Dear Mom and Dad,
Today we took another step on this crazy journey. You helped us haul our lives onto a scale (everything we own, now compressed into three bags of luggage). Despite our experience traveling to 28 countries, you still asked us if we needed help checking in at the airport — because you’re good parents, and that’s what you do.
Gabriel had me triple-check my bags for hidden knives (we didn’t want a repeat of the Japan incident!). And then, when we could not postpone the inevitable any longer, we hugged before parting ways and headed through security.
Now, we sit. We sit waiting to board our plane. Then we will sit on the plane as it takes us to another plane. Then we will sit on that plane for 7 hours while it takes us to another plane. Then we will sit on the third plane for 12 hours before we finally arrive in Entebbe, Uganda (where we will hop in a car and sit for 3 more hours as we travel to Jinja). In between all of the plane sitting, we get to enjoy hours of airport sitting.
All of this sitting allows for much time to reflect. That’s what people usually do at the beginning of the year anyways, right? They reflect.
I can’t help but reflect back to one winter evening, two years ago. The eight of us sat at a long, oval dining table, barely able to move after Barbara’s delicious Chicken Feta dish. There were eight of us because Hugh and Nancy were there, too (who we sometimes forget aren’t blood-relatives, but are family all the same).
That 2015 evening, we discussed everything from the weather to work stresses to theology doctrine to new recipes to xyz. We did not discuss the Panther’s recent loss at the Superbowl, although a few of the Superbowl commercials might have entered the conversation.
As usual, we sat around the table talking long after our plates were cleared. After awhile, Gabriel leaned over and whispered into my ear…
“It’s time. Let’s tell them.”
I grabbed Gabriel’s hand and smiled at him as I announced to the table, “we have some exciting news to share with all of you.”
Unexpectedly, my throat started closing and moisture pooled in my eyes. I squeezed Gabriel’s hand so he would continue the announcement for me. That’s when I looked up and saw all of you, smiling back at us.
Barbara’s eyes reflected little baby onesies, while Charlie stared off at a sleuth of daydreamed children laughing and bouncing around his chair in the living room. Tammy and Bruce’s eyes mirrored wonder and hope at the possibility of becoming grandparents. Hugh and Nancy simply sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what we were about to say.
Then I watched as the images of rattles and stuffed animals and pacifiers shattered at Gabriel’s next words…
“Recently, we connected with an organization in Uganda, and we feel God might be calling us to move there.”
Moms and Dads, you were so strong. You took a moment to process this news while we dished out bowls of ice cream to pile onto the dinner in our already bulging stomachs. And then you took turns asking your questions — questions you probably thought you’d never have to ask us — and continued to process the information we threw at you that evening.
And then you prayed with us, earnestly and intentionally, over the next two years, as we waited to see if it would actually happen. We’re not parents, but we can imagine how difficult the past two years have been for you, knowing your children might move eight time zones away to a developing country. And we can only imagine what you felt this past summer when we were officially offered a position at Amazima, and we accepted.
We want you to know that the past two years have been difficult for us, too. Moving to Uganda was never an easy decision we wanted to make — it was one we felt called to make, and one we needed to make. We know you understand that, now.
Somedays, we question can we actually do this? Can we actually move to a developing country and take care of these girls with unimaginable rough backgrounds? Are we strong enough? Are we prepared?
But then we are reminded that while we might never feel fully prepared, you have been preparing us for this our entire lives. And here’s why…
Barbara, you teach us daily what it truly means to have “the joy of the Lord.” You are the happiest person we know, and spread sunshine to everyone you come in contact with. When we see your smile and hear your laugh, we actually feel love emanating from you. We want our students to feel loved when they enter our home, the way we feel loved and happy every time we step foot into yours.
Charlie, from you we have learned to have patience and wisdom (and we’re not just saying that because you’re the oldest of the bunch!). You encourage us to never jump to conclusions, but to take a moment and pause and think about a situation, before taking action. We feel at peace when we talk to you, because we know we can talk to you about anything and you will take the time to pray and reflect before giving us your opinion or advice. We want to be like you — to stop and pray for direction — whenever we’re at a crossroads.
Tammy, you have the heart of a servant and are always looking to help others. It comes naturally to you. We know that whenever we need anything, you will find a way to help us. It’s not just because we belong to you — you will drop everything you are doing and help anyone who has a need. You continuously sacrifice your own desires to care for others. It doesn’t come quite so naturally to us, but we pray that through your example, we will also be gentle and kind and serve others the way you do.
Bruce, we would love to have your analytical brain and abounding knowledge. But since we can’t, we want to follow your example of something even more important: discernment. You have taught us not only the importance of knowing right from wrong, but to seek truth in all things. We want to question the things that don’t sit quite right with us, and measure them. We hope to teach our Ugandan students the importance of discernment, that they might make decisions that are life-giving.
Above all, the four of your have taught us what it is to be selfless. You give everything you have to others. And when you no longer have finances to give, you give of your time and your talents. You’ve given everything you have to us, and we want to pour those blessings back out, onto our Ugandan students as we love and care for them.
We hope in a few months, you guys will be able to do some airport sitting and plane sitting and more airport sitting and plane sitting (with some laughing and reflecting in between), as you come and visit us. Give us enough time to perfect our goat stew and ugali and chapati before you visit, so we can impress you with some Ugandan cuisine!
Until then, know we are blessed to be your children and miss you already. This isn't goodbye — it's simply "see you later!"
Mweraba, mukama abakuume!
Gabriel + Sarah