This is a guest post by my sending home group. I asked them what it is like to send someone out from the group. Several people contributed to the conversation here and I am so grateful for their thoughts. You’ll hear from me one more time. I want to talk a little about how I view my responsibility to my senders.
Two years before Stephanie moved to Kenya, there was just the thought that she might end up working overseas. We committed to praying for her and asking the Lord to open a door for that to happen. Once she decided to go, we continued to support her in prayer, committed to give financially and provided encouragement and other help where she needed it.
As Stephanie stepped into this calling from the Lord, to go to a place that was not her home, to learn a language that was not her own and to do her job as an audiologist our home group continued to partner with her. We were not the ones going but we needed to attempt to understand what her needs were as she encountered multiple new challenges. This looked like text messages, emails, Skype dates; any opportunity we could take to get a glimpse at what she was experiencing so we at least could be praying with her and sometimes simply listening. The first year seemed to be the hardest for everyone; this was a new relationship, what was it supposed to look like? This took effort and continues to take effort, purpose, a choice to love and serve in a way that is not common to every day life. As a home group, different people would have various ideas of ways we could love her from afar. Planning well in advance for a birthday or a holiday in order to send a package of goodies and treats from the States. Those of us who did family Christmas cards or birth announcements sent them to Kenya. (a note from Stephanie – when they say they planned for birthdays in advance, these were no small celebrations. My first birthday in Kenya, they sent me 3 boxes of gifts. I was in language school, which was an exceptionally lonely season of life for me, and I was going to be by myself the entire day. I had arranged to FaceTime with one friend and when she called, my entire home group was there. They had all taken the morning off work and had a party with me. They won’t brag about that, but I’ll do it for them.)
Over the course of three years, we were blessed to have Stephanie home for short visits. They were kept very personal, always respecting Stephanie’s wishes for what she hoped to do each visit. We learned that it was not simple to jump from the pace of life in Kenya back into the pace of Dallas. As a home group, we made time to see her, talk to her, fill her in on our lives and just simply be around her. We realized there was a line between the level of busy-ness that gave her joy and that left her feeling exhausted. This was another new component to our relationship that we needed to be empathetic and responsive to. We provided her a home to stay in while she was here, loaned vehicles and provided meals so she was able to come and just be. Stephanie would come to home group while home and we would lay hands on her and pray over her. This was also an awesome opportunity for her to share all that God was doing in Kenya.
Steph would send updates out via email which helped to keep us updated but the ongoing text messages, personal emails, planned Skype dates (most times with whole families, chaos and all) and care packages kept the connection alive. Almost every time we changed topics in home group we would spend one evening of group praying for the Stephanie’s requests she had highlighted in her most recent email. If one of us had spoken to her recently or if Stephanie had reached out specifically to our group for prayer that was made a priority just as if she was present in that particular home group.
As her return to the states approached, we helped her pray and think through the question of will she return to Kenya, what is life going to look like, is the Lord closing this chapter or asking her to keep going. We began praying with her specifically for answers to many of these questions at least 6 months before she came. And just as when she was sent, the Lord heard the cries of his saints and answered prayer. Before Stephanie got back to Dallas she had 3 families offering her a home to stay in while she was on home assignment. Once home and given the opportunity to share all the Lord had done in Kenya over the past three years to our home group, the Lord made it clear to us that He was not finished with her yet and she decided she would return to Kenya for as second term. During her home assignment, we both worked to enter back into life together as normally as possible. Stephanie was, in many ways, back to her normal place in our home group – from watching kids, eating dinner with families and just being part of day to day activities. Stephanie reached out to serve us, love us and develop relationships with our children and new members of the home group while she was home.
(Stephanie again – these last few sentences demonstrate why I think I have felt so supported. Is it any wonder I love these people so, so much?) All of the logistics are important for any home group sending out one of its members, but that all flows out of our love for our friend and a commitment that we have made together. This is not a one-sided relationship. This is not a normal or easy relationship. This is a choice by each member of the group. She is a part of our home group, she is our person, our friend, our sister and we choose to make this relationship a priority for our joy, her joy and the glory of our King who has called us to follow Him.