My Roots: Kenya, America, Brazil, and a Forever-Place

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." - Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

“Where are you from?" is the hardest question for me to answer. Growing up on the mission field I didn’t ever know if I should say Kenya or Missouri. After Brandon and I married, I longed to just stay in one place, to plant my roots and have that special place. Then I'd finally be able to answer the question, “Where are you from?”

 

That hasn't happened.

 

Instead of staying in one place we moved around a lot as Brandon pursued his education. In our 14-plus years of marriage we have moved seven times. The longest stay we had was in a small town in South Dakota for six years. It really become our home. I took pride in telling people I was from South Dakota. My favorite response came from a waitress in Houston, Texas who said, “Really? I didn’t think anyone lived in Dakota. I was told it was a secret military base where the government tested nuclear weapons.” It was fun being a Northerner. We withstood frigid temperatures in the winter and complained when it hit 90 degrees in the summer. 

 

Our roots had grown.

 

When we surrendered our lives to mission work while living in South Dakota, we knew that we would have to empty our hands of what we held dear to us in the United States, in order to fully embrace what God had for us in Brazil.

When we moved this past November we felt a lot of loss. Herreid was home. The church was family. We had grown accustomed to the ways of small-town life. We enjoyed that our kids could run freely around town. We enjoyed lazy Sunday afternoons at the river with good friends. We enjoyed the community meals and the annual events in town each year. We made memories watching movies at the local drive-in theater. Living in a town of 430 people, there is a deep sense of community.

 

We mourned this loss.

 

Brandon loved being a pastor. It brought him much joy. He counted it a privilege to spend hours in study and prayer every week, preparing a sermon. He loved praying weekly over each member of the church, often walking down the aisle in the sanctuary and imagining their faces in the pews as he prayed.  He cried with those who were broken-hearted. He rejoiced with those who were celebrating.

 

He mourned this loss.

 

I loved being a pastor’s wife. For those who have known me for many years, you know that I was scared to be a pastor’s wife. The role was intimidating to me, and I was unsure if I would be any good at it. I learned, though, that there was no “being good at it”, there was just “being there.” I loved the ladies of the church. I loved serving alongside them when we served meals to the hurting during funerals and to those celebrating during potlucks. I loved being able to counsel and encourage. I loved praying over people in their saddest moments. I loved leading Bible studies and discipleship groups. I especially loved being Brandon’s partner, encouraging him, being his sounding board, and prayer partner.

 

I mourned this loss. 

 

For our kids Herreid was home. Our girls don’t remember living anywhere else. Our oldest was in 2nd grade when we moved. He was now in 8th grade and looking forward to graduating from 8th grade with his peers. The tradition in Herreid is to have an 8th grade gradation party. He was excited about planning one and celebrating entering high school. Our middle daughter was four when we moved and now is in 5th grade. She started kindergarten and over the years had grown with the same small group of kids. Our youngest was only 2 when we came. She played in daycare with her peers who are all together in 2nd grade. She also knew that the church was her second family. Often when she would get upset with me she would say, “I am moving in with Heidi,” a wonderful friend who quickly become like an Aunt to our children. All three of the kids had to say goodbye to our beloved family cat, Marvin, who was a special member of the Jones family.

 

They mourned these losses.

 

God has often taught me that if I am going to follow him—truly and faithfully follow him—I must trust him. Sometimes trust means that even in the losses that we mourn, we know that he has good things in store for us. When we set the date to move from Herreid to Missouri, we had prayed that we would be at 50% of our fundraising goal. In the NAB when you reach 50% you can be part-time employees and draw a part-time salary to help with bills. This was important to us, since we would no longer have a steady income once we moved and were traveling so much. When the time came to move, we were only at 27%, barely halfway to where we wished we could be. But we moved anyways, trusting that God would take care of our needs, and he did through generous gifts and faithful partners. By the end of January we reached our 50% of our support goal! 

 

We praise his provisions.

 

Now that we moved we had more available Sundays to travel and present the mission work in Brazil, but once we moved, our calendar for 2018 was still mostly empty. We had hardly any visits scheduled. After we moved, though, God opened doors to share about Brazil with many new churches and individuals. We have shared in Missouri, and in Kansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. God has opened doors in the next few months in Iowa, North and South Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

 

We praise his faithfulness.

 

Growing up in Kenya, I have always wanted to return. It has been a hard realization for me this year that I have lived in America as many years as I lived in Kenya. Ever since I have been married I have wanted to return for a visit. As I have had kids, I have wanted to show them where I grew up and what keeps their grandparents from being  a steady presence in their lives. Plane tickets to Kenya are expensive. Over the years we have saved a little, but it was never even close to the amount needed. This August, we saw that plane tickets to Kenya drop insanely low once summer ends. They are less than half what I usually see them for. The exact amount that we had saved, was what it would cost for us to go to Kenya. We pulled the trigger and on August 14th we are finally going to visit my hometown as a family.

 

We praise that he cares about the desires of our hearts.

 

As a family we have processed many wins and losses over the past few months. We are so thankful that God is ever present, never changing, and always faithful. It is an honor to surrender our lives to whatever he may ask us to do. I could not imagine living any other way.

The roots that I so longed to plant in some city in this world may never grow as we prepare to spend 80% of our time in Brazil and 20% in America going forward. But the roots of faith, trust, and love for my Savior have grown deep. These roots are where my joy is found. And as I wait for my final home in heaven, where my roots will be forever planted, I am so thankful that each step of my journey on this earth God has allowed me to be planted deeper in him.
 
- Marci