“I don’t live here, I live in PAPUA NEW GUINEA!” is the fact that Jude has been energetically interested in telling countless people ever since our return to the States for Iris’ surgery. It doesn’t matter who they are, if we know them or even if they care, Jude cares and wants everyone to know that America is the place where he is visiting but it is not his home. Many of the poor people Jude has shared this information with don’t even know where Papua New Guinea is, let alone if it is even a real place! But it is a real place; Jude’s home is a village on the other side of the globe where he has lots of “brown friends,” favorite trees to climb and endless things to do & learn in his house up on stilts.
This village home Jude loved to share about is the one that our family has invested all that we have into. Treasured relationships have been built through countless hours spent with people and the hard work of language and culture study. The years among the Tigak stretched us through many challenges. In spite of the challenges, God’s faithfulness gave us joy as we got to see Him work in us and through us for His purposes. Little by little, the church there grew! There is nothing quite like the privilege of being a part of Christ bringing people into a relationship with Himself. Though challenging and complicated, our chance to help our Tigak brothers & sisters learn to cling to Christ and grow has been all we wanted to do. Our “Tigak land” home and the ministry God had given us there was the place we believed we would be for many years to come as we had the privilege of seeing the Tigak church grow and come to maturity. With every bit of our energy we were striving towards the goal of seeing the Tigak church mature and the day they would send out there own missionaries. It was only after those goals were reached that we imagined we would say good bye.
As most of you already know, over the last month it has been confirmed that we will not be able to return to our beloved home. The grief & shock we feel over this unexpected change cannot be described. This last month has been both exhausting and confusing as we have spent countless hours tackling every aspect of this nightmare of a new situation we find ourselves in.
Admittedly we put off telling our kids the sad news for quite a while, especially our bright eyed five year old who was so looking forward to returning to his village home. For obvious reasons we were dreading having to have that talk! Recently we finally told the kids and it was indeed a difficult conversation. Just as we expected, Jude did cry. With trembling lips he begged for the news to be different, for something to change so that we could go home. We did our best to comfort him but the bad news didn’t change. Tom explained to him that he would be going back to our home in a while to pack up our house in our village. Jude’s first request was that Daddy bring back his “brown friends” with him. It was so precious to hear his desire to be with his friends and heart wrenching to tell him that Daddy wouldn’t be able to do that.
As much as the conversation with Jude was very hard, the Lord really used it to minister to me in a unique way. Seeing and hearing Jude’s reaction as we told him the news reminded me a lot of my own reaction to this painful change. In addition, my reaction to Jude as his parent who loves him reminded me of the way the Lord treats me and feels toward me as His child. So many of the questions Jude asked and the feelings I could tell he was feeling were strikingly similar to my own. As Jude’s parent I was overwhelmingly concerned that he feel my love for him and I wanted to help him feel secure in my love so that he would feel safe, so that no other factor could hurt him or effect him. The harsh reality of this change was totally outside of his control but to me, his mom, that didn’t matter. I just wanted him to know that I was here and that I would make sure he would be ok. I would take care of him no matter what and I would comfort him as much as he needed it! I wanted him to trust me.
I think now, more than ever in my life I have been encouraged by the illustration of the back of a tapestry. You know the one: how when you look at the back of a tapestry it’s all crazy. Threads are going every which way with mixing colors and it’s just a big mess. It doesn’t make sense, you can’t see what’s going on, you wonder what the picture is supposed to look like and you wonder how that picture could ever be something you would want to look at.
This is how things are for us right now. It’s all a big mess and nothing seems to make “sense.” We cannot understand what the Lord is doing. We do not understand but we do trust Him. How could we not? God forbid we turn away from trusting the Lord our God. I am humbled and amazed as I meditate on the truth that He alone is the One possessing the power to use extremely difficult things for good. He is trustworthy and loving and He is the One who knows exactly what the other side of the tapestry looks like. So we cling to Him. The author, the protector, our heavenly Father who not only loves us beyond our ability to understand but promises to remain faithful to us in spite of our fear and lack of understanding. Not only will He be faithful to us but He will (and is) faithful to the Tigak church. They are His and He will never leave them or forsake them!
I am a mess, I need Him so badly. I praise Him that He is with us and I trust Him as he weaves this tapestry, even if I only get to see the back of it.