"To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the sun" Ecclesiastes 3:1
Our lives go through seasons. Sometimes we pass through a season that feels like fall. We feel like we're preparing for something else. Shedding what's not crucial in order to preserve our energy for what is coming next. At other times our lives may feel like they are in a season of summer- growth has already happened and we simple feel like we're enjoying the beauty of it all, coasting along and reaping the benefits of the previous seasons.
The past three years have been hard. A spiritual and seemingly physical season of the depths of winter (except, we were in Africa, so it was a HOT winter ;)). Seasons of winter are marked by darkness and a lack of new growth or new life. Our past season felt like one death after another. Death of dreams, death of the ability to use our gifts in the ways we had thought they would be used, death of ministry hopes.
On October first, three years ago, we arrived in Mundri, South Sudan. We flew on a 12-seat, propeller in the front Mission Aviation Fellowship plane from Uganda into South Sudan. I arrived slightly trembling. I had never been to South Sudan before, and here I was with Will and 8 trunks filled with, what was at this point, our only belongings. We walked into our tiny tukul for the first time, hopeful, but also terrified at how we would be able to call this place home for the next 5+ years.
We quickly grew to love the people in Mundri. They were full of joy and hope. They gave generously to us from the little they had and were surprised and so grateful when we gave something in return. They were genuine and so incredibly lovely. And we soon began to dream and hope of what our lives would look like in this town. We talked about how to turn our little tukul into a home we could bring a baby into. We planned where we went to church around what community would be easiest to walk to with a baby so I could interact with other mothers on a regular basis. We dreamed and hoped of what life would look like with this community.
And then we evacuated. And there was winter.
What felt like a death of a dream began. Suddenly these people we had come to quickly (in only 5 months!) love were now unreachable to us. Not only could we not be with them, but they were in danger and we couldn't help. Their deep winter was so tangibly felt by us as well. We wanted to help. We wanted to make things better and we couldn't. So we prayed and hoped for better days for them. For new breakthroughs spiritually in the hearts of the men causing the war. For provision and safety and health.
And then we went to Kijabe, Kenya and it was a sweet place to rest as we waited. We thought we were waiting to return to South Sudan. We taught at an incredible boarding school and we are forever grateful for that experience and being able to be connected to community at RVA. This reprieve was so good, but temporary. We knew it wouldn't last forever and our hearts longed to return to our friends in South Sudan. And in this time we mourned the loss of our first pregnancy. Another death. Another loss. Another reminder of darkness and sadness.
Our journey continued with times in Arua, Uganda; Nairobi, Kenya and Fort Portal, Uganda. We met incredible people along the way and welcomed our first child into the world during this time (no small thing!!). We had continued hopes of new seasons. Hopes of settling in and finding a new ministry field, a new place to call home and community to call family. But nothing clicked. We thought it would. We hoped and prayed that our last placement would be it- but it was very clear that it was not where God wanted us long term. We were left confused and oh so tired. Why, Lord? Why did you give us hopes of a new team and a new community and then make it clear we weren't supposed to stay? Why did you have us bring a new baby to a new location in Africa if this isn't where you wanted us long term? Why did we have to go through this struggle and disappoint people when you had other plans that you knew of all along?
We didn't know any of the answers, but winter continued. We settled back in the US with the burden of those questions burning deep. The unknowns were so difficult to grapple with.
And then something shifted. As always, when something shifts spiritually in me, I can't point to anything I've done or prayed or read that has made the change. It's always supernatural. It's always something the Lord has done on my behalf, regardless of my faithfulness or lack thereof. A cloud was lifted and suddenly the answers to those questions didn't matter as much as the hope that it was actually going to be okay. We were actually okay. In the midst of the prolonged season of darkness and sadness- we were okay. Despite it all, we deeply knew in our hearts that God was good and even though answers weren't coming, they suddenly didn't matter as much anymore. Our deep understanding of God's goodness in our lives and stories was far more meaningful than having all of the answers to the "why's".
Thawing started. And slowly, slowly, it felt like new growth was coming. New growth isn't always easy and comes with it's own set of pain and difficulty, but it brings along with it hope. Hope of new things, hope of beauty and of thriving.
And this is where we are now. We are hopeful. We don't know how all of the pieces of our past three years fit together yet. We still feel great sadness at times, often, for what could have been. But we're hopeful. We're expectant of seeing evidence of the new life and growth that is still to come. We're hopeful that the pieces will fit together eventually, but in the meantime, the journey is still beautiful. We're hopeful that our Good Father is still at work, as He always has been. Making all things beautiful. Bringing life up from the dry ground. Remaining consistent even as seasons change. Remaining faithful as we sort through disappointments and hopes and losses and joys.