Tonight Pete is working the last 24-hour OB shift he'll have during residency. While I wait for him to come home, I've been making meals for the week, cleaning the kitchen, and listening to the BBC online. At this very moment, President Obama is about to arrive in Tanzania on his current tour of Africa. As I listened to the radio, reporters were interviewing people in a cafe in the capital city, sharing thoughts on America's influence on the culture there and talking about local food, music, and daily life. With all the talk of Africa, my heart wandered there. It doesn't take a lot these days for my heart to be back in Africa, but listening to the interviews in the very place I want to be made my heart absolutely long for it.
|Ella with the kids after church|
It's been four months since we returned from our seven weeks in Kenya. Instead of it fading with each passing week, I feel the memories remaining strong. Ella hasn't stopped talking about "Acita," and often draws pictures of what she says are maps from "Duluth, Minnesota to Acita." Our mantle is decorated with stone elephants, giraffes carved in wood, and a little rag doll purchased at the hospital where we lived. I've changed the mantle decorations from time to time, but I always end up putting our far-away memories back up in that central location where we can constantly be reminded of what we have experienced.
Thanks to Facebook and blogs, I'm still in contact with numerous missionary friends who are currently working in Kenya. The words they write make me feel like we're geographically closer to Africa than we really are. Their photos help me remember what we experienced and what we may experience when we return, because YES, we will be returning.
|Daddy's first day in the hospital at Tenwek|
I've mentioned before that my desire has always been to teach abroad. God put that in me when he knit me together. That's how deep it is. It's a part of my DNA. And it's a part of Pete's. Obviously, it's no accident that we ended up together. As `a team, we've been able to encourage one another to push in our education, the stuff we know we'll really need when we get to our long-term destination. I've completed a two-year biblical studies program and my master's degree and Pete is just 30 days from finishing residency. Education: check. So what's next?
First, to answer the question of all questions, yes, being in Kenya confirmed that we want to spend the next chapter of our lives living and serving in Africa. We don't know just where in Africa yet, though. Perhaps Kenya, maybe Cameroon, possibly Tanzania. It's an awfully big continent. It will be Africa, but we're working on narrowing down the actual location. Currently, we're exploring all kinds of options. It's amazing how many people God has placed in our lives who have strong connections to hospitals and educational centers in various locations throughout Africa. We're soaking in everything we can on different options so we can make an informed decision when that time comes.
|Faith & Ella enjoying their afternoon chai|
That brings up another point. Timing. As mentioned, Pete will be finished with residency at the end of July. It will be the conclusion of seven intense years of training - four years of medical school and three years of residency. He'll take most of the month of August off so we can spend time as a family, and then he'll begin working in the emergency room in Cloquet (about 25 minutes from us) on September 1. Pete signed a contract with the Cloquet hospital the night before we left for Kenya. The contract was clearly orchestrated by a God who is mapping a path for us. The contract is for two years and includes a period of four consecutive months for us to travel back to Africa. It is our hope that we will narrow down locations during those four months away and then be prepared to make our long-term move at the conclusion of his contract. We're planning and praying that we will be able to pay off a large portion, if not all, of Pete's med school loans during the next two years.
|hanging clothes with one of her friends|
There's a whole lot of planning to do when preparing to move to a far away country. That goes without saying. We've known all along that chances are good I will need to home school the kids wherever we end up. That's a big reason why we chose to put Ella into the montessori school this year. We want her to soak up as much as she can while we're still in Duluth. I'm looking into resources for both Ella and Sam, home school programs that will be appropriate for each of them. Fortunately, I've got my strong background in education to help ensure we stay on top of everything. Sam is currently seeing multiple physical and occupational therapists and I am finding great resources to learn what will be best for him in the future. Knowing that we will always be near a hospital helps with our planning, since he may need continued therapies as time progresses.
|missionary kids at preschool|
There are so many other questions I feel that I could answer, but then this would turn into a short novel. We've been preparing for many years, and at last we're getting closer. We've asked countless questions of those who are "in the know" while observing the lives of those we admire who are raising families overseas. We've read books. We've read blogs. We've prayed and prayed and prayed. And in the end, we still feel that moving to Africa so that Pete can teach future doctors and I can teach future teachers is the only thing we can imagine doing with our lives.
When we returned from our trip this winter, a friend asked me how I would describe our time in Kenya in one word. Goodness, one word? Seven weeks in a completely new culture, a place I had been dreaming about for years, with my incredible husband and our babies, and I am asked to sum it up in one word? Crazy enough, it didn't take long at all to come to me. Complete. From the moment we stepped off the plane, I felt more complete than I had in my entire 31 years. My husband, my Ella & Sam, God so clearly by our side, in Africa. There was no question.
I was complete.