I opened the door late Friday evening to welcome home my husband. J– had been gone almost two whole weeks and seeing him was like a breath of fresh air. He stood in the doorway and carried with him a suitcase of things from South Sudan. One of the things that struck me as he stood there was how much I loved seeing him like that, covered in a coat of South Sudan dust. The suitcase (and everything in it) was covered in the dirt of the land and the waves of homesick washed over me again.
I haven’t written too much about the emotions surrounding our inability to return to South Sudan. Mostly because I like to write when I have come to a point where I feel some type of resolve and closure and for me trying to write or type about the depth of emotions surrounding our ability to return as a family to South Sudan (yet) has been too raw to process verbally. We have felt a pang of loss in our lives for a variety of things, the loss of a normal pregnancy when our first girls, twins, were very sick. The loss of our firstborn daughter, the loss of close friends when we first moved homes, the loss of my identity as a full time teacher, the loss of saying goodbye to loved ones and leaving our passport country, the loss of friends who have died before us, and the loss of dreams and expectations and careers. But the loss of being able to live in Melut, South Sudan this year has been uniquely difficult among all our losses. I often say, “grief is grief it is the same in that it is all bad, and it is all uniquely different”, and the grief of our evacuation and all that followed from Melut has been a loss that I cannot quite come to terms with, explain or stop grieving.
We were not on a short trip to Melut, we had moved there, the items we deemed important were there with us and we arrived and immedietly sunk roots. We looked to our future there and we settled. We made friends, we learned, we loved, we cried we lived life there. Our kids had routines, and friendships and special places and things, we had traditions and rhythm to life. There wasn’t thoughts of “when we move” or “if we leave” we were all in. I’ve been looking at pictures J– brought me of our home there, our garden, struggling on without us, the basil and banana thriving, my karakaday and dahlias died from lack of care. The tree my kids built in, still providing shade from the sun in our absence, the mud creations the kids so loved to make in rainy season being molded and played with, the friends waving on video and shouting their greetings, the familiar dusty roads and goats on the street, the outline of bats on the sunset and the monsoon rains. It is different then the pangs I feel at times for the mountains or trees of our passport country, maybe because we chose to leave, and say goodbye well to these joys…we still miss them but we chose to leave them for what lied ahead. We released ourselves from their joy to be obedient into what stretched before our family.
I think it has been so hard because unlike other moves in our life we didn’t choose this one, we headed out on a mandatory medical evacuation with less then 24 hours notice and have yet to return together. There was no goodbyes (even temporary ones), there was no packing, there was no sadness at what we were leaving and anticipating for the future it was just suddenly we had a home and then did not. Jon recovered some of our items when he was there, and it brought no closure, I found myself more in love with the dust on each article of clothing or school book then the books or items themselves. There was a bag of ful sudani (peanuts) that a dear friend sent out for me and it was this I treasured most. Maybe it is the lack of closure, the uncertainty of return and the depth of relationships lost but the longing to return to Melut is like an open wound, not a dull ache of homesickness, but a thing that days can make me want to curl up and cry, and leaves me in great longing anticipation of return, with the knowledge that the future is unstable and return may not happen, for the foreseeable future. It is an open wound, not a closed one.
Every day we drive over the Nile to school and every day my eldest son sighs and says in his sweet four year old voice, “Mom, I just know Dad is going to say we can go back to Melut soon…” or perhaps, “Mom, I really want to go home to Melut”. There really isn’t much to say because I do too and all the joys of today don’t take away the longing and the grief for what cannot be. Embracing today doesn’t take away the pain of what was lost and the dust I love the most can still only be found in one spot. The place where my heart resides and I cannot.
We have been living with the weight of this longing for almost a year now, the longing to return, each month hoping that things will have shifted and we can pack up our bags and return to the dust we love the most, and each month being a bit sad all over again that the dust we love the most isn’t the dust lying outside our door. J– spends evenings planning what he will do to our home when he returns, or project ideas. We delve into language in the anticipation of using it there. We love the people here in N. Africa, God has brought some amazing sisters and brothers to us. We build relationships, we serve here we try and live in the gift of the present, we even recognize the amazing gift of living here for this season… but the longing of the dust of South Sudan is always present in our hearts.
When my husband stepped in the door on Friday we both agreed on one point, we are not done longing to live in the dust of the land of South Sudan, of striving and praying for the day we can get there. There was no release on his journey that this portion of our life was behind us, we long to return and believe in earnest that one day we will… But that day is not today and so we must find ways to live well in the grief, and help our children live well in the grief and this is a mighty task indeed.
So there is no neat ending to this blog post other then to say that I hope this longing I feel for the dust of South Sudan to coat my belongings again, and the people to fill my doorway God can use to remind me of the longing I ought to carry with me for Him on a daily basis.
But today I just really wish my feet were coated in the dust from a different land, the dust I love the most…
We seek to empower our children, our teammates and our Sudanese friends to love and know more of who God is through acts of loving service and biblical teaching.