I still remember the week I left the Philippines like it was yesterday..
Throwing whatever clean clothes I had into a suitcase. Driving out to homes to meet one-on-one with every staff member TRIM had just hired 2 months prior and reworking their entire job descriptions and path ahead… all in the time it took us to finish just one cup of coffee. Sticking notes onto everything – the office, my bedroom, the kitchen fridge, ministry passwords, Nicole’s medication. My brain spiraled in overdrive trying to figure out how to take care of so many different areas of responsibility on a moment’s notice…for an unknown length of time. I hugged my smiling, bright-eyed, about-to-turn-13-years-old girl as tight as I could, and then I willed myself into the taxi.
The taxi driver and I both had to have special clearance paperwork just to be allowed on the roads to get to the airport. I remember the chartered repatriation flight and how full it was. We were packed in like sardines on that plane after being told forcefully to stay 6 feet apart until we boarded. I remember walking by myself through an empty, closed LAX airport. I remember not even telling people I was headed to the US until after I landed because it was all so much to process…
I remember thinking when I landed this would all maybe be for 2 months.
It’s been 625 days.
I want to be able to tell you that this time, however unexpected and unplanned, was something I cherished and never complained about. I wish I could honestly write that knowing (and even reassuring others!) that God is sovereign in all things gave me immense joy and perspective every single day I’ve been here. But the truth is that this year and a half has felt disorienting most of the time. I never knew whether to dig in and plant deep roots where I was or keep my bags ready and my focus mostly on the Philippines. My heart ached all the time for the people and the work I had to leave behind.
I haven’t consistently modeled patience in the way I wish I would have. It’s easy to look back now knowing how this all plays out and write a long mental list of “I should have” done this or that. Also..we’ve been in a pandemic. So I try to be gentle with how I navigated an unexpected season here in the States- knowing I really tried to trust and do my best with what God gave me in each moment. I lived in 6 different places here. I took an extra job. I started seminary for my Masters degree. Meanwhile, I worked to continue serving and leading a new ministry team halfway across the world that has been constantly changing and growing..
And now in exactly one week, I’ll get on a plane to head back to the Philippines- the next chapter so many of you have prayed for with me is FINALLY here! And naturally, it’s not even in the way we expected 🙂
This week as I prepare to leave and move forward, I’m taking some time to look back too. Because although this past year and a half was unexpected by me, it wasn’t ever, for even one minute, without God’s kindness or lacking in his purpose for me. He has carried me through valleys and been beside me on mountaintops. And what I know in my soul to be true of God is that even the mundane days of waiting were set intentionally by him for my good and his glory – in ways I cannot fully see or make much sense of…yet. Oh God, help me see.
During my time in the USA there have been abundant gifts of provision, learning, healing, friendship, and opportunity. I have so many blessings to thank Him for when I stop and look. So that’s what I’m doing this week- asking God to give me eyes to see things rightly and close this season with thankfulness over anything else.
I am eager to get home, that is sure. Eager to get my hands and feet back into the day-to-day of work that I love. To be in person again with Filipinos who are like family and back to a ministry that is rapidly growing. I am hopeful, excited, better equipped, and a little bit nervous about the culture and language switch after so long. The list spans pages and pages of things I look forward to most when I return. But at the very top of the list when I close my eyes is a now 14 year old girl, still smiling, and much more grown, who has waited 625 days too long for me to walk back in that door of our home. Gosh, I can’t wait to hug her neck again.
I am overjoyed to step back into the pages of that story.
But I’m also deeply thankful for this one.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all unpleasant things as interruptions to one’s ‘real life’. The truth is of course that what one calls interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day.”
One thought on “Back to the Philippines”
Oh Leah!!!!! My heart is pretty joyed for you. 💜💜💜💜💜💜💜