It is always with great trepidation, with checking and re-checking, that I finally push the button on purchasing plane tickets for our
little family of eight. Most recently, after much searching and supplication we found "reasonable" one-way rates for our return to Chile at the end of May. We purchased them in faith, as we still have funds to raise before being afforded financial clearance to depart. Doing the deed, however, seemed to set off sensitivities within our family circle. With the mid-point of furlough upon us, feelings are bubbling forth on each end end of the spectrum.
One of our teenaged girls questioned, "What's the point of coming back to the States for a year just to say goodbye again? That's why I wanted to stay in Iquique!" Our other daughter admitted, "For a long time I didn't think I'd want to return to Iquique, but after talking to [friend's name] I want to. But I just don't want to be stuck there."
I asked our two third-grade boys how they feel right now about going back, and both said they didn't really want to. These are valid feelings, wrapped up in the current reality they are enjoying of being in a traditional school with great teachers and creative programs and new friends. For our son whose learning challenges made it necessary to withdraw him from Chilean education after kindergarten, going to school is a dream come true. Recently I met with his teacher who had only positive things to say and she remarked that despite his being withdrawn from class for special help up to three or four times a day, "He is always so cheerful and works so hard!"
In light of this child's situation alone, my own mid-furlough feelings are completely muddled. While homeschool has wonderful benefits and its one-on-one focus is tremendously helpful to him, in Iquique there are no homeschool support groups or co-ops and their MK friends who do homeschool will be leaving for their own year of furlough soon after we return. Here in the States, our son and his brother march off to school excitedly every morning. They love their school and can recite its code of conduct by heart. They think their teachers are beautiful and can do no wrong. They are learning and growing and everyone is their "friend!" The thought of taking that away again makes my heart ache so much.
As we turn the corner toward the second half of furlough, we can't procrastinate on planning and from a family standpoint this primarily means educational decisions which are so hard. We don't feel satisfied with the online option our girls used prior to furlough, as placing them into school here revealed a number of gaps in their learning. So we must find another alternative but they are both in high school and these final few years matter for college. (On that subject, throw in a bunch more big feelings because this foreseeably is our last return to the field all together as a family.)
As far as our boys are concerned, returning to Chilean school may be an option for two of them but recent changes have been made to the Chilean educational system with major repercussions in our city. Our local paper reported this week that 800 students are without schools for next year at this point in time, and the school that was foremost in our consideration currently has over 300 students on its waiting list. This begs the question, do we spend money on homeschool materials we may not use or save money only to find ourselves without any other options when it's too late?
There are no easy answers to these and many other questions. Our roles and routines will be different when we return to Iquique. My husband is itching to get back and jump into the thick of things. From a ministry standpoint I, too, look forward to reuniting with co-workers especially at FLORECE to see what God has done and watch what He is going to do! As a mom, however, I worry about how it will all work out with our kids' needs and schedules and our adult responsibilities. As a daughter, I am soaking up as much time with my parents as possible and dreading the day we say goodbye. As a teammate, I know that with our return there will be a collective sigh of relief as the workload can be redistributed by our faithful colleagues who have been doing so much this year.
This week I have been in the Psalms during my devotions. There are so many rich truths, but one verse which jumped out to me was Psalm 7:9 which says: "Let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous. The One who examines the thoughts and emotions is a righteous God." (HCSB) What encouraged my heart was that phrase "examine the thoughts and emotions" because it was a reminder that my mid-furlough feelings are no surprise or trouble to my Heavenly Father. In fact, I shared this verse with my children as well to reassure them that God cares about how we feel and He created us with these feelings. And feelings can get pretty big, especially for missionary kids who may feel they have little control about when and where God's will for their parents can take them!
It is my prayer that my children - and their parents! - will learn to continually cry out to God with our yearnings, doubts, hopes, fears, joys and uncertainties. The older I grow, the more gratitude I feel for God's faithful guidance through the stages of my own life - first as a missionary kid, now as a missionary mom. Though each child is unique, I do understand many of their feelings even as I continue to struggle with my own! Yet I am blessed with a broader base of experience which confirms that He has cared for us in the past and will continue to care for us now and into the future. I pray for compassion to meet my children where they are, wisdom to say what they need to hear, and consistency in pointing them to Christ. Lord, may it be so!