Well its 4:29 and I just woke up. Actually I am glad I made it that far. “Jetlag can be crazy”.
On the plane ride home, I ended up watching a documentary on the Manchester United Soccer Club. It showed all the highlights of this champion soccer team. I imagine the coaches and owners must swell with pride. Still as I walked around in the darkness of this apartment today, I looked in on my sleeping family. I know how these owners must feel. I am so proud of my family. Last night we got all our bags carried to our hotel room and then went for a walk. We all laughed and joked. We couldn’t believe we had traveled so far and were back so soon. It felt odd to finally be back in the US. We stopped at a Wendys for dinner.
My family did great. I am so proud of Caleb. He has grown up so much. He learned so much in his home schooling. He started to read. He memorized much Scripture. He spent the most time traveling with me to far away places and culturally weird situations. He passed me in physical height. He is really maturing in becoming a leader. He was really good to his brother’s and sisters. He learned the most Siswati and took pride in speaking it. He has developed his own spiritual discernment. I trust him more. I am excited about what he will do. He has become a young man.
Josh always had a smile. He never complained. He did “okay” in home schooling. He tried to read. He did the best at “jumping in and making friends”. He never asked for anything. He was willing to try new things. He probably recieved the fewest souvenirs, because he never really wanted anything. He kept an eye on his sister a lot. He was our best snake spotter. He was our hunter. He befriended our neighbors. He made us all laugh. He helped Lori prepare meals. He chopped, and baked, and one night made us dinner.
Maddy was the socializer. Everyplace we lived, she made friends. She was never at home. She spent more time with other families than any of us. She made the most friends. She truly became a part of the culture. If she saw a group of children, she joined them. Soon she would be leading games with the children or running off in a pack to play. She was our goat herder. She climbed the most trees. She will be missed the most, by the people we met. She held nothing back. She loved the most. She was Bruce’s best friend. She studied hard. Finished her work first. She played hard. She rarely whined or complained. She had her hair braided (it looks great). She learned the most verses (finished her Sparks book at AWANA). She lost two teeth.
Lori was amazing. If not for the strange surroundings different colored skin of the people we lived among, the kids would never have known they had left the US. Lori found ways to prepare the same food they were used to. She made things from scratch. She found things. She invented things. She made all the kids favorites. She kept the house exactly as she did at home (although in Africa, she often had the help of housekeepers-Actually this was challenging for her, as she didn’t get to do much gardening, etc). She opened our home to everyone. She hosted the most visitors. She made the best cookies, shared the most recipes. Our home was the “place to visit”. The other missionaries wanted to visit our home. The national people wanted to visit. She taught the children all of their school work. She kept them on task. She often had no car. She was often home with the kids alone for days on end. She nursed everyone, kept everyone clean. She followed me everywhere, attended classes, visited rural churches, took care of widows and orphans. She supported, everything I did. She talked with me each morning, she listened to me each evening as I talked about my day. She was my prayer partner. She read her Bible the most. She was the most content. She read over 35 books. She was, as she always is, my best friend. She was also the best friend of each child. She usually got up first (to get us all going) and went to bed last (making sure everything was in its place and ready for the next day (part of this was because of the tiny washing machine we were forced to use. It required many loads and we shared with two other apartments and the mission staff). She was awesome.
And we can’t forget Ashley. Every team has players that sit the bench. They don’t get to play as much, but are critical when they do. Ashley did perhaps the hardest job; she stayed home. She went to her first year of college alone. She faced sickness, car accidents, financial crisis, all alone. She couldn’t reach us by phone or internet. She was courageous. She prayed for us. She reminded others, where we were, what we were doing. She was our first encourager ( I guess you could say, cheerleader). And then, when our spirits sagged a bit, and we were all tired she came “off the bench”. Ashley came with her friend Sam, and joined our team. She joined all of our activities, she made friends, she spread her special joy. She made us all laugh. She encouraged us. She told us we were doing great and then she had to go home. She kept people praying for us at home. (Thanks Ash…Thanks Scham!)
I am still not sure what I accomplished on our trip to Swaziland. I don’t know what will appear on my “highlight reel” for that time in Africa, but I know I would never have been there without my team. Others may have thought, I was out in front, but I know better. When I think about that particular “game”, I will swell with pride, because of the team I was privileged to play with; my team. What a team.
Thank God, we don’t have to do ministry alone. I truly loved every day I spent in Africa. But I wonder, how things would have gone, without all the support I received from my family. I know it was challenging for me to ask them to leave everything and go to such a strange and different place, but they all did great.
Thank God for my family.