Saturday, July 12, 2014

Leaving Home to Come Home

Most of you know by now that I am home--at least, at one of my homes.  I left Africa on April 26th for Greece to spend a week at a medical conference where I could get some Continuing Medical Education credits completed while meeting with other medical missionaries from around the world.  I'm sure Greece is a wonderful place to visit, but I honestly didn't experience much of it as I was trying to wrap my mind around leaving Togo and getting ready to integrate into American culture.

I landed in Chicago on May 5th and was emotionally well until the plane hit the tarmac and the reality of being back couldn't be denied.  I began to cry while listening to the woman sitting behind me talk about her favorite Michigan hotel that costs over $300/night to stay at.  Sigh.  I wanted to say Did you know that $300 could treat 300 small children for malaria in a village?! 
"It's okay", I told myself, "it's just different here."

Successful track meet with my sister and her kids. Left to right:
Emma, Patti, me, Mary and Luke
Some of my family met me at the airport:  My sister, Patti, had brought me some bacon-maple donuts while my nephew Luke made me a welcome sign consisting of random French words just to test me language abilities. :-) My mom was there as were 2 of my nieces, Mary and Emma (who all made signs as well).  It was surreal to see their faces in person opposed to through the Skype computer screen. Overall, I was quite emotionally drained but was looking forward to the time ahead with family and friends.

The 2 weeks that followed were spent in Chicago where I celebrated my dad's college graduation from Moody Bible Institute, got to watch my nieces and nephews in several track & field competitions and a gymnastics performance, see extended family, catch up with some close friends, eat cheese, eat some more cheese, and FREEZE inside of every store and home with air-conditioning.

I moved down to Louisville, KY on May 20th. The Lord provided an amazing, generous and kind family for me to live worth during my time in the States. He also provided a job at the hospital I trained at here in Louisville that allows for my frequent travel schedule. I've gotten to be a part of the Global Health Program in both the residency and the medical school that I attended, and it's been very sweet getting to attend my home church, Sojourn.

It's obvious to ask, "How are you adjusting to the US?" I knew there would be some reverse culture shock, but I thought I knew what I would be "shocked"over--the materialism, what people wear, large stores like Wal-Mart. But I expected to be able to take comfort in people and catching-up with life. I think the "punch-in-the-stomach" was when I realized that I somehow flipped a switch with the material changes in culture (like $4 coffee), but I was quickly overwhelmed by people.  This might not seems strange to some, but anyone who knows me well, knows that 3 years ago it would've been impossible to overwhelm me with people.

It's no one's fault, it's just what happens when you step away from your life for 3 years. Standing in a room filled with people you once knew, who once knew you.  So familiar, yet not familiar at all. It's like you stepped away from the movie and someone pressed a fast-forward button and wants you to fit into the rest of the movie.  You try, but you can't because you just can't shake the feeling of confusion or that everyone knows something you don't. You feel like a 4-year old child at your parents fancy dinner party. People want to engage you, but they either don't know what to ask or they aren't interested in the stories a 4-year old has to tell.
Togo missionary reunion in Chicago with Erin and Cindy

This is all sounding very depressing, which isn't my intention. I'm just trying to give you a glimpse of what many missionaries experience upon returning home. I have had amazing reunions and times of great joy with friends and family since my time back. Rejuvenating moments of sweet embraces that could have only come from the Lord. I've especially cherished times with people one-on-one or in small groups.

Sarah Groves, a Christian music artist, has a song called "Painting pictures of Egypt" that expresses things well:

I dont want to leave here, 
I dont want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
And the places I long for the most 
are the places where I've been
They are calling out to me 
like a long lost friend

Its not about losing faith, 
its not about trust
Its all about comfortable 
when you move so much
And the place I was wasn't perfect 
but I had found a way to live
And it wasn't milk or honey 
but then neither is this

I've been painting pictures of Egypt,
 leaving out what it lacks
'Cause the future feels so hard 
and I wanna go back
the places that used to fit me 
cannot hold the things I've learned
Those roads were closed off to me 
while my back was turned

So I have been back in the US for 10 weeks now, which still seems very strange most days. I have done a lot of traveling for various reasons and have A LOT of traveling left: Harrisburg, PA (end of July), North Carolina followed by Tennesse (August), possibly Boston late August, Fort Meyers, Florida (end of Sept), Harrisburg PA (mid November).  I'm sure I'll have some trips to Chicago, Indianapolis and Wisconsin mixed in as well! :-) If you are in or near any of these places I would love to see you!! (don't be scared off by what I wrote about earlier!!).

Thanks to many of you, I am on track to fly back to Togo during the first week of December, which gives me 1 month to help the team prepare for the opening of the Hospital of Hope on January 8, 2015!! I oscillate between 97-100% support on any given month and I am very appreciative to everyone who continues to give during this long journey.

Please continue to pray for Mango and for Togo-especially during this time of Ramadan. Pray for the team who continues to work in Mango building both the hospital and relationships as they invest in the Kingdom.  And for those of you in the Louisville area on September 26th, we are planning a benefit concert here in Louisville called "Music for Hope". You can follow us at and stay tuned for how to be involved!!