Life is Like a Pair of Ducks
Revisiting the Pair-of-Ducks…
Years ago, in one of our newsletters, we wrote about the Paradox of life on the mission field. Also, lovingly referred to as the Pair-of-Ducks when our kids were younger. When our kids were little, we would often sit around the dinner table and each would share their “yay duck” and “yuck duck” for the day. Twelve+ years of living on the mission field and we still talk about the paradox of life overseas…. the deep and inexplicable joys and God-orchestrated surprises and the crushing grievances, hardships and enemy attacks… we talk about the necessity of holding them both in our hands simultaneously, while at the same time, presenting them to the Lord and inviting Him in. Lately, we find ourselves sitting in the paradox of life and ministry in two countries– we find deep joy and happiness in one while deeply missing, crying and longing for the other– all at the same time!
The Joy of Youth…
We have greatly enjoyed investing into young lives here at Rift Valley Academy— specifically, the ten 7th grade boys in our dorm, the ten 8th grade girls in our Sunday school group as well as into the lives of our own three incredible kids and their friends on campus.
One of our key roles here is to stand in the gap of the parents for the 10 boys within our immediate care. When we first arrived, we weren’t entirely sure what this would look like but as time marches on, we have found our groove in how to care for these boys as though they are our own while they’re in our care. It’s been incredibly helpful for us as we navigate this to draw on our own experiences… the six years that Jamie spent in the dorm while boarding at RVA, the year that Isabella spent in the dorm while we were in Madagascar, our own experience as parents of sending our daughter to school here and subsequently, the things we appreciated as well as longed for both for her and for us, as well as our many years of living internationally.
This month, it’s been in the form of evening hikes and movie nights projected onto the wall, weekend pick up co-ed soccer games for junior high, all dorm family pizza making nights at the pizza oven on campus, cheering on sports teams from the sidelines, taco Tuesday’s with the dorm guys, card games on the floor or lively games of Capture the Flag at night, helping with homework, caring for sick kids, incorporating the kids who live on campus with their families into activities with our group of dorm boys, providing yummy treats throughout the week for the dorm guys, our kids and our kids’ friends who live in the dorm.
One of the things that we’ve noticed is that these growing boys are HUNGRY! Under normal circumstances and living with their families, when hungry, they would simply walk into their kitchen, open the cupboard or the fridge and find something to eat or buy something at a nearby store. Living in the dorm at RVA, this is a bit more tricky! Nairobi is a 90-minute drive away, the school is nestled on a steep escarpment with only a few, very small food stalls (dukas) outside the gate and down the road, the cafeteria is only open during set hours and dinner is served early. Several weeks ago after a big birthday dinner, one of the boys mentioned how well he was going to sleep with a full belly. That clue led us to ask how many of the boys were going to bed hungry… 8 of the 10 raised their hands with 2 of them waking in the middle of the night hungry! Without hesitation, that week we started a dorm duka in our kitchen… since it’s hard for the boys to get to a store, we brought a store to them! Our shelves are stocked with delicious homemade bagels made by a local Kenyan woman, eggs, milk, juice, apples, grated cheese and homemade tortillas, chips, peanuts and Korean ramen noodles. Needless to say, the boys are happy, their belly’s are full and they’re sleeping through the night– which of course makes academics, sports, and relationships better all around!
This last month we celebrated two birthdays of the dorm boys. We find ourselves with heavy hearts for these boys who sacrifice much, birthdays with their families being just one of the things, in order for their parents to live and serve in Africa. 12+ years of living overseas and away from our own families has taught us how to celebrate together despite the distance. Truly, it’s a privilege to help these families do the same! Each boy gets to choose his birthday dinner, birthday cake and ice cream to be shared with ALL of his dorm brothers and our family. 5-6 hours of Alissa cooking and baking in the kitchen, hoots and hollers when the food is brought out, noisy chatter around the table and the feast is devoured within 10 minutes flat!! 🙂 It’s actually quite the spectacle to watch!! After, we video call the parents so they can join us in singing Happy Birthday, watch their boys blow out the candles on the cake and open a few presents that we bought and wrapped. We have witnessed the joy of togetherness, of belonging, and of gratitude for these seemingly small but ever important celebrations.
Please join us in praying for the hearts of these ten boys, for our own three kids and for their many friends here. As is so often the case for third culture kids who have complicated lives of where exactly home is– is it their passport country or their adopted country where they grew up or the country in which they go to school? May each of these amazing youth truly find their identity in Christ and in Him alone!
The Longing for Home…
Since we’ve been in Kenya, a day hasn’t gone by that we don’t miss and long for our home, our friends, our community, and the ministries in Madagascar.
This month, several babies entered the world with the wise and compassionate SMC midwives by their side while several new mamas graduated from our postpartum program with their beautiful babies in their arms, knowledge in their heads, and diplomas in their hands. In addition, this month, the Sarobidy Maternity Center celebrated it’s 9th anniversary! There is a profound longing to be in Madagascar to celebrate together!
This month, one of our dear friends, Rota, the National Director of the Sarobidy Maternity Center battled a horrific yet undiagnosed precipitous infection that landed her in the hospital— unconscious, seizing and with a dangerously high fever. In the in-between, somewhere between conscious and unconscious, she told the Lord that she was ready to enter into Paradise with Him if He would welcome her. She also asked that she be able to return to her twin babies whom she knew no one could love like she could. And she asked that those present would say “goodbye to Alissa for me”. There was an all-consuming concern and desire to be at Rota’s side during this extremely uncertain time. (Praise the Lord, Rota has made a full recovery!! Please continue to pray for Rota, her husband Andry and their children, Kanto and Harena. We’re quite aware of the likelihood of spiritual curses placed on this family because of the adoption of their twins, who were considered taboo, over two years ago).
This month, Jamie and the Eden Projects team in Madagascar have been working together daily via conference calls, Skype and Messenger. We’re so thankful for modern technology which allows for this! Nonetheless, he’s missing daily in-person interaction with these incredible friends and colleagues. He’s missing the time together to problem solve, dream, strategize, and laugh together. He’s missing the personal interactions that occur with leadership development, with devotions and with regular accountability.
We’re missing simply the shared life with friends and neighbors in our community. In just a few days, one of our longest and closest friends, Maman’i Aby, is celebrating a birthday. Maman’i Aby and her family were the ones that gave away Alissa during our Malagasy wedding ceremony 20 years ago. Maman’i Aby was the one that carried Gavin as a baby, tied to her back, Malagasy style and was the one who taught our girls to cook on traditional Malagasy fataperas or wood-cooking stoves. She’s also the one who keeps it real when I began to laugh or perhaps cry about the reality of aging… and then she gently reminds me that aging is a gift not given to all. And so this week, we’ll celebrate Maman’i Aby’s birthday from afar despite our deep earning to be celebrating together.
Would you pray for our Malagasy community, our friends, and our ministry partners? Would you pray for the Lord’s divine protection of them as they face spiritual and human battles of curses, lies, sabotage and hypocrisy? Would you pray that they stand firm in the Lord, leaning unto Him for wisdom and standing in the Truth daily. Would you pray for our hearts as we celebrate both the small and large milestones from afar while desperately longing to be together in person?
As you can likely gather, we’re living right in the middle of the paradox or the pair-of-ducks, the Yay Duck and the Yuck Duck of life on the mission field, split between multiple countries and multiple worlds. And we’re not the only ones… our kids are living in the paradox as well. They are genuinely thriving here at Rift Valley Academy! They are loving friends that are other missionary kids, having dorm siblings, soccer overlooking the Rift Valley and even occasionally, the academics!:) At the same time, they are missing Malagasy friends they grew up with, barefoot soccer on dirt fields, and the warm sunshine at the beach in Madagascar. Simultaneously, they’re missing American friends, organized and competitive team soccer, and surfing in the Pacific Ocean! Please pray for our family as we long to always follow the Lord’s leading in our lives and ministry, through the paradox’s of this crazy life and wherever He may have us!
Thank you for faithfully journeying with us!
Alissa, Jamie, Isabella, Eliana and Gavin
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