I’ve heard this phrase my whole life and joked about it, but in the last few weeks I’d say I’ve found it to be true…to an extent, and I’m not talking about love or relationships. I’m referring to a place. You see, since moving to North Africa in February, I’ve known it was where I was supposed to be for a season, but it hasn’t exactly been a place that I “loved.” I needed some distance.
I was able to travel to a medical conference (planned last summer before the civil war broke out in SSudan) and take some vacation time after the conference. Now many of my plans have changed so much (I know, I know, it’s been a constant re-occurring theme these past 6 months), but these plans were able to stay in place before I needed to be back to resume my Arabic classes. Of course I was so grateful. I needed a break. So off I trucked, out of the Arab world for the first time in two months. Boy was I excited. To describe the last 2 months…well let’s just say it’s been an interesting process of learning to live in North Africa and a completely different culture from any I knew or had experienced. Since it was a challenge, I was more than ready to board the first plane I could.
The time away, packing lots of medical gems into my brain for when I am done with language learning, and getting to go on the much-needed, perfectly timed vacation was wonderful. At the same time, I missed North Africa. My time away reminded me how grateful I am for my teammates. They truly are like family and I missed them. I missed my roommate. I missed our sweet landlord and our bawaab’s (doorman) wife and young son. I missed our neighborhood and our fakkahani (fruit man). I missed the language. I missed class. And as I realized that I missed this place that I wanted to get out of so fast, I realized yet again how The Lord was answering one of our team’s prayers as we moved to North Africa. We wanted to be like the Jim Elliot quote that says “wherever you are, be all there.”
I’ve been back in North Africa a few weeks now, and I wish I could say it has been blissful and easy. It’s amazing how quickly one can forget the language they have been learning while they are away from it. But, I know the Arabic in my brain somewhere is coming back shwaya shwaya (little by little). I’m still not quite sure if that old saying is true when you aren’t even referring to a relationship, but I am thankful for the Lord giving me a break in order to appreciate and see what He has provided for me to “be all here” until He says my time is done in North Africa.
“What would have been the key to patience for Joseph during all those long years of exile and abuse? The answer is: faith in future grace–the sovereign grace of God to turn the unplanned place and the unplanned pace into the happiest ending imaginable.” ~John Piper