Our last couple weeks in Obule were full of blessings and sadness. Many of our friends had us to their homes for a meal and shared with us how thankful they were for our friendship and help. We were also able to express our love and appreciation for them. Our girls were busy writing and sharing notes with each friend telling them how they see God working in them and how much God loves them. In return many notes started to circle around and our girls were affirmed that their friendship and love for the Lord was mutual. So many of our friends brought us gifts of peanuts, meals, oranges and more. It was their way of saying we love you and thank you. I felt loved and was humbled by their gifts that cost them.
Our last Sunday in church we said our goodbyes. It was one of the most meaningful, memorable and holy moments I have had in Obule. I began to share from Philippians 1 where Paul says it is his joy to partner with the local believers in the gospel. As I spoke I could see Lydia crying on her bench and her friends began to circle her crying, I then began to cry, and then my interrupter, pastor and good friend was also crying. The next thing you know there was a ripple effect of tears all around the church. Young, old, women, men, my friends, neighbors, teen boys...it seemed everyone was touched and crying. It was so hard but so beautiful! I never felt so love. Without a doubt our love for the people of Obule is mutual. God did and is doing something special and something few people ever have the joy of experiencing. God's Spirit was there. He was there in the tears, the love, and each day that year as people were coming to Christ, growing in Christ, and transforming lives as His truth was being shared. I stood there crying with my church family that Sunday trying to take in that holy moment. All I could hear was sniffles all around. Looking at faces of friends that God has touched. Friends I have learned so much from. I belong. In Christ we are family and we love.
I stood there and reminded them that this goodbye is not forever and that we are so thankful we will be coming back home (to Obule). I encouraged them that they don't need us, God remians in them and it is my prayer that they grow in Christ as we are away. After church there were no hand shakes everyone was hugging. Not a pat on the back hug but long, hard, meaningful hugs. I just cried as youth hugged me, teen boys, David who came to Christ this year, Patrica who grew so much in Christ, leaders who are our team, women who are my best friends, old ladies who are dear to me... We had lunch all together as as a church but it still felt like a funeral as people continued to cry and give me deep hugs. The youth in particular looked so sad. But I was so happy - loving and being loved is a beautiful thing.
Sunday night we continued to get gifts of food from our friends and the youth just didn't want to leave. We said many, many goodbyes but no one wanted to separate. It was hard to see my kids crying and sad. Finally we told the youth they needed to go home, so they said first we need to pray together. We gathered in our porch as the boys led us in prayer. It was so touching to see the youth God was growing in and working in praying for us as we left. There were tears all around the porch. I knew the youth loved Lydia and Grace and they love just being together but now I realized how much our our family and home has also meant to them. It is a place of peace, truth, acceptance, and love in a culture that isn't always loving and in a culture where you can be forgotten in a family and individuates don't always matter. Jesus was using our home and family to love.
The day of our departure finally came. You can only say goodbye so long. Once we were on our way we were ok and excited. We have prayed for our friends in Obule everyday we have been away. Praying they are growing in Christ as we are away.
Here we are now preparing to say goodbyes in Michigan. Five months here was allowed us to reconnect with family, invest into friendships, adjust to live here, be apart of school and church. We have loved family, friends, Michigan, seasons, supporters, church, comforts, beauty...and now it is difficult to separate. To say goodbye comes with tears. We love and so it hurts. To not hurt or cry is not to invest, give of yourself, feel, experience, and be present. We have no regrets. It will always be hard to leave but it is always worth it.
Thank you for your prayers as we leave. It is the transition periods that are so hard and we would live to skip over. We have to choose not to be stressed at these stressful times. Each time we leave again it reminds me this is when my faith takes action. I need to put into action all I say I believe.
We fly out of Detroit Monday January 29 and will arrive in Uganda on February 1. We will stay with some friends before we drive 6 hours to our home in Obule. We will most likely gain 100 degrees from Michigan to Uganda! Pray for our adjustment.
We want to thank everyone for receiving us, helping us, and loving us! It means a lot to us to be welcomed back to Michigan. Thank you to our family and friends for letting us in and out of your lives with grace. Thank you to Georgetown CRC for providing a home away from home for us. Thank you to Hudsonville Christian and Unity for allowing our kids and receiving them to be a part of your schools. We are grateful for positive experiences. We are grateful for all our supporting churches and supporters for giving us time to share and sharing our excitement for all God is doing in Obule.
It is our prayer that you continue to grow in Christ until we meet again.