We will see each other later, America. It seems fitting to say it in Swahili, our adopted second language.
We board a plane to return to Kijabe tomorrow, and our hearts are full as we depart one of our two countries of origin. When we arrived at the end of June, it had been 2.5 years since we had been back to the States as a family, which we can’t quite believe.
When we boarded the plane in Nairobi ten weeks ago, I started to realize something that I hadn’t given myself permission to feel while in Kijabe: I was tired, a little bit depressed, and burnout hovered in the not-too-distant future. I call it “tired and tired”. Mardi was “tired but exhilarated”: bone-tired, but the joys of her work outweighing the lows.
We’re both in a different place now. How do we feel after our visit to the States?
Our hearts are full of gratitude for the kindness and generosity shown by so many of you. Seriously, we have an amazing partnership team and partners, and we feel so loved.
We are rested: we slept from sundown to sunup almost every night, and the bags under our eyes are gone.
We are spiritually refreshed: we have had the chance to debrief with trusted friends and a counsellor: and God has been speaking to both of us.
Our ears are still ringing and our feet still dancing from seeing U2 in Chicago, our favorite band.
We are amused and delighted, again, by our friends: from the former Army officer in South Carolina who captures alligators and leaves them in his pastor’s office, to the retired psychiatrist in Florida who is convinced that one day he will be ‘found out’ and forcibly removed from his evangelical church because he is not a Republican, to my sister, who stores up for us recommendations on the funniest sitcoms we have missed in the last three years.
We are befuddled and delighted in our coming up to speed on new American idiosyncrasies such as “Baconator Fries”, what, precisely, constitutes a “hipster” , and what makes “ancient grains” more attractive than, well, other grains.
But mostly, our hearts are full of gratitude and love. We have been loved on and encouraged profoundly. On this visit back, we had 68 meetings, meals and coffees and 7 speaking engagements. And 8 swimming lessons. In each encounter with our friends and family, the Lord spoke to us and reminded us that he loved us and that we were right where he wanted us.
In a wonderful book on the Christian concept of God as a ‘trinity’ of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and what it means for our lived-out, everyday lives, theologian John Zizioulas says this:
“The person cannot exist in isolation. God is not alone; he is communion. Love is not a feeling, a sentiment springing from nature like a flower from a tree. Love is a relationship; it is the free coming out of one’s self, the breaking of one’s will, a free submission to the will of another.” -John Zizioulas, Communion and Otherness
Thank you, friends and family, for showing us this love, this relationship, this lived-out example of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are deeply, profoundly aware that we are in Kijabe “with you”: and that although we are individual persons, we can only say we ‘exist’ as persons through our communion and community with you.
And now, we’re off. Back to Kijabe, which has not skipped a beat in our absence–which pleases us immensely–thanks in no small part (1) to the dedicated and servant-hearted staff of Kijabe Hospital, and (2) to the leadership of Dr Rich Davis, who stepped up as Medical Director in Mardi’s absence. Among many other initiatives, Rich was fortunate to oversee the installation and commissioning of our new CT scanner, which will impact the lives of so many in East Africa for good.
To our American friends and family: Thank you. We love you.
 Most helpful “hipster” cultural marker goes to Heather Doss. “q: How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb? a: It’s a pretty obscure number, I don’t think you would have heard of it.”