I often look outside my window to the east.
As I lift my eyes, I view the Manzano Mountain range.
Located in central New Mexico, the group of mountains is thirty miles long and oriented north and south. The Manzano Mountains are named after the Spanish word for ‘apple,’ in recognition of the apple orchards that grow near the mountain base.
Honestly, the blessed view of these mountains was a surprise. I had not expected this glorious and majestic gift from my God in our new home land.
“What?” some of you may be verbalizing at this point.
Where are you?
Honestly, it is a very long, long, long story. However, nearly ten months ago, John and I came to the realization that our residential life in southern Africa must conclude. Again, it is a long story. However, when we were unable to return to South Africa in March 2020 due to the pandemic, the clock began to tick away all opportunity for our family’s return. Month after month passed. We were grateful to be staying with generous friends in their basement as we waited for flights to resume to South Africa. However, this was no long-term solution for our family’s future needs.
Jake and Caleb were growing up. Our sons needed more opportunities to discover their interests and develop their skills and abilities. In South Africa, the pandemic struck the economic sector hard. We received reports that young people, ages 18-30, saw unemployment rates for their age group increase to seventy-five percent. For young men like Jake and Caleb who are not South Africa citizens and who do have learning needs, the proverbial writing was on the wall. South Africa held no future for our sons.
For John and me, we began to explore new ministry opportunities among indigenous people – similar to our work in southern Africa. And, through research, conversations, networking, and being in the right place at the right time, an invitation came from New Mexico to partner with Native Americans with an indigenous-led ministry focus.
John and I met with our families, our prayer and ministry support team, mission organization, pastors, mission leaders and teams from our supporting churches, and many others to seek their input on our new direction. Receiving resounding affirmation from every single person we met with over a six-month period, we set our sights on moving to New Mexico.
And so, we did.
“What????” some of you may exclaim.
“Wait a minute! Why all the social media silence about this significant change? It’s June!”
So, it is.
We kept our move quiet in honor of our southern African family. In March, we sent John back to South Africa to pack up our home and to share with as many of our African friends – in person – about our relocation plans. No one expected this news from us. Honestly, when we departed South Africa for our four-month home assignment, we left with countless ministry opportunities waiting for us. It was our aim to return and get back to work.
But, that didn’t happen.
We could not board the plane. Any plane.
The news we had to share could not be communicated in a text, Facebook post, or blog with our African family. Our relationships with them are too dear to us. We hold our friends in Africa with the highest esteem. Therefore, we decided to keep our news off of social media until we were able to inform our African family with love of our relocation news. Thus, nearly a year later, we sent John back to Africa and the boys, John’s mother (who is living with us now), and I remained in New Mexico.
For the past two and a half months, John has been involved with a Herculean amount of work in giving away, throwing away, selling away, and packing away our belongings – a whole houseful of goods. In addition, he had numerous, heart-wrechingly difficult conversations with our friends about our decision to move back to the United States. To say the past 2 ½ months have been hard would be an understatement. They have been some of the most challenging months John and I have ever experienced, and he has done this work on his own in South Africa while I have begun to settle our family in New Mexico – a state I had never set my sights upon or forged a path in all my life.
I have looked up to the Manzano Mountains a lot in recent months and these words of David have come alive:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
New International Version, Psalm 121
The Lord has been our help. Time and time again, He has guided us, intervened for us, provided for us, cared for us, and loved and nurtured us during these beginning days of our international, and cultural transition. There is much to learn.
Each month, I post a small prayer of thanksgiving in our new kitchen. For May, the words read:
In all honesty, we needed God’s help and intervention during this time of separation, change, and heart-struggle. We are grateful to be here. We don’t know what to expect or have any idea of all that is ahead of us. In many ways we are more South African than American now. However, we do know that our God is here. He is our help. He is our intervention. He is protector. He is our Lord. And we trust Him.
John is on his way home to us now. Micah is coming home from college, too. We are excited to be reunited as a family for the summer. We have much to debrief, to share, and to learn together as a family.
There will be more to come!