James Hargrave is a stay-at-home dad in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
The immigration official stapled a visitor record into my passport and waved the three of us on into the arms of awaiting family. Our six-month-old son met his maternal grandparents for the first time. We had our first bite of sushi in a year. And we slept soundly.
“Just a minute,” you might well ask. “The Hargraves are eating sushi in Canada? I thought they were missionaries in East Africa.”
You can catch up on the events of the past months elsewhere, but here on The Sounding I’d like to reflect on what our unexpected move is teaching me about what God can do and what we can’t do.
Daphne and I tried very, very hard to make our home in Mwanza, Tanzania. The harder things got, the more we dug in our heels and refused to budge. “This is where we’re supposed to be,” we insisted. “We have to make it work.”
It didn’t work.
As much as we loved the local Church, as much as we saw God at work in East Africa, as proud as we were to be parents to a bona-fide African-born Missionary Kid, and as much as we were dedicated to living out our lives on the shores of Lake Victoria, we couldn’t make it work.
We couldn’t make it work. Do you see the problem in our thinking?
As the living situation grew tougher, we began to value things more and more. The bed we had made to order so that Daphne and I could actually sleep side by side. The couch. The cooker stand. The wardrobe, which after months of living out of suitcases allowed us to put our clothes away. It felt so civilized, so human, to choose my outfit for the day from shelves and hangers rather than from a piece of luggage. We were terribly proud of each little accomplishment we made in putting our lives together out there.
We finally admitted, together with our leadership at OCMC, that a leave of absence was necessary. Suddenly all these things we’d worked so hard to accumulate had to be dismantled and sold or given away. We didn’t manage to get rid of everything. Remember how Christ says, “take nothing for the journey”? Well, after downsizing as much as we believed we could, our little family of three still counted over a quarter-ton of luggage in all our worldly possessions. That’s a lot of stuff to carry all the way to British Columbia.
But today as I write this – Monday, October fourteenth, Thanksgiving Day – my wife, our son and I are about to spend our very first night in our new apartment here in Abbotsford, under the shadow of Mount Baker.
It’s more than we could ever have imagined. We didn’t even have a furnishing budget, and God has provided for us abundantly. Somebody even gave us champagne flutes.
When things were at their worst in Mwanza, Daphne and I told each other, “We have to make it work here, because we can’t make it work anywhere else.”
We were only half right. It’s true that we can’t make life work anywhere at all. But it’s not true that we’re the ones who have to make it work. When we try to force anything by our own effort, without resting in the hands of God, we will come up exhausted and empty. But our Lord can provide everything we need and abundance beyond. Even champagne flutes.
“Foxes have holes,” says Christ, “and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” We want to follow Christ, to the ends of the earth, even as far as Canada. Right now, though, I can tell you that our little family are grateful and content to be nothing more than three birds secure in their nest.