It’s mind-boggling to us that in less than 8 days, we’ll be on the first leg of our journey back to the USA for the fall. It’s only been a year since we were last in the States for the main purpose of completing my midwifery license and taking my certifying board exams. In reality, one year isn’t very long to be away from the States. In reality, one year isn’t very long that we’ve been back in Madagascar working full-time in ministry. Yet at the same time, it’s been a very long year. We’ve been in the trenches so to speak, starting ministries from zero, laying foundations, and launching them. What God has allowed to happen and has provided the way for in this last year has been beyond our imagination. It’s required a lot of dedication, short periods of sleep, and mind-dumbing hours of persistent work. Has it been amazing in the process? Yes! Do we love what we do? Yes! Has God called us to do this work? Yes! And we feel blessed beyond measure to be able to participate with Him in this process!
At the same time, we’re weary from the stress of it all.
There’s a little evaluation tool that health professionals use to measure stress in people’s lives– it’s called the Holmes-Rahe Scale. The basic premise is that a number of life events can increase the level of stress and as stress increases, the risk of illness increases as well. In the original study, the Scale found that when someone reached a level of 200 on the scale during the year, the cumulative stress would have consequences on their health for the time to come. This same Holmes-Rahe Scale has been used to evaluate the stress levels of missionaries living abroad and researchers, Drs Lois and Larry Dodds found that the average sustained stress level of a seasoned missionary was typically around 600…. to help with the math, that’s ALOT higher than 200!
We haven’t taken this Holmes-Rahe Scale test since 2010, before we even arrived on the field but we also don’t need to take it to know that our stress levels are definitely sitting well above the 200 mark cut-off.
With that said, we know it’s time for a break and it’s a very good thing that we had this home assignment time already planned a year ago! I don’t know if it’s the accumulated stress that has Jamie and I on edge or it’s the fact that we know that we’ll be leaving soon, but we definitely know it’s time to go when…. we’re having trouble speaking, listening and formulating sentences in Malagasy, when we lose patience easily with the challenges of normal living here, when we easily become annoyed with the real-world endless problems that so engulf peoples’ lives here and when those problems and injustices are brought to us for help. We know that we are ready for a break when we have trouble putting our work aside because there’s “just too much to do” and we realize the only way we’ll find rest is to physically remove ourselves from the island.
And so, with this upcoming home assignment, we’re looking forward to a break from many things…. the extreme poverty, the injustices, the physical discomforts that are Madagascar (think extreme heat, mosquitos, flies, ants and bumpy and dusty roads). We’re looking forward to a break from dodging cows and goats and chickens and dogs, and rickshaws and people along the road while driving. We’re looking forward to a break from being pulled over by police and island-wide corruption and a break from getting shocked by our computer while typing, a break from filtering water and bleaching fruit and vegetables and hanging laundry on the line to dry. We’re looking forward to a break from the lack of resources that can be found here, a break from a foreign language and to be honest, a break from Malagasy church which we consider a “work day”. We’re looking forward to a break from Jamie’s 30+ phone calls a day related to work and the endless number of people that come to our gate for assistance of some kind or another. We’re looking forward to a break from the daily managing of 230+ people that we oversee between Eden Projects, the Sarobidy Maternity Center and the construction crew at the maternity center! We’re looking forward to a break from the weariness that comes with fighting for so many people… there I said it, it may sound horrible, but it’s truth and honesty and rawness… Fighting for 3 week old babies to stay alive and best friends to stay alive, and fighting for people to be treated well at the hospital and for their voices to be heard and their bodies be respected and their educational plans to stay on target….
The longer we’re in Madagascar the more we realize that in order to not just survive but THRIVE in Madagascar, we need to recharge our emotional, physical, relational and spiritual tanks in the USA. We also realize in order to work in Madagascar, we need to return to the USA and work in the USA!
Our Malagasy friends think we’re going on vacation in America. haha… little do they know!
The four months that we’re in the States we’ll… share at churches that financially and prayerfully partner with us, we’ll be seeking additional funding for our personal budget as well as the operating budget of the Sarobidy Maternity Center, we’ll be guest speakers at Universities and special fundraising events, and we’ll be gathering necessary medical equipment and packing a 20-foot sea container with future teammates. While in the States, we’ll begin the application process with our mission agency, WorldVenture, so that we may return to Madagascar as “career” missionaries. Jamie will take a couple seminary classes at Fuller as he continues to chip away at his Master’s Degree. We’ll be spending time getting acquainted with and praying with several individuals, couples and families that are interested in coming to work in Madagascar. We’ll go to Haiti to see the Heartline Maternity Center– an awesome and experienced birth model that is working well there! We’ll be intentional about “unpacking” some of the emotional difficulties of this past year while working hard to create better systems for keeping us from becoming workaholics upon our return. While in the States we’ll be going to medical and dental appointments and getting caught up on vaccinations and our children will get caught up, at least in part, with their English schooling and the American things that kids do like play at parks and go to the movies and the zoo! We’ll be celebrating the holidays with our family for the first time in 3 years… and we’ll be celebrating American-style… not just Americans living in Madagascar trying to celebrate American holidays by ourselves. While in the States we’ll be recharging and refreshing our minds, hearts and spirits through church, relationships, play and some intentional rest.
We look forward to this upcoming time. We also know that we will look forward to our return to the great red island after this time away.