June 5, 2017
After years and years of preparing and praying that the “right time” would present itself for us to move to Liberia, our nine months of living there have just come to an end. There were times throughout the experience when I felt it may never end! And if you had told me in month five that when our plane would race down the runway and lift off the ground to leave Liberia a few months later, that the tears would uncontrollably stream down my face, sadness consuming my heart, I would have said you were wrong. But now here I sit, on American soil. Liberia is still under my fingernails. I’m still itching bug bites. And people keep asking the question, “How was it?” Well, I’m still processing. I think it will be helpful for me to put some of my thoughts into words, and to share. The good and the bad. It’s worth a try, at least.
There’s a cute family movie I love about a modern-day Noah. In it, there is a scene where “God” is speaking to Noah’s wife, though she doesn’t know it is Him. She is having an emotional battle with what her family is being asked to do. God gives her this to ponder:
God:” Let me ask you something: If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prays for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prays for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”
When we embarked on this journey nine months ago, the greatest desire of my heart was that this experience would provide unifying opportunities for us as a family. Had I known at the time how painful these unifying experiences would be, I may have run the other way! Here is a list of physical ailments suffered within just the first 3 months, each delivered with its own special package of pain, inconvenience, expense, and worry of side effects, AND also trust, prayer, faith, and patience:
- Andy and Simon: painful, recurring ear infections that cause temporary, partial hearing loss
- Ivy, Charlie, and Kayla: severe heat rash
- Andy: malaria
- Simon: motorbike accident while learning to ride – 17 stitches on his right arm and hand, scarring
- Simon: malaria
- Ruby: cut right ankle on a rock in the lagoon: worst pain she has ever felt, nerve damage, 4 stitches, scarring
- Charlie: infected fire-ant bite on his foot
- Andy: venomous spider bite & staph infection on top of right foot – laid up for almost 2 weeks – permanent skin discoloration
- Charlie: malaria
- Andy: malaria (again)
- Simon: 3 infected spider bites on right hand – unable to use for 1 week – hand looked like a baseball glove
- Charlie: attacked by orphan home dog: 2 punctures – dog eaten by Haji & Follay
- Ruby: lung infection for many weeks, painful coughing
- Ivy: attacked by stray dog – 16 stitches on hands and face – dog eaten by Morris’s family
- Kayla, Andy, and Charlie: ringworm
- Simon: large motorcycle burn on right calf
The next 6 months, things slowed down a bit, but still…..
- Andy: while riding motorbike on road, hit by another motorbike driver, suffers minor bumps and road rash; but Kayla, who watched the whole thing, has mini heart attack!
- Charlie: malaria (again)
- Andy: persistent fungal infection on left foot
- Simon: motorbike wreck in the bush – BIG time road rash and burns for him and his passenger, Moses. (If not for helmets… can’t even think about it!), scarring on right knee
- Kayla: persistent fungal infection on left ear (evidently Andy should keep his foot away from my ear 🙂
- Ruby: motorbike burn on calf
Some mothers may be wondering why in the world we didn’t pack up our bags and get on the first plane out of there! Trust me, I considered it many times. Even Liberian friends were perplexed at our knack for attracting misfortune. But when I reflect on each ailment, how each one clearly could have been so much worse, and then consider what was learned, or gained, it was clear to see that God was teaching us – humbling us, and giving us opportunities to love and to serve each other. I watched my children who, pre-Liberia, had been so distracted and impatient, were now carrying one another through some very tough times – figuratively, and at times, literally.
The things we felt, the sadness we experienced, the prayers we said, are all too much to tell. I’m so grateful I used our friend MK McClintock’s new gratitude journal series throughout this journey. The first half of our trip, having to focus on three good things per day, was a saving grace. The second half, I didn’t have enough room to write ALL of the things I was grateful for each beautiful day. Some of my other blog posts include excerpts from those precious journal entries. The fact is, no one will ever know, outside of our family, the full extent of the frustrations, the love, the heartaches and the comfort we experienced. But I think it is safe to say, that we like ourselves and each other a whole lot more than we did before we left.
Notes to self: Kayla, don’t forget…
- …Andy’s tender tears when NOTHING on this trip was going as planned.
- …the acoustics of the dome home – listening to the hymn Abide With Me each night during those hard months of December and January – tears wetting my pillow.
- …witnessing with awe Andy‘s limitless capacity to love and to serve, NEVER thinking of himself.
- …Gift. My dear, dear friend who loved me and my family so genuinely, and never asked for a thing in return. Remember massaging her hugely swollen, pregnancy feet while having a soul connecting conversation about the wonder of carrying a baby, and the agony and joys of birth. (See photo of me and Gift).
- …Simon’s “Don’t mess with my sister” instinct after Ivy was attacked by the dog. He, along with our friends the Town Chief and the Imam, cornered it, and Simon did the very hard, very emotional job of making sure no one else got harmed by it. A true boy-to-man experience.
- …Simon‘s smiles and tenderness with children, which I had never seen before – Snuggling and feeding an orphaned newborn, making Patrick, Josephine and Faith squeal with laughter, and becoming his own sister’s hero and best friend.
- …Ruby throwing herself wholeheartedly into this Liberian experience. She loved everyone and everything so completely, even during hard times when that love was not reciprocated.
- …Ruby‘s eager ear, talented tongue, and determination that enabled her to so quickly to pick up and perfectly speak the Liberian pidgin English “Coloqua”, winning the hearts of all she conversed with.
- …Charlie’s abandonment of fears and anxieties. Walking taller than I’d ever seen him, and being completely free from the worries of what others think.
- …Charlie tirelessly working with the drilling team alongside Simon, Mentor, Remember, Aaron, and Moses, like a grown man – twelve hour days, 6 days a week, deep in the bush, for 9 weeks – being the record keeper and photographer. He didn’t complain. Not even once.
- …Ivy playing Lappa and other Liberian yard games all day, every day with her friends and coming home at dusk, covered in dirt with her hair sticking to her face and neck from sweat, and a huge smile on her face.
- …Ivy‘s incredible love for her dogs, Olympia and Cosmo, which were so therapeutic after her dog attack. She became the best dog owner I’ve ever seen. They were her babies and her best friends.
In short, Liberia got under my skin. Sometimes it itched. Sometimes it ached. At times it was downright painful. But in the end, it soothed and calmed, and mentored. When the time is “right” again, I will definitely be going back.