Friday, July 7, 2017


It's been almost a month since I left Niger.  The conversations that I've had with people since returning have been, for the most part, encouraging.  However, when given the opportunity, I find myself struggling to find a balance between rambling and clamming shut.  I love talking about my time in Niger, but I also don't want to be the annoying girl from Africa who never shuts up.  Please, this is an invitation to ask questions!  As I meet and re-meet people in PA, these seem to be the most popular ones so far.

Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions:

How long are you home?
When I first went to Niger, people would ask me a similar question, “How long are you here?”  At first, I had committed to 2 years, so that was my answer.  Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the Lord might call me to Niger longer than I had originally planned.  In which case, my answer changed to something like this:  “I heard once that you should be doing the last thing God told you to do; God called me to Niger, so I will be in Niger until God calls me somewhere else.”  I suppose I could say the same is true of my time in Pennsylvania.  Until He calls me somewhere else, this is where I’ll be.

Will you go back?  
My answer to this question is simple:  I don’t know.  My plans are completely dependent on the Lord.  Am I open to going back to Africa?  Definitely.  Do I know when that is?  No idea.  I'd like to keep my options open and right now am planning just one year at a time.   

Are you excited to be home?
Here's the thing - now I have two homes.  Am I excited to be in my PA home?  Of course.  The cool weather, the green grass, being with family – it’s all really refreshing.  Do I miss my Niger home?  Of course.  The African rains, the beautiful people, the simplicity of life – I miss it all.  Please know that when you ask this question, there is always another side to the coin.  I am certainly glad to be home, but experiencing reversed culture shock, rebuilding community, and searching for a job is all a bit exhausting.  I had a clear sense of purpose in Niger.  I'm hoping to find that here, too.  It's just taking awhile.

How was it?
That’s really a loaded question.  “It” was difficult, rewarding, overwhelming, peaceful, hard, beautiful, interesting, thought-provoking, dirty, hot, hilarious, unexpected, trying, rich, challenging, growing….  Three years is difficult to summarize in response to such a vague question.  Specific questions about teaching, housemates, culture, weather, and people are much more helpful.

Do you miss it?
Yup.  It's easy for me right now to just think of all the good things that happened in Niger.  But in reality, my time in Niger wasn't perfect.  I have to remind myself that even in Niger, I had to take the good and the bad together.   

What are your plans?
Find a job.  Create community.  Be a missionary in PA.  Keep doing what God tells me to do.  I'm hoping to find an upper elementary classroom teaching job at a local public school.  This will be a miracle.  Your prayers are appreciated.  I am also planning to gain credits toward maintaining my teaching license by potentially taking classes in the area or online.

What foods do you miss?
Nothing much.  I did enjoy rice and beans after church every Sunday.  But mostly, I cooked for myself.

What foods did you eat first when you came back?
I drank a tall glass of milk.  

What do you miss most?

What is the biggest culture shock?
What people choose to value.

Here is a short list of things that are still a bit weird to me about living in Pennsylvania:

1.  I feel like I'm in air conditioning all the time.
2.  My laundry on the line doesn't dry in 2 takes about 2 days.
3.  I have to drive to get anywhere.  
4.  We don't save and reuse plastic ziplock bags...or foil...or wrapping paper.
5.  I live with my parents.
6.  I can wear shorts outside my house or in public and it's normal.
7.  Squirrels and chipmunks.  I keep thinking they should be lizards.
8.  Fast internet.
9.  Sunburn. (You avoid the sun in Niger.)
10.  There are so many things to do.  I feel busy.  All the time.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Divine Appointments

Being home has been hard in a lot of ways.  I'm still searching for community - starting over in a place that's always been home...until 3 years ago.  As a person with two homes now, I feel a bit lost - no job, few friends, and getting used to a new norm.  But I remember that God provides for my every need.  Since returning on June 11th, the Lord has been faithful to put people in my path who have encouraged me and others with whom I've been able to relate.

This is a testimony about God's faithfulness.

June 14th:  My cousin and his family from Kentucky happened to be in town the first week I was back from Niger.  We met up for lunch at my aunt's house and I was so blessed to be able to relate to another family member.  My cousin spent a year in Bolivia when he was in school.  He recalled what it was like to transition and offered some great wisdom:  maintain some of your same routines with the Lord, give grace, know that spending time with family is a test of spiritual maturity.  I was encouraged by his determination to trust in the Lord and how God has been faithful to his family this past year.  Thank God for family.

June 16th-19th:  I had the beautiful opportunity to be with former Niger roommates for the occasion of our friend Naomi's wedding in Omaha, Nebraska.  To be reunited with friends who became family was sweet for my soul.

June 25th-26th:  An old friend from college was in the area and made time to visit.  Though we hadn't seen each other since graduation, we picked up right where we left off.  She was an MK (missionary kid) and has done a lot of traveling and ministry since then.  What a blessing - her questions, her advice, our conversations, her experiences.  She met me at a crucial time.  God reminded me of His care through her.  We related as missionaries in America now.  Praise God.

July 2nd:  I haven't been to my parents' church since last summer.  And after 3 years out of the country, there were a lot of new people to meet.  My first Sunday back was pretty overwhelming.  But this past Sunday, I connected with a family who lived in Japan for about 20 years.  We conversed about culture and transition and religion and diversity.  It was another surprise divine appointment and I am excited to continue to get to know them.

July 3rd:  Mom and I took Grandma out for a late birthday gift - pedicures!  As we're sitting letting our feet soak, Mom starts chatting with the lady sitting next to us.  We soon find out that she has my prayer card at home.  I have never met this lady in my life, but she has been praying for me for the past 3 years at 9:00 every morning.  (what?!)  Her daughter just graduated from Grove City College (my alma mater) and is looking to teach abroad.  We chatted about my experience and both Mom and I were able to encourage and offer advice to another mother and her daughter.  Of course, the whole nail salon is listening to this all - about being in God's will and prayer and trusting Him.  Jesus, plant seeds.

I've had the privilege of experiencing the body of Christ in incredible ways through family, friends, and strangers.  What a beautiful story Jesus is continuing to write.  I want my story to always be a reflection of His goodness and glory.

"In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge...I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. have done great things.  Who, O God, is like you?"  Psalm 71:1, 14-15, 19