have our child in our arms today. He had an appointment this morning with his pediatrician and his blood levels are getting back to normal which is great. His color still is a little off after playing for a bit but he is an energetic little fireball!
I will finish by saying it has been a tough couple weeks accepting the early homecoming of our commitment in Liberia BUT I must not get caught up questioning the “why” of the situation. Gods timing is perfect, and this past 6 months was a precursor for what is to come. The things we learned, the people who impacted us, the children sponsored, and so much more. I have to look at the 6 months and what was accomplished during it, not the 6 months we will miss by not physically being there. We will have our friends in our minds and hearts everyday and Zach and I hope to return at some point this year to continue the work started. Liberia has forever changed us and will impact the way we live here. We will not be posting as much in our group, obviously, but will try and keep you all updated on the Best Version Project especially when we (or Zach) travels to Liberia.
Please continue to pray for our Liberian family. Leading up to our departure for furlough the economic climate was on decline and another protest is scheduled for the 24th of this month. Our prayer is for this party to be heard, that violence is not a part, and that the people of Liberia can get some answers from their government.
Thank you all for supporting our family through your prayers and financial support. We hope you all continue to pray about the sponsorship of a child through the Best Version Project. We love you all and are grateful for each of you.