A decade ago I stopped living in Africa. I left the community that blessed me. I left the community that sometimes made me a little nuts. A decade ago my life changed direction without prior notification.
I knew this anniversary was coming, but I thought I might escape “knowing” what had happened each day as the anniversaries unfolded themselves. The anniversary of my friend and colleague’s death. The remembrance of sitting in the dorm with the girls I mentored as we mourned and questioned and thought Dave’s death was more than we wanted to handle but as much as we could. Other publicized and unpublicized tragedies a month and more earlier smacked me around till I wanted to shout, “Uncle!”
This death was more than enough tragedy for three months. It had to be the end for a while. We need a respite. I needed a respite.
I was wrong.
Waking up to the phone ringing and distant gunfire helped me realize more tragedy was jumping into my life. Lockdowns, bullet proof vests, consolidation of living arrangements, electric cuts, shelling, dyed hair–for the kids not me, a funeral, hiding under beds and tables, tracer bullets, and cross-fire all combined to tell the part of my brain that was clued in life couldn’t remain the same. The rest of my brain wasn’t willing to acknowledge that yet.
I had students to teach, class activities to plan, a killer lesson on the Revolutionary War and what we were going through to lead with my amazing student teacher. There were papers to grade. There were little boys at an orphanage in town to comfort, tease, and teach. I still needed to pay my maid for the last month.
It didn’t matter. Reality kicked in as we drove off campus. It would never be the same. I would never be the same.
The lessons would go untaught and unlearned–at least in room 6. Other lessons in other places needed learning. Different memories could be made. I could learn and grow in ways I never dreamed.
A decade later my soul still remembers this week before my mind clues in. A decade later I can see the good grown from some of the tragedy. A decade later I have the ministry I’d longed and prayed for years before this crisis enveloped my adopted country.
A decade later I no longer identify myself as an evacuee. I no longer yearn for this story to be one of the first I want you to hear about me. A decade later I know people are woven into the fabric of my heart even more securely than any of the places. A decade later I grieve the diaspora and celebrate our connectedness.
A decade later I still speak the words, “God gives the grace we need when we need it and not before.”
What have you learned in the last decade?