Ever since our family announced the decision to move to South Africa in order to work in ministry and pursue a change in scenery, everyone (not just a few people…literally everyone) who’s caught wind of the news has had one, singular question.
“Are you excited?!!”
Initially, the easy answer was to reply with a hearty ‘Yes!’ and force a smile before answering the next series of uninspiring and now-expected questions: “What will you be doing when you get there?” and “When do you come back?”
These queries were predictable. In fact, there was one couple in our church who asked us these same three questions Sunday after Sunday until I paused and tilted my head mischievously one day and said “You know what? I’m not sure!” I quickly made it known that I was joking. The last time I made that sort of joke I was reported to the authorities in our church and it cost my family thousands of dollars in dunce taxes.
Moving is an arduous enough task. Moving to another country is a hellacious one. Had it not been for assistance of MX5, Rose, Tia, Karim, Amira, and a whole list people who helped us to the very last second of our departure, we would still be cleaning and prepping for departure today. Therefore I have no designs of packing my family up and returning to the United States without the assistance of an efficient relocation firm anytime soon. The recollection of cleaning toilets hoarder’s homes gives me more pleasure than considering this future task. It was so much easier to answer the question “So! When are you coming back?” before we’d packed our first box.
“Three years!” was our honest reply. But now? Now I can’t say this without feeling like a fraud. The thought of shutting down another house in 36 months doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to mentally prepare for the exercise. I think it will be good practice to lay a timetable at Jesus’ feet and respond with a hearty “When God says go!” the next time we’re asked.
Yeah…we’ll lay any potential blame for tardiness on the head of the Messiah. Didn’t He advise us to cast all of our cares upon Him?
As I said before, getting here was no mean feat. First we had to shut down our house, a process made more difficult than necessary with the sudden bursting of pipes in both the ceiling and kitchen floor; the cracking of drywall in our stairwell (the eventual result of the kids’ gymnastics exploits); the painting, the cleaning, the appliance replacement…that was all before we got to putting our stuff in storage and/or packed up for shipping across the sea.
Did any of these activities inspire “excitement” within my children or me? In a way. Remember that scene in ‘Missing in Action’ when Chuck Norris was hung upside down with a burlap sack over his head and his prison guards dropped a giant jungle rat in there with him? Shortly afterwards there was a struggle that ended with the sack drenched in blood – presumably Chuck’s? And to the watching crowd’s amazement, the sack was removed from his limp body and Chuck Norris had eviscerated that rat with naught but his teeth? Equate that to our feelings about this move and you have a baseline to determine our level of “excitement”.
We were anxious.
We were terrified.
We were apprehensive.
At times we were melancholy as the day for our departure drew near.
All these are valid sorts of excitement – just not the gushy, happy ones that most people associate with the word. But praise God, we’re here! And as I type, the stars are twinkling in the sky and the kids are happily enjoying their new space. But before I get to the stars and these amazing blue skies, you want to hear all about our trip, don’t you! Of COURSE you do.
As you can imagine, traveling with 3 kids (Stone had already left with Marshall) and 12 pieces of luggage is no stroll in the park. I have therefore broken down the process in chart form to make it easier for you to digest and understand our collective pain. Below is a pictorial representation of our journey in 3 phases:
There is a Phase 4, which includes discovering my actual purpose for being here (something Marshall has already done), but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Back to our flight.
Our cabin crew on South African Airways was wonderful. They made the journey as pleasant as possible. That said, I would like to advise that if you are ever considering flying South African Airways in economy class: don’t. The armrests do not fully retract in economy (or as one attendant said over the loud speaker, economic) class. The malfunction limits the passengers already limited range of motion in the seat, and the protrusion of the perpetually suspended armrest into your ribs is akin to what I imagine the sensation of an elephant erection jabbed into your side for the duration of a 17-hour flight might feel like. Not that I can say that for certain, of course. After watching an elephant urinate with enough force to put out a small forest fire, it’s just what I imagine.
As I said, the crew did their best to make us comfortable, and it was a jolly (albeit sleepless) flight. After 9 hours in the air, we stopped in Accra to let a few passengers off and onboard a few more. It was here that the cabin crew changed shifts and we got a new head flight attendant. I call her Sister Mfofo, the Franken-Air Hostess. (Her real name is Debbie, I later discovered.) Sister Mfofo – like a fair number of South Africans, I hear – does not like West Africans. You’re curious to know why. Find out tomorrow on: SAA and the Franken-Air Hostess!