Reflections on Year One

A year ago we got on a plane (and then another, and another) and moved across the world. It was a hectic day. I woke up with back pain so I booked a last minute appointment with my chiropractor. Then I drove to the doctor’s office to get medical records that we had just found out  were required to get international medical insurance. There was some final packing to do. Joel was on the phone trying to arrange house insurance because we had just been informed there was an issue with our policy. Then despite getting to the airport in good time, we had issues checking in our many, many bags and had to run to the gate to get there on time. My dream of a calm last day enjoying time with family went out the window the moment we woke up. Sitting on my seat in the plane, the hundreds of details finally taken care of it, brought much relief despite the sadness of saying goodbye to family and friends.

As I was remembering the chaos of a year ago this past Friday, I felt thankful for how normal life felt one year later. We got up, the boys went to school, Joel and I both worked and took care of Nathaniel, we had a team meeting, enjoyed our weekly Friday pizza night with the Sanfilippos, and after the boys were in bed caught up on some TV on iTunes, our favourite way to end the week. It was full, but it didn’t feel chaotic. It felt normal. Like home.

Moving to rural Africa wasn’t new for Joel and me. We were used to language barriers, far-away grocery stores and power outages. But doing it all with two young children and another on the way was a whole different story. Our big question was how the boys would cope when life as they had known it in Canada was about to dramatically change. I am incredibly grateful for how well they’ve adapted, especially with the disjointed year it’s been for our family. Three flights turned into nine flights as we unexpectedly spent three months back in Canada for the birth of Nathaniel. The ease with which they’ve adapted many times — living in a guest house for a month, moving to our home, a new school and new friends, back to Canada living with relatives, a new baby in the house and then returning to Zambia — has amazed me.

This year has not been without its difficulties. Navigating new relationships, figuring out our roles here, adjusting to life with a new baby and the daily challenges of life in the bush. The hardest time for me has been the first few months of being back here with Nathaniel. The feeling of wanting to go home is pretty normal when you live on the other side of the world, but never have I felt it more consistently than in the early days of being here with a baby. Beyond the challenges of the extreme heat (with no climate control!) and lack of sleep, I really began to question my purpose here. While I was deep into life with a young baby, I felt like a spectator to life around me at the school, literally watching it happen from my couch as I nursed my son. Being a mother will always come before any job and I don’t apologize for that. I wanted to be home with him, but what was the purpose of our family living at a school with dozens of people sacrificing for us to be here, when the teacher among us wasn’t even teaching?

We found out I was pregnant literally a few weeks after quitting our jobs and renting out our house. Not coming wasn’t an option and we both clearly felt like we should still make the move. But if we had found out a few weeks earlier, I honestly don’t know if we would be here right now. In my head it had always been one or the other….another baby or Africa. But God decided to give me both and I had to figure out how the two go together. Over the last few months, through many conversations and much prayer and reflection, we again feel confident this is where we should be and have a renewed commitment to being here to serve the children of Macha.

While on our trip to Zimbabwe last April, I wrote this in my journal…

A few days ago we were at Shumba Shaba in Matopos and it was as beautiful as ever. All three boys had gone to bed and I wanted to see the stars so I went out on our balcony. When Joel and I were there last time we lay up on the rocks and it was like our own planetarium with stars everywhere you look. I was feeling a bit sad that we couldn’t do that again but kids needing to sleep required us to stay in.

I am thrilled and excited for this baby but I do feel like it changes a lot, especially my engagement as a teacher. Life at MICS will not be what I envisioned when we first had this dream. As I was looking up on our balcony I could only see about a third of the sky but it was still immensely beautiful. Then over the next few minutes I saw three shooting stars. I felt like they were gifts from God and he was saying to me, “Even when you are missing out on part of the view, there is always beauty if you look for it.” This baby is a gift and although I will miss out on some things I want to look for beauty in the circumstances I’ve been given.

photo 1 (11)

Our balcony at Shumba Shaba

I had forgotten about that night until I re-read my journal recently and it was a reminder that although the view has indeed changed, God is faithful. Life here is different than we originally planned and I’m okay with that now. We have figured out a way forward that feels right and know that we still have a purpose in being here. And it indeed is beautiful in its own way.  

Thank you to so many of you who have helped us through this first year. From taking the time to keep in touch through emails and messages, to support when we were back in Canada, to giving so generously financially and faithful prayers. We would not be here without you. No doubt this next year will involve highs, lows and a whole lots of in betweens. We look forward to continuing to have you along for the ride for year two!

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5 thoughts on “Reflections on Year One

  1. I appreciate your honesty and your courage. I really enjoy getting your blogs. Best wishes for you and your family. Jamie’s Aunt Jean from Pittsburgh but now
    being a snowbird for 5 months in Florida

  2. Hi guys, I am replying on behalf of the Apap’s. Hey thanks for filling us in on a few pages of your diary, that you call a journal. I loved the shooting star story, and to me they represented your three lovely kids. In any case, stars or kids, they are a wonderful gift from God. I could tell you all about how much I sooo love Canada, but the cold and snow would make me a liar. God has blessed you with 3 shooting stars and that is a magical wonder to behold. He is blessing us with 3 million snowflakes which are no less wondrous. Not so much shovelling so far this year and that is a blessing for my back 🙂 Rain or shine snow or hail, God is amazing! Springtime is only 6 weeks away and new life emerges from the ground. May God continue to bless you with protection, strength, and new life that emerges from your spirit. – Godfrey

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