leaving Liberia

As most of you know by now, I will be taking a break from the field and leaving Liberia on March 2. That, my friends, is only 27 days away. And, as I’ve said many times in the past, time here is flying. It’s like I blink, and a day is gone. Then two days. Then a week.

As I start looking ahead to my leave, trying to plan and prepare for all that it entails, I find myself on a bit of an emotional roller coaster. So much of me feels torn. There’s the Elena that is at home here in Liberia—and then there’s the Elena that is so happy to be going home to Pennsylvania. My problem is that I don’t quite know how to reconcile the two. In fact, I don’t even quite know if that is possible.

Now, please hear me when I say that I am very much looking forward to this upcoming season at home. Aside from spending precious moments with my Papa, and being there for my sister (who is expecting), I am also thankful to have been granted a time of rest and refreshment. I believe God has much work He wants to do in my heart, and I feel the best place for me to go through that is at home. I am looking forward to sweet times with friends, family, and my church. And I’ve been so blessed to be able to stay with my dear friends Bala and Laly again, to be a part of their family once more, and to spend my days with their little ones that I love so dearly. God is good, my friends. Yes, this time at home is necessary, in some ways—but it is also a gift, and I treasure that.

But going home means leaving here—leaving the kids, my team, my Liberian family and friends. I have spent the better part of the last year and a half in Africa, and it’s difficult to think about that changing. The kids will be fine; of that I have no doubt. They are healthy and thriving, and they have plenty of “aunties” and “uncles” here to give them the love and care that they need. But I will miss them. Terribly. They have been a part of my daily life for so long now. I know their names, faces, stories, moods, needs. We are a part of each other’s lives, so it is going to hurt to leave them behind—not because they will not be okay without me (because they will), but because I wonder how okay I will be without them.

Same with my team. They’ve seen me at both my best and my worst, and we’ve been through a lifetime of experiences together. This past weekend at Robertsport, as we were sitting around the campfire, made me realize just how much of me is invested in them, in ORR, in the work being done in Liberia. Still—I must go for a while.

On a more personal note, as March 2 gets closer and closer, I find myself fighting against fears and insecurities that I know are lies but feel very true. Part of me feels like a failure. Part of me feels weak, useless, ashamed, like I’m giving up, like I’ve wasted all this time and money. I worry about my finances, about being able to survive in the States again, and I worry about disappointing the kids, ORR, my supporters—even God. It is such a heavy burden to carry. And it’s a truly sucky (because I can think of no other word that fits so well) feeling.

So this morning, as I was having quiet time, I started praying for God to reveal to me His way of looking at this situation. And then I felt Him speaking words of truth, life, and love—cool water upon my parched desert of a heart. He was saying that I needed to stop being so hard on myself. He said I can walk way on March 2 in peace, knowing that I have done the job He has given me—and done it well. I have “trained up a child in the way that he should go.” I have “preached Christ crucified.” And, most of all, I have “loved deeply—from the heart.”

This morning, my Abba told me that He was proud of me. And oh, how I needed to hear that. He also gave me this scripture, which I will hold on to in the coming months:

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly…and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed….” Isaiah 40.1-2

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