Outside, the sky is completely clear and although the air conditioning is trying its hardest, it cannot not cut through the hot afternoon rays of North Carolina sun bursting through the window. But the chair is comfortable and the baby sleeps in my lap and so I sit on. These special times are when I think and now I am thinking about this chair and more importantly, who has sat in it.
We are at JAARS in Waxhaw, North Carolina. It is an organisation that exists to facilitate Bible translation by offering practical services such as aviation training, which is why we are here. Duncan is receiving refresher training before we return to PNG in a few weeks.
Four years ago, I was sitting very close to here, but I was alone. We had a smaller apartment around the corner, so the view we have here is similar but from a different angle. Oh how true that seems of life now too! Back then, Duncan was gone during the day learning to be a missionary pilot and I was struggling to imagine how we had got to this point! We were headed to Papua New Guinea to work as a teacher and a pilot and we had little idea of what lay ahead. Whilst we were here people poured encouragement and love into our hearts. We learned a great deal and when we were in PNG, I lost count of the number of times I thought back to it and tried to apply what we had been taught. Now we are here again, but this time we have lived and worked in PNG for three years - we have friends and a life there - and Reuben and Rosa are with us. As I write that, I am struck afresh by how completely and utterly amazing that is! If I had known when I sat at our kitchen table in the apartment round the corner four years ago, that I would sit here now, I would...well I'm not sure at all what I would have said. Having these weeks here is a powerful reminder of God's blessing and just when I needed to hear it. For you see, even though we have come through so much and seen God work mightily, I still let fears creep into my heart.
Rosa is stirring a little. She lets out a sigh and I try not to laugh at the intensity of her seriousness! She is so, so precious and I suddenly feel fiercely protective and uncertain that we are doing the right thing in returning to PNG. I wonder if others who have sat in this chair have felt the same niggling doubts or if I am alone in the lack of trust department. I suspect I am not. I decide to get brave and instead of pressing the fears down, I take each one and talk to God about it. The air conditioning whirrs as I lay out my anxieties. Once again, I have a feeling that many, many people have sat here doing this and that they, like me, wonder at the graciousness of serving a God who will listen.
My mind flicks back to my chair at the kitchen table in the apartment round the corner. I cried a lot at that table. I was grieving for a life we were giving up, hopes we were laying down - I was trying to acknowledge the losses we were about to face so that we could step forward healthy. But I got too consumed in the loss and nearly forgot the gain. But God picked me up and sent me anyway. The truth is that God has given us much more than we could have hoped for - and I don't just mean the children. And yet I fear for them?! They are His. THEY ARE HIS. And so are we.
It has been so wonderful to reconnect with friends here at JAARS and to sit in their chairs! We feel refreshed by this place in between our homes and by the God who has given us this space. Thank you, JAARS...PNG...ready or not, we are coming!