Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Letting Our Souls Catch Up

I read a story sometime back and was recently reminded of it again. I don’t know whether it is true, but it resonated with me, expressing quite simply how I feel right now.

Lake Victoria, Kisumu, Kenya

Many years ago, European missionaries landed in Mombasa, a port city in Kenya, and hired a group of local men to travel with them inland to help carry their luggage and supplies. For the first several days of travel, the pace of the missionaries was faster than that of the Kenyans, with the missionaries pushing the Kenyans to go faster and travel more distance with each successive day. Finally one morning, the Kenyans refused to leave camp. The missionaries, confused by this, as everyone seemed healthy and able to travel, asked why. “We cannot travel today,” the leader replied, “we have travelled so far and so quickly that we must wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies.”

That feels like a really good way to describe our current situation, waiting for our souls to catch up with our bodies.

Recently, things have been incredibly difficult for us. The ongoing struggles inherent in the work we do, challenges within the residency program, unexpected (and expected) departures of colleagues, and the superimposed stress of COVID, which we are only beginning to see at our hospital, but to which we have already devoted tremendous monetary and mental resources, have added to the chronic stress of living and working cross-culturally in a resource-limited setting.

In March, Madison came home from school after the school dismissed two weeks before the second-term vacation with less than 48-hours-notice for the students. This was necessary given the international nature of the school. The increasing cases of COVID in our region created difficulties for travel both within Kenya and throughout sub-Saharan Africa as various countries imposed lockdowns. Following that first rushed departure, there have been numerous departures of Madison’s friends, each rather sudden and with little time to say appropriate goodbyes. This has, understandably, resulted in tremendous sadness. While we have thoroughly enjoyed having Madison back with us, she is currently the only individual in her age range at Tenwek, which has also meant intense loneliness for her in this time.

Bob helping Madison with her online school work

Our original plan was to be back in the US for our furlough, or home ministry assignment (HMA) during the months of November and December of this year (you may recall that we are taking 1-2 month HMAs every 12-to-18 months). However, given the totality of our situation, we've decided to move up our departure date for HMA and now plan to return to the States in September. This works well at this time given that Madison’s school will not go back to in-person classes and is continuing online course work until at least January.

Our plan is to leave Tenwek in early September and spend the remaining part of this year back in the States doing our HMA. While we would love to meet with as many of you as we can during this time, we recognize the limitations and safety precautions needed, and we don’t want to put anyone at risk. We still have little idea what the schedule and circumstances will look like exactly given the uncertainty and changes that seem to occur on a daily and weekly basis in this time. We continue to learn to hold all things loosely and with open hands.

Madison and I shopping once travel restrictions were lifted. PC: Julie Ganey

While these months have not looked like we would have envisioned (for any of us, we realize), we trust that God continues to love and care for us deeply and personally. I’ve been reminded of Jeremiah in his writing the book of Lamentations, how beautifully he expresses the paradox of knowing that God is faithful and yet struggling to convince himself of this. In Lamentations 3:21-24, after expressing deep sorrow and pain, he writes,

21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
     his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Sometimes this recognition doesn’t come naturally, and we must make ourselves remember the truths we know. Even as we wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies, we know and trust that our hope is in Him.

We thank you for your prayers, your love, your encouragement, and your support!


Bob, Andrea, and Madison

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