Saturday, May 13, 2017

Leaving day

The clouds, still sleepy, are lying low in the valley and the moon is high. We slowly walk round the house, stopping in each room to say goodbye. There is a rush of bags, coats and last things and then we are standing outside in the cool clear morning, waiting. Reuben is very excited about going on the bus and skips around us. It comes. We get on. We go. So simple.

At our small airport we hang about with a group of loyal friends who have come to say goodbye. We discuss the journey, our upcoming holiday, how late to leave it before we go to the bathroom, whether the fog will lift and the weight of the luggage. We take photos. Inside we brace for the parting and when it comes, it is there and gone and then so are we. The small plane's engine drowns out the sound of my crying and in the blur I see our friends waving and Duncan's colleagues all lined up along the tarmac. As we flash by they walk forward, their hands in the air in farewell. Then there is sky and the views below take the rest of my breath.  For a moment I am numb, stuck in sorrow, and then I breathe. Rosa starts wriggling and the rest of the journey is spent wrestling the little ones and trying to help them settle. The day goes by in the throes of travel and then, almost as if by magic, we are in Cairns and I can see the horizon from the window. Our valley walls are down and in all the openness I am finally and quite suddenly overwhelmed by the day. 

So there it is. PNG is once again across the sea. We are facing in another direction and for all those who have encouraged us, there are those who don't understand too. That stings. We so wanted to finish well but we have realised it isn't entirely in our control. We are sorry for that and for pain caused, for things left unsaid and expectations left faltering. It is the same for us. Thank goodness for God, His grace and HIS control over this whole crazy wonderful experience.

For a moment I am numb, stuck in sorrow, and then I breathe. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wings

saw them! For the first time I really saw them! Walking home a group of small parrots flew out of a tree and I actually saw them. (Forgive the repetition, but I'm so excited!) Usually they are a frustrating blur and then they are gone. They hide in the trees chattering away and even if I stand for ages they evade my view. But today they almost seemed to pause and turn their wings so that the sun caught them in all their glorious technicolor and I truly SAW them. After they had gone I paused to soak in what had just happened and to enjoy the sun on the valley. How beautiful it is here and so full of life to be witnessed in unexpected bursts of motion. 

The beauty is not just in the view though. It's all about people for me. This extrovert has loved living in community. It is true that I have felt culturally isolated and misunderstood at times but those moments are massively outnumbered by deep connections and day to day togetherness. Losing friends and being lost is no fun. I have seen the colour of their wings and they have seen mine. I will not forget friendships that have sprouted from washing up liquid (dish soap), shared experience, proximity and coincidence. There are things that no one else can ever understand. The blend of life that we share is unique. But it is also characterised by constant parting and now it is my turn to go.

The goodbyes have begun in earnest and my heart feels raw. I want to stay. And I want to go. I want to be whole but I shall ever be in pieces. But God is constant and gracious. He is truly beautiful and He has given me more than I could have thought of asking for. 

I shall not forget the parrots. Or the people. Or the broken beauty of this place and this life. Perhaps it will weave into new opportunities to glimpse colourful wings. I truly hope so.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bare walls

The walls are bare and it's thundering outside. Both children are napping and I know I should be doing something. There is something else to clean or pack, or throw away. For you see, we are leaving PNG. 

I close my eyes and try to imagine him. He's 17 and he's reading a book about a missionary pilot. His heart starts to beat faster. His eyes drink in the words. The floppy hair flops forward and right in that moment everything changes because he knows. Hundreds of miles south I am blissfully ignorant that my future is also forming from the words on that page. It is the beginning of so much.

So what do you do when God takes your dream, makes it real and then shows you that it is part of another beginning you hadn't thought of? What do you do when He redirects you so emphatically that you cannot but walk through the doors He has opened even though to do so creates such a whirlwind of mixed emotions you feel exhausted? For those of you who don't do God stuff, I'm not sure how to explain it any other way. You thought we were mad anyway. 

The lived dream has been beautiful, broken, surprising and transformative. We are irrevocably changed. We are not returning to the UK because we are angry, in trouble or unwell. We still believe that the work of Bible translation is vital in both senses of the word. We have seen it change lives and communities. We have witnessed God's power in this incredible country and we will carry it all with us forever. We are grateful to have been here, to have loved and been loved. What we thought was fact finding research into the helicopter job market in the UK for use a few years in the future became an application to learn from, which led to an interview and a job flying helicopters with the Wales Air Ambulance. God is a God of surprises! And adventure. And hope. And new dreams that remember old ones and are thankful.

We have walked through the jungle at dusk and now it's time to come home. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Not my classroom

Of course it has to be the 'Paw Patrol' shorts and yellow 'Thomas' t-shirt. It's rained fairly constantly for the last two days so they are a little bit damp, but the sun is out to shine on this first morning of school and he is delighted to wear his favourite clothes. I chase him round the house attempting to apply sun cream, direct him to the bathroom, make sure he has drunk some water and hasn't hidden any toys in his backpack. At last, I pull him onto my lap and as he wriggles with bubbly excitement, I pray. Dear Lord, thank you for precious Reuben. Please bless this first morning of school...He plants a kiss on my cheek and I feel tears prick. It's only two mornings a week for goodness sake, but it's the beginning of everything too. It's only pre-school but it's the start of a long journey that I just know will be packed with stories. There is no only about this. 

Unusually, he pauses patiently to grin for photos in all the right places and only then do I realise that he too is aware that this is a special moment. As we walk up and down rocky roads slick with mud and the odd dead frog, I am struck by the fact that this is hardly a normal beginning. Whatever normal is. Here it won't matter if he arrives with muddy knees and of course, we do. To begin with he holds my hand as we plod up the hill, but as we reach the top he lets go and dances ahead all the way down to the school. He is literally quivering with joy as he skips, but he must be nervous too. You wouldn't know it though as he kicks off his crocs and hangs his dinosaur backpack (a present from Granny) on a peg that has his name above it. He rushes off to greet friends and I am left at the door. The teacher assures me I may go in and watch these first moments but I know that this is not my classroom. He reappears briefly to give me a kiss and a wave and I go. I remember discussing this with him. 
"Will you leave me mummy?" 
"Yes my darling, but I will come back." 
"You will come back?" 
"Yes."
Yes. With all my heart. 

On the way home, back up the big hill that Reuben has just hurtled down, Rosa snuggles into me and I look out across the valley. It is a gorgeous morning. Sun after dreary rain. A welcome breeze and the promise of my precious son's future in my thoughts. It's all in God's hands.