I should preface this article by saying that I do not like packing. In fact, I hate packing! Neil doesn’t mind the packing process, and our kids actually seem to enjoy it. I wish I was more like them, but I’m not.
Several weeks ago as I contemplated the heaps strewn across our bedroom floor that we were trying to fit into our eight suitcases, I was reminded once again of my distaste for packing. I think one reason is because of what I would not be able to fit into the suitcases. Trying to fit seven years of our lives into eight suitcases is impossible. Some things are going to be left out. On this, our final trip from Mali to the United States, there were some precious things that simply couldn’t be included. One of these special items was Clayton’s beloved fishing pole. Our daughter Hadassah crammed every last one of her ragged, treasured stuffed animals into her suitcases, but that meant she wasn’t able to fit in some other toys. Neil and I also had things we wanted to take, but that just didn’t fit no matter how hard we tried.
Of course these were just replaceable things. Here in the States we will get Clayton another fishing pole, and the kids will have no lack of toys—their grandparents will make sure of that! However at the end of the process, at the end of our travels, now that we have arrived in the United States, we know, as we knew all along, that it really didn’t matter what we put in our suitcases. It is the people we know in Mali, our friends, whom we miss the most.
It was the same seven years ago when Neil and I flew to Mali with a much smaller Hadassah, baby Clayton, and our nine suitcases crammed with all the items we thought we would need. (Neil’s mom paid for an extra suitcase for us.) I remember those first few weeks and months of life in Bamako. Hadassah was only two years old and couldn’t tell us verbally how she felt about the changes. However, she started pulling out her hair, something I have never seen her do since, so we knew that she was aware that much had changed in this new place, and there were people missing from her life.
As I write this article, it has been a little over three weeks since we left Mali. We called some people in Mali this morning. Since Mali is six hours ahead of Texas, it was afternoon there. The kids were able to talk with one of their friends whom they miss greatly and who misses them, too. I was also able to speak with a couple of my friends. We are very thankful for the widespread use of cell phones, which make it much easier for us to keep in touch with people there.
We were also able to speak with George and Theresa Tooray who courageously took over the Malinke Project after our departure. They shared news about the little church group that continues meeting on Sabbath. We were saddened to hear that our most faithful attendee, a 10-year-old girl who was one of Hadassah’s best friends, hasn’t come at all since we left. Theresa visited the family to find out why and discovered that the girl’s mother is telling her she has to wash clothes on Sabbath.
Though our family has left Mali, the mission project is continuing, and there is still much need for your prayers and faithful support.
Neil and I want to thank all of you who supported our family during our ministry in Mali. Your faithful prayers of intercession, letters of encouragement, packages full of yummy food, and sacrificial gifts made it possible for our family to stay in Mali. Now we ask you to pray for and support George and Theresa as they carry on the work in Kangaba. For us, one of the hardest parts about leaving Kangaba was that we didn’t know if we would ever be able to see our friends again. We pray that, because of your faithful prayers and support, we will be able to see them again in heaven.