“Mama,” Judah declared from the back seat as we were driving home from a speaking engagement at a church, “I want to go back to Tanzania!”
John and I exchanged a quick look and smiled, a little surprised and a whole lot relieved. Simple words, yet deeply meaningful to our family.
You see, a couple of years ago, during our time in Tanzania, Judah was the one who told me that he either wanted to be black or to only play inside all day. His little 5-year old self back then did not want to be chased by a group of neighbor kids touching his hair and pinching his white skin. He did not want to go outside only to be surrounded by a wall of words he didn’t understand and actions that did not make any sense to him. I couldn’t blame him for his desire to fit in, and, frankly, sometimes I wished that I myself could either be black or play inside all day…
Judah’s desire to go back makes our upcoming transition to Africa easier. We won’t be dragging our kids back kicking and screaming because they want to stay here in the States, surrounded by numerous cousins as neighbors and grandparents and aunts and uncles who like to spoil them. Don’t get me wrong, they absolutely love it here and adapted to America very quickly. Yet we see evidence that the boys, too, have started to grow roots down in Tanzanian soil. Roots that are still shallow and tender, but roots nonetheless.
And for that we are so grateful.
We are grateful for the friends the boys have made in our neighborhood and they often talk about Willy, Dani, Samuel, and the others. We are grateful for a home that we were able to keep during our unexpected absence and that will welcome us once we go back. We are grateful for our team members and their lively bunch of children who have become family away from family. We are grateful for our host family and other Tanzanians who have welcomed us with open arms. We are grateful for the Swahili we all have learned and that the boys can now string together a sentence here and there.
We are also truly grateful for the time we had in the States — a time to reconnect, a time to recharge, and a time to examine the past and look ahead with new vision. It may be a vision blurred with many uncertainties and hardships, but I pray we remember, as we celebrate the joy of Easter this weekend, this truth that makes all of our service simply an act of gratitude:
He died for us.