In just a short time I will board a plane and fly to a country that is my adoptive home. Afghanistan. A hard, dangerous, beautiful, desperate place where I had planned to live out our calling, do our life’s work, and yes, raise my kids. One of my most favorite people in the world is doing it. All her kids were born there and the oldest will be graduating from high school there this year. That is who I wanted to be. Someone so dedicated to loving her neighbor as Jesus has called us to do that they have stayed through war(s), illness(es), and homesickness. Her kids are some of the best people I know and I wanted that life for us. I was certain God wanted that life for us.
We started out well. Mr. Incredible and I first went to Afghanistan as a young married couple and then again with a baby, and stayed through two subsequent pregnancies. I have some great stories from those years and I hope to tell them from time to time.
But sitting here, today, in my home in America, getting ready to go back for the first time in three years, my thoughts are on the day we lost everything. The day the doctor told Mr. I, who told me, “they think the baby might have Down syndrome.” For anybody, those words alone will shatter your world. I have plenty of friends with kids with Down syndrome and almost all of them have said they had the same awful, gut-wrenching time in the first days and weeks.
But none of them also went through a hurricane. It’s the best analogy I can come up with for people in the States to understand. With those words, we lost our home, our ministry, our possessions, our jobs and our pet (interestingly, most people will gasp in sympathy at the last one). Yes, we were happy to be in a place where we were safe. Yes we were so thankful to have modern medicine to help our little guy become healthy and grow. No, we weren’t happy to be here. No, it wasn’t great to be home — didn’t anybody understand, we’d just lost our home??
Almost immediately, everyone, from our family doctor to our pastor wanted to know if we would go back to Afghanistan now. We had no idea. The doctors thought Jack-Jack had heart problems (he didn’t) and we had so much to learn about Down syndrome. All we could offer was a feeble, “we just don’t know” which tore us up.
So, I read books. I got on line and found help and support. My best friend since the seventh grade came down with her husband and kids and prayed with us. She stayed with me in hospital and turned a nightmare experience into a joyful time. My parents and sisters took deep breaths and took great care of our older two kids. They didn’t ask us what we would do, they made their home available to us for as long as we needed. We found a house and went shopping at Wal Mart for new possessions and church friends gave us all we needed. We fell in love with our baby and slowly adjusted to this “new normal.”
But, we still didn’t have Afghanistan. And for three years, that has been a big question and an ache in our hearts. We had started telling people, for the sake of having some sort of plan, that when Jack-Jack was three and he transitioned from Early Intervention to the school district, we would start thinking about moving back overseas. Not necessarily Afghanistan, but something, somewhere.
So, here I am, days away from going back. To see. To pray. To reconnect with dear friends. To visit two friends’ graves. To ask the big questions and to hear from God, what He would have for our family’s future. We’d appreciate your prayers too.