Why I’m going to Africa (aka: Why my family cannot be my whole world)

Friends, thank you for all of the notes and wishes this past week as we welcomed baby Brooks to our family. I am exhausted and happy and full of thankfulness. I’m also not in my most creative state. So I’ve asked my friend Amanda Fleming Kolman to guest post for us today. This past summer, Amanda wrote one of Mama:Monk’s most-read posts of all time about her family and their experience with adoption. (If you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend.) She blogs at A Time to Dance.

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Yesterday, I spent a good bit of my day crying off and on.  And, thanks to my husband’s bright idea of giving up tea for Lent (English Breakfast with two sugars and heavy cream, thank you very much) I had nothing with which to drown my sorrows.

See, in two weeks I will leave my family, my tall-drink-of-water husband and my three little girls, for 12 days and travel across the Atlantic to Tanzania, where I get to help put on the first ever Young Life Africa Women’s Leadership Summit.  First, let me just tell you that, even though my tea is English, I have never gone anywhere.  Anywhere.  I should probably be embarrassed by that, but it’s just the circumstances of my life.  High school to college.  College to marriage.  Marriage to kids.  And never any time or money for a big trip.  So, this is it. The first stamp on my passport will say Tanzania, Africa. And, most of the time, I am crazy with excitement!

But, yesterday I was sad. Because even though I know that God wants me on this trip, there is a voice in my head, one that gets louder the closer we get to leaving, saying. “Is it really okay for me to leave my family, to ask them to sacrifice for 12 days, for a trip that, let’s face it, is going to be really fun for me and could totally go on without me?”

I know the truth. So, I keep repeating to myself the reasons why I’m going.  The ones that are easy to clarify, like how much I love and believe in the ministry of Young Life and their commitment to reaching teenagers all over the world with the gospel.  Or the uniqueness of this chance to rub elbows with and serve and learn from these African women who are making a difference in their communities.  Or the fact that I am raising THREE lovely girls which means that empowering and encouraging women should be a high priority for me.  Or how much I wanna be a mom who speaks from experience when she tells her kids to go on adventures and take risks.

Then, there are the reasons that are harder to explain. The ones that feel tender and fragile when I say them out loud.  It feels like God is doing a new thing in me.  He has been whispering to me about Africa for the last year in little ways, like through my out-of-nowhere tears every time a missionary at church brings back pictures from Kenya. And through my gorgeous African daughter whose face lit up when I told her that there are places in this world where almost everyone is brown, like her.  And, this isn’t so whispery, but he also seems to be speaking to me in her wild need to drum in perfect rhythm on everything she sees. “Af-ri-ca—Af-ri-ca—Af-ri-ca.”  I have this sense that God is about to blow open the doors of my small worldview for his purposes.

I keep reminding myself of all of those things.  But, in my cozy bed at night, all I can think about is the fact that, at some point during those 12 days, my kids are gonna miss me, and they’ll be sad. And it’ll be my fault.

On March 28th, I’ll be on a plane, though.  Because my heart nearly beat out of my chest last year when this trip was first mentioned.  And I had the weirdest experience where the sensible part of me had no control and it watched in astonishment as my heart stood me right up, marched me to my friend in charge of the trip, and totally told her I wanted to go.  So, I’m going to serve but also because God has something there for me, too.  And I wanna know what that is.

Sometimes, the overwhelming task of caring for and guiding my own little women can make women in distant lands just seem…well…distant. But God has called me to both.  And my family cannot be my whole world.  They need to know it and I need to know it.  And I can’t always protect my kids from sacrifice.  If I do, they’ll grow up and be people who love only when it’s convenient. So instead, I’m adding them to the list of reasons why I’m going.  I’m going for them.  I’m going so they know someday that it’s okay to go.  So they know that when God stirs in your heart, you can trust him with the details back home.  I’m going so they know that the world is much bigger than we think and that there are women all over, in all kinds of circumstances, who are passionate about following Jesus and who sacrifice so much more than we do to do so. I’m going to show them that mommies can still have adventures.

Thankfully, I’ve learned a thing or two as I have tried to teach my little girls about what it means to be feminine.  And so I know that when I go, I don’t have to pretend I’m not sad or scared.  I get to feel it all deeply and let it add a richness to my experience.  And I get to show my girls that the strength of a woman is in the softness of her heart, which sometimes leads her to curl up and read books with her sleepy little girl, and sometimes leads her to take off and fly to Africa.

  • http://kfsullivan.wordpress.com kfsullivan

    Yes. Exactly. How blessed your girls are to have you as a mommy! I will be praying for you on your trip to Tanzania, the birthplace of my son’s best friend. It is my son’s hope to follow his friend to Tanzania to spend part of the the summer at an orphanage, next summer, for his graduation trip. I so want to go as well, not to protect my son, I have put him on planes to many great lands already, but to share the adventure and the particular stretching in God, that somehow only seems to come on such journeys.

    So excited about your trip…you children will be, too. They will hang on every word of your tales when you return and tell them in turn to their friends with great delight.

    God speed.

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