6 weeks to go

Wow! Our time here in Chad is almost up. We have 6 weeks left in the school year and we fly back to Chicago on June 5th. Our original plan was to be in Chad for 10 months, but due to some schedule changes, we will be heading home 6 weeks early. This actually works out nicely since we start renting a home in Aurora on June 1, and Shiloh begins a high school summer course on June 11. Sidenote – my first born is starting high school – WHAT?!?!

Our time here has had it’s ups and downs, but as it comes to a close, I look back on the goals I set for myself and feel proud. I have loved just about every minute of teaching these sweet little Kindergarteners. I’m not a huge fan of waking up early, but I must say that greeting my group of 5 and 6 year olds at 7:30 every morning puts a smile on my face. So thank you to all my family, friends and supporters for sending us here so I get to teach this group of missionary kids.

Robert has completed 19 books and has a couple of more in the works. The books look beautiful and witnessing the kids at the North Kanem school reading them is such a treat. A shipment of 200 books is on its way here to be split between the two schools up in the desert. It’s amazing knowing that these boys and girls are getting an education in their mother tongue – their first language. All of you who helped get us here should feel so proud of what you have helped accomplish!

Shiloh, Huck and Weslee have done so well. They took this challenge and thrived. They have grown so much in these past 7 months. They’ve matured in ways that make me so proud. I pray they always remember our time here. I know the older two will, and they will be better people because of it. How they’ve lived and what they’ve seen will stay with them forever.

As we begin to plan for our return to the States, I do get a bit sentimental. While I have struggled to be content with the living conditions here (mainly the weather), I truly have fallen in love with the people and the mission…so much so that Robert and I talk about coming back for a longer term one day. Maybe when the kids are grown, we’ll have a second career as long term missionaries. It could happen!

Robert is currently flying back to Chicago for a job interview. He’s had a couple of interviews via Skype and now the company wants to interview him in person. He gets to spend 5 days back in the US. Lucky duck! I don’t envy his struggle with jet lag though! Ha!

God has been so faithful to us, and we know that he is guiding us while we plan our next steps. Pray we make wise decisions, end our time in Chad well, and transition back to the States smoothly.

Advertisements

Be Strong and Courageous

Last Wednesday, Robert came home telling me there were two deaths in the village where the school we work with is located, and he would like to join a group of men driving up there for the funeral this weekend. He would be gone for 3-4 days up in the desert where he may not have any cell service. I agreed he should go of course, but the thought made me a bit nervous.

I’m no stranger to him traveling for days or weeks at a time while I stay home with the kids. But this is the first time I’ve had to experience it while in a country where I don’t drive or speak the language. To say I was a bit nervous is an understatement. I was anxious to the point of needing a Xanax. Not only anxious for him driving up into the desert, but also for myself and the kids staying here alone. I would have to call a taxi if we needed to go anywhere, but I don’t speak French. I would have to go buy bread at the corner store, but I don’t speak French. My anxieties were getting the best of me.

Then Thursday night, the night before he was to leave, I sat down on my yoga mat, pulled out my Holy Listening book, and opened it where I last left off. The title for the day was “BOLD.”

Coincidence? I think not. I believe God was sending me a message.

The yoga pose was Warrior and the scripture reference was Deuteronomy 31:6. This verse makes me smile. I memorized this verse when I was in 7th grade. I made up a little song to help me remember it. I have sung this song to myself many, many times over the years when I’ve needed strength.

Again, a coincidence? No! This was God speaking to me in a powerful way.

There I was, warrior-ing on my yoga mat, in a mess of tears, singing Deuteronomy 31:6 to myself in the quiet of my bedroom. A bold faith washed over me. God’s peace and assurance engulfed me. I knew in that moment that I was not alone and that I would conquer this weekend while Robert was away. (Spoiler: the kids and I are having a great weekend!)

I’ve stayed on this prayer and pose for a few days now, not ready to move on to the next. Boldness is something I struggle to find. This may be shocking for a lot of my friends and family to hear, but it’s the truth.

I’ve had to be bold and warrior through a lot of hard situations in my life, and I’ve struggled to stay strong. I like to think of myself as being strong, but I am truly a weak woman. Any strength I find to warrior through my life is found in Jesus. It’s his Spirit and his word that pulls me through. The grace and love and forgiveness he gives me when all I do is struggle, is what keeps my faith in him.

I’ve had people ask me before how I know God is real. My answer is always “it’s in the ways he responds to my faith.” When I reach out to him, he shows up. It’s not always right when I want it or in the way I expect it, but he never fails.

Just like this weekend – I was scared and anxious, but God showed up with peace and strength, and I’ve been completely calm all weekend. The kids and I have had a great time, I’ve handled a couple of meltdowns without having one myself, the house is clean, and I’ve actually been serving up healthy meals. All miracles!

I must throw some shout outs to Shiloh’s teacher who reminded our taxi guy that she needed to be picked up Saturday for her youth group meeting and to my neighbors who helped me get bread. Thank you, God, for putting a great missionary community here to help me out…just another way of him showing up in my life!

Ramblings of Life in Chad and Faith in God

We’ve been in Chad for 4 months now. Some days it seems like our time is going by extremely fast, but other days it feels like time is crawling.

We’re all settled in our job/school routines and feeling content. There is a part of me that wants to look ahead to when we return to the U.S., but I’m trying to stay focused on my present and not think about the future until it’s necessary.

We do have a few things settled for when we get back to the States. Shiloh is enrolled in Wheaton Academy for her freshman year of high school. (Let’s all take a moment and have a Praise break that God worked that out!) Huck and Weslee will return to Four Winds Waldorf School. And it looks like we will be renting a house in our old neighborhood – woohoo!

Things we don’t have settled (and aren’t actively pursuing just yet) are jobs for Robert and me, vehicles, and furniture. Ha! Those are some pretty big things, but I know God will work these out just as he has everything else.

I can truly say that this last year has increased my faith and trust in God. How could it not – it took all of 6 months for us to hear about this opportunity, decide it’s what we should do, sell our belongings, raise our funds, and get here. I’m still in awe of how God made it all happen. If he can do that, I know for sure he will take care of everything for our return.

Even since we’ve been here, God has been proving himself over and over. Our first few weeks were very hard: getting over jet lag, adjusting to not having our American conveniences, Robert’s kidney stone issues, and trying to fit into a new culture. But we had some special moments where God revealed his presence in a tangible way.

The first night we were here one of my kids was crying and could not fall asleep. We were tired and emotional and the tears just wouldn’t stop. I began to quietly pray Ephesians 6 (the armor of God) over my family. It was as if someone flipped a switch when I began praying. The tears immediately stopped and my precious child fell right to sleep. The peace I felt in our little apartment was amazing.

God was with us as we traveled to Kenya for Robert’s surgery and recovery. He helped keep us calm when everything seemed like it was unraveling. A couple of answered prayers: 1. We were approved for an emergency medical evacuation which means that insurance covered our hospital fees. 2. We were approved to seek medical assistance in Kenya where Robert’s parents could meet and help us. God took what started out as a very stressful and scary situation and turned it into a time for us to relax and spend time with friends and family.

God has been faithful to answer prayers for my fast-paced family to adjust to the slow goings of Chad life. We’ve developed a love of reading that makes my heart proud, tried our hands at new types of art, grown closer to one another, and made new friends even with some cultural differences.

These 4 months have been exciting and challenging. I’m so grateful for God’s provisions, grace, and mercy.

Two weeks in Chad

We left the USA two weeks ago. Since then, we’ve unpacked our apartment, enrolled the kids in school, and started working. Those are just the big things. The little everyday things we’ve had to adjust to have been the hardest. Jet lag was tough, but by the end of week 1, it was over. Remembering to brush our teeth, drink, and cook with filtered water hasn’t been too hard, but it does help that one of our kitchen faucets provides filtered water. I think the hardest adjustments for me have been living without air conditioning, the frequent power outages, and the bugs.

Indulge me while I complain a little:

The heat and humidity is suffocating some days. I sweat all the time. By afternoon, I’m sweating as much as I do when I work out. My hair and dress get drenched. I tell myself that the sweat makes my skin look like it’s glowing…trying to find a silver lining. Ha! I’m so thankful that we have plenty of fans. Even when they’re just circulating hot air, it’s better than no circulation at all.

N’Djamena has frequent power outages. That means that we not only lose our lights, we also lose our fans. Not good! Thankfully, our compound has a generator that comes on little bit after the power dies. That bit of time when the fans stop is miserable, especially when it happens in the middle of the night. We have had a couple of times when the generator didn’t work. One night we slept with ice packs and wet washcloths until the power came back on. We’re finding creative ways to stay cool.

The bugs. Oh, the bugs. There are these little gnats that can fit through the netting of our mosquito nets, and they bite. I made some bug repellent spray for our sheets and net last night. I think it helped. Praise God! Once dry season arrives in November, we’ve heard that the bugs and the humidity begin to go away. I can’t wait!

Ok. Complaining is over. Let’s move on to the good stuff:

I love my job! Teaching this little Kindergarten class is so much fun. The kids are wonderful – I think they all are being on their best behavior because I’m new. Ha! We have fun reading and playing and working together.

I love our house helper. It’s a common practice here in Africa for expats to create jobs for locals. We hired a young woman to hand wash our clothes, shop at the city market, and cook our lunch during the week. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, and with all of us working or attending school from 7:30am-12:30pm, it’s nice to come home to lunch already prepared. I don’t speak French, so communicating is difficult. Having our house helper shop and do the bargaining at the market is so helpful. We get to practice our French with her and she practices her English. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

Last week, we attended a prayer meeting with all the missionaries who are working with the Daza and Teda people. I feel so honored to be a part of this amazing group. Chad is a poor and hard place to live, but there is a large group of missionary families who have committed their lives to helping make Chad better through literacy and education, clean water, medical care, and of course, the love of Jesus. I love that we get to be here and assist them. They are truly making a difference in so many lives!

I’ve come to realize that for every hard thing we must endure here in Chad, there is a good thing happening to keep us going.

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset

Waiting for the school taxi.

IMG_4642

First day of school

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset

Dress shopping at the market.

 

 

 

A prayer

I’m feeling the waves, the wind, the sea all around me – the fundraising, the packing, the moving, the emotions. I’m losing my focus on Jesus and focusing instead on the storm.

Lord Jesus, you are sovereign. You have called us to Chad. You have provided the way. But somehow in the midst of all my preparation, my mind has lost sight of that.

I feel like Peter when he walked on water and then began to sink. I was cruising along on the waves with you, and then I looked at the storm around me and became scared.

Take my hand, Lord. Lift me up. Give me strength. Reignite your calling in me.

In Between Chapters

This is the part before my new beginning.

I’m not enjoying it very much and that makes me sad.

I thought my time of preparing for Chad would be exciting and thought provoking.

But now, I just want it to to be over. I want to be finished packing, finished fundraising, and have already said my goodbyes. I’m ready to wake up to my new life in Chad.

I know Chad will be here before I know it, so I don’t want to rush and skip the importance of the preparation part.

I think I’ve just been so busy sorting, organizing, de-cluttering, down-sizing, and trying to fit my family’s next year into 15 pieces of luggage, that I haven’t stopped to reflect on the emotional side of it all.

I went through boxes of my late dad’s and brother’s things, and I did it all so quickly and robotically that I honestly didn’t allow myself to really feel the weight of what I was doing.

My mom asked me the other day if I have any regrets of things I’ve sold, donated, or thrown away. Thankfully, my answer is no even though I’ve been moving through everything so quickly.

I feel it’s time to stop for a moment. To pause and let this all soak in. To put all my preparation on hold and breathe in my past and present.

My talented neighbor and friend painted this portrait of our home as a perfect going away gift. Looking at it is helping me slow down and reflect on my time here. I truly have learned and grown so much here in this old house.

722Palace

 

A New Purpose

This quote from Rebekah Lyons “Freefall to Fly” hits me right between the eyes:

“…we walk the streets of our cities with appointments and responsibilities but lack a sense that God intended purpose for our days.”

I knew my purpose and destiny in life was in missions/humanitarian work since I was 15 years old. God confirmed that calling multiple times throughout high school and college. Because of that desire and pull on my life, I traveled quite a bit. I signed up for every mission trip I could. I raised support from family, friends, and churches. I remember living in Sweden for 3 months after college and knowing that my purpose in life was to leave the US and show God’s love around the world.

Even when Robert and I got married, we talked about traveling together and raising our family overseas. We satisfied this desire for a while through Robert’s travels with TEAM. I even accompanied him on a trip to Guatemala once. Then God called us to Chad.

We visited Chad for one month in 2014 and fell in love with the people and the mission. After that trip, we knew we were supposed to go back at some point. Our whole family was excited to plan a year-long excursion as missionaries in Chad. We began praying about when and how.

God had a slight detour for us though. He opened doors for both us to start new jobs here in Chicagoland. This seemed to take us away from missionary life. We walked through those doors and did well. We put the kids in a great school, got a cat and a dog, began to fix up our old home and develop deep friendships. We were becoming settled and comfortable and not really thinking much about life as missionaries.

Then God brought along a Facebook post that changed everything.

I saw that TEAM was looking for a teacher for a homeschool kindergarten class in Chad. I immediately emailed Robert saying, “I can do this.” The wheels started turning. We sent emails, Facetimed friends in Chad, and prayed continually about this opportunity. Every door we knocked on opened. It was like God was flashing a neon sign saying, “Now is the time for the Johnsons to return to Chad!”

So here we are in the middle of packing up our home, raising a budget, and planning on leaving in September for a mission that calls us to fulfill the purpose for our days. The plan right now is to go for a year, but I know if God opens the door for us to stay longer, we will walk through it. We’re nervous but excited to see what this next step in our faith will bring.

You can connect with us and hear more about what we will be doing in Chad at www.wearethejohnsons.com. You can contribute to our mission by clicking here.