I stand here in the kitchen looking out the window. I am watching my 16 year old daughter, Natalie, and her two friends. One is 17 years old and the other is 12 years old. They are laying in a hammock letting Natalie’s kitten climb all over the three of them. The hammock is strung between a mango tree and its own branch (supported by a wooden stilt). They are giggling and enjoying a lazy moment of girl talk. Three missionary kids.
Now, if you had told me I would be watching this scene six months ago, when we first arrived, I may have believed you, but I probably would have simply hoped it might be true. When we arrived, the pain of separating from her brother and sister were too new. The discomfort and difficulty of schooling for her and for her younger brother were also too new and painful. What you imagine life may look like as a missionary in West Africa and what it does actually look and feel like cannot be predicted by the human mind. You cannot fathom the depths of pain you experience for your children’s loss or adjustments to a new way of life. You cannot fathom the pain you will experience for the loss of daily contact with the two adult children you have left in the States. You also cannot imagine the peace God will provide in walking with Him where He wants you. There is a contentment that cannot be adequately described. I have no doubt that this is where He wants us. So many things had to occur for us to arrive here when we did.
Our path brought us to The Gambia a year after I had emergency brain surgery. In August 2011 I collapsed from a cyst creating a large amount of spinal fluid to build up in my brain. Had this occurred here in The Gambia, there would have been no medical treatment available to save my life. If you had told me then that a year later I would be living in The Gambia it would have been so very difficult to imagine. But our heavenly Father knew all of these details years ago. We had originally expected to raise our support, arriving here within three years of the journey’s beginning and bring all four children to The Gambia to experience life together. However, seven years later we arrived here, with our oldest two children in the States and our youngest two children with us. There have been no surprises to our omniscient Father. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us,
“I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I cannot take credit for God’s plans. I can only thank Him that He makes the plans and carries them out in His time. He doesn’t promise endless days of ease, but he does promise us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He does promise peace and lasting comfort for every day. God’s peace and assurance that He will work all things to His glory is enough for me. I pray this reality for you.