...that your heart's desire is to move their precious grandchildren....TO AFRICA!?!
It was bad enough when we took the two we had at the time 1,000 miles from New Hampshire to Illinois. That move was in 1996 and it was "supposed" to be for 2 years. Fast forward to 2011 and we are still here!
Here is the slightly edited version of how I told my parents...my life is an open book - why not share it?!
Mom & Dad,
I don't even know where to start. Maybe I will just start with what I know Dad will say: "I am not surprised at all."
I suppose it makes the most sense to work backwards. We are praying and strongly suspecting God is throwing open doors for our family to move to Ethiopia in the next 18-24 months. We have tried hard to view it as the natural, emotional, hill-top reaction to two amazing, life-changing trips to a world so different from everything we know here. There are three Smith hearts stuck in Addis Ababa. There is no where else I would rather be right now. Pete and Ali wholeheartedly agree. There is so so so much to consider and figure out - but - we are trusting God BIG TIME on this. He is blowing us away sending people to answer our questions before we even ask them. Let me see if I can answer some of the obvious....
Money? We will have to raise support and, I would love to say that would come from Christians through churches, BUT....ha! Individual Christians - sure..maybe....hopefully. However, we are meeting with a dear friend of ours who may offer us the opportunity to return to the states for 10-12 weeks each year to WORK to raise what could be well over half what we would need to live on annually. They provide these opportunites specifically for pastors & missionaries. (ACK! We would be missionaries?! Pete used to bring up that subject before kids and I would CHANGE IT!)
Medical? I spoke to a woman who is already living there. She told me about her international medical policy - said it was non-negotiable! (We know several Americans who live there right now....God keeps crossing our paths!) We would plan to have the kids go for annual doctor & dentist...and scoliosis & eczema & Crohns...visits while we are in the states. I did have to take a couple trip members to the hospital while I was there. That is another story! Sorta funny, but not really. Anyway, I got to see the medical care available to Americans - and what it costs - and it is not bad at all. My friend has already found a great dentist from Germany...since her husband had a tooth issue. I guess, bottomline: Do we trust God? It IS a fairly modern, large city. People DO live and breathe there - including Americans. I will admit, this was my last surrender....as a Mom.
School? Ok...God has a sense of humor. I may homeschool the little kids. We have friends who are going in August and the wife dreaded homeschooling - but her daughter did not get into the American school there. I told her she could school MY kids and I would school hers...then it would be PRIVATE school, not homeschool. Either way, we may put them on a waiting list for this highly recommended school. We are hoping Ali and Kane will choose paths in life - now that they are out of high school - that will land them with us at least PART of the time. Kane is pursuing a opportunity to join a Discipleship Training School with YWAM that will take him all around Europe for 6 months and Ali is currently taking American Sign Language training.
What the heck?! This is probably the #1 question. We have a heart to work with the street kids and the children who age out of the orphanages. I thought I would go there and get my heart set on toddlers, maybe even babies....but.....no. My heart was captured by the people. The old raisin ladies - the one who cried tears of joy when I hugged and kissed her...and would not let go...telling me with gestures that she would see me in heaven. My precious translator told me people rarely pay attention to her - much less hug & kiss her. The leper men - I love these men! I know I could not work in a nursing home here in the US...but I was so blessed to be with these men. The JOY! No fingers, feet half gone & missing noses...dancing & singing & blessing us. The children...their love and generosity challenges me. They light up just because we smile at them...even if we have nothing more to offer than hugs & kisses. The ache? The older kids. The children who live in orphanages and know they will not be adopted. The kids who can't even cry anymore because they miss their dead mothers too much. The boys who have to move into adulthood with little or no guidance. The young man who told me that - until he was able to call me Mom - there was never ever anyone in his life who cared what happened to him, much less truly loved him.
What will we do there? There is a man Pete and I both met whose heart is pure and he is so sold out to Jesus. Our dear friends recommended we meet with him while in Addis. We have been invited to work with the organization God is blessing through his surrendered efforts. He is hoping to have us focus on reaching out to vulnerable children through their Street Kids Ministry. So much of this is still up in the air....but....we have such a peace about it. We want God to use US to love on people there and to show them Christ...to make a difference in their earthly AND ETERNAL lives.
What about right now? Well, we are not discounting several factors....and the timing is exciting! We do not think it was a coincidence that Pete and I BOTH were handed FREE trips to Ethiopia...and only 9 days apart. Add to that Ali's trip. We only sent out a "PLEASE PRAY" letter and so much money came in from so many unforseen sources.
I would not have guessed that my job would be eliminated due to restructuring - BUT - I was given severance pay through July. Our 3 year house lease is up in this summer and Kane just graduated from high school. Our next child is not even close to entering high school yet - whew! God willing, Hezekiah's adoption should be final within the next year. We have a car payment until this October....but, after that...we are completely debt-free. We are on the hunt for a rental home that is considerably cheaper than this place....and I think this poor housing market may work in our favor. We will have a chunk of money from Pete's 401K to hold in an emergency fund. (Gotta be somewhat responsible!) PLUS, the opportunity I mentioned above may start in a smaller form this summer which would enable us to HOPEFULLY start to SAVE!
We are fully aware we will be in Satan's crosshairs. We will be soliciting prayer warriors, for sure! I am hoping to take Kane and Tatum to visit before we move everyone there. We may find it is not for us....but we want to go into this with our eyes wide open....with His eyes.
Are we CRAZY?!?! Ummm....YES! Completely! We are crazy in love with the people there. The babies, the toddlers, the school kids, the teenagers, the 20-nothings (my favorites!), the adults who have fully embraced us, the old, the sick, the homeless....it's a package deal, for sure. Pete even fell in love with a PROSTITUTE! Okay....actually a FORMER prostitute. She calls him her brother and he changed her life just by listening to her. She was pulled off the streets and trained to be a hairdresser to free her from that life....to give her children a hope & a future. No mom should feel like that is her only option. We want to offer ourselves to God to change things like this. It is not really all that hard. Someone just has to care...has to bother.
We are in awe of the opportunities to give so little, yet do so much. We have been given SO much and we have used it to amass what matters so NOT AT ALL. We are thankful that God is bringing us to a place in our lives where we truly WANT to let go....and go.
There are so many factors in this. God has been pulling us down this path...and sometimes it has been a very humbling process. BUT...I would not trade any of it. We want to wait on Him and follow Him and He is giving us peace and patience....and excitement as we watch things unfold.
Okay....did ya know?! Or are you having to take a heart pill? I love you beyond words and I will be FOREVER grateful to you BOTH for the legacy....if not for YOU and your faith...where would I be now? I could "blame" you for this , but I prefer to see this as a continuing legacy. If you want to know what is swirling in my brain, read "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream," by David Platt. WOW! His book did not CREATE this desire - only confirms it!
With a smile,
UPDATE: After a few emails asking me practical questions that any parent has the right to ask, here is what I got from my dad....
"Okay, Lori: That was the reply I expected and wanted…..Total Commitment!
And, even though I pointed out the bad spots, I still support your heart and what you want to accomplish. I always knew there was something more in your life and am not surprised in the least that this is what you chose to do. It’s hard to criticize someone who wants to do God’s work, even if it means in a far-off land in a place we “comfortable” people find extreme. That’s where Christian work is needed most.
You will not receive any more emails pointing out unpleasant subjects, rather encouragement.
And, yes, I would visit Africa once again!
I guess you and I are stuck with Winston’s wise words:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give!”
I love you!
And please understand my concern."
I am looking forward to the prospect of picking him up in the Bole Airport someday! My heart is picturing it....PURE JOY!
Lori (847) 650-7144
Pete (847) 650-8022
Our Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are an ordinary family simply trying to follow where He leads. We want YOU to see the amazing things HE is doing...