Monday, February 15, 2016

Last day in Timu

For us, 2015 ended and 2016 began with a premonition and resolution. I, Terrill, had a premonition that the new year would bring about significant changes in our lives. And Amber made the resolution to meet new trials with more faith than fear. Little did we know what was about to happen.

The second week of January, Amber was a struck with bout of anxiety and insomnia that left her a wreck. I also struggled with some sleeplessness and irregular heart-rates. After a week of misery and tears, Amber told me she couldn't take another week like that, and I agreed. So we packed up and raced to Kampala for a week of doctor's visits and recuperation. Midway through the week in Kampala, it dawned on us that we could, and should move out of Timu. By then circumstances had coalesced in a way that allowed us to cease our service activities in Timu, vacate our house, and move into a rental home in a quiet(er) neighborhood of Kampala. It became clear to us later that only something as bad as what we went through could've dislodged us from our lives in Ikland.

With the new and urgent goal of moving in mind, we raced back to Timu, packed up our home, and uprooted our eight-year-old roots in a matter of two weeks flat. Our last day there was Thursday, February 4th. That's what this blog post is about.

Our last day in Timu began like most of our days there. I got up, made tea for me and Amber, and headed outside to one of my favorite quiet time perches, a large boulder partway down the valley. Amber remained inside, comfortably ensconced in bed, gazing out our bedroom window. Knowing it was our last day, I intended to have a special, final meeting with God in the pristine nature of Ikland. But just after I sat down, greeted the world, and turned on my Kindle, I heard footsteps padding up the rock behind me. It was a teenage boy named Guti who I had seen coming to this spot every morning to check his hyrax traps (in vain). This was the second time he had interrupted my quiet time, and I was incredulous that he was doing it again. He sat down beside me, picked up my journal, and began reading it. For a moment I honestly tried to empathize cross-culturally, but then I just reached over and took it out of his hands and said, "Those are MY stories." After a few moments, he brought up a sore subject: how we had repossessed a motorcycle from another Ik young man who had stopped making payments for it, and how this young was very angry with me and threatened to take me to court for 'stealing' the motorcycle. My mouth turned sour. For you to appreciate the situation, you must understand that this motorcycle fiasco, which took place in December and January, was a major stress factor for us, probably one of the things that pushed us beyond our ability to cope. And here I was, hoping for a last moment of peace in Timu, and here was Guti bringing up this most distasteful topic in excruciating detail. Well, we chatted my quiet time away, and I headed back home.

It has been relational unpleasantries like this one that have left us lonely, humble, and weary.

Terrill's quite time 'gear' on a rock

Amber's quiet time view from our bedroom
 Back at the house, I greeted my family and made breakfast. Since this was to be our last day in Timu, I was cutting it close work-wise. For the entire last year, I have worked almost exclusively on collecting data for an Ik-English dictionary. This work involved meeting with some Ik men two or three times a week for the morning. I would come with a list of words whose spellings and definitions we'd go through one by one. Amber would make tea, and then lunch, and we men would have a great time hanging out together. My 'guys' included three partially blind old men, as well as a young man who knew English and helped me understand the nuances of Ik semantics.

Well, dictionary work is literally endless, but I had come to an acceptable stopping point. On this final morning, the guys all came, and we started our work. But then a stream of visitors filed up to our gate wanting to say 'good-bye' in a way that consisted of saying, "What are you leaving behind for me?" We were so bombarded with distractions, we had to move to the far side of the house to continue working. Amber graciously handled the visitors for a couple of hours, while at the same time handing out a few more pills and putting on a few more bandages.

The 'approach' to our home where people came with their many wants and needs

The unrelenting responsibility of community healthcare had left Amber worn down and tired.

Despite good progress, I actually didn't finish the work I had to do, but at noon, I could wait no longer to talk to my guys about how we were leaving and how much I had loved being with them and getting to know them. In all the years spent working on the Ik language, I have been burnt many times in relationships. But these old guys were pure gold: they were faithful, humble, patient, cooperative, helpful, and very, very thankful. And I thank God so much for allowing me to spend my last year in Ikland with (from left-to-right) Iuda, Simon, Gabriel, and our translator Clement:

The Ik dictionary team 2015-2016
Dictionary guys enjoying the last of Amber's fine lunches there
 Now that the data-collecting phase of the dictionary work is closed, I am gearing up for the writing phase. My plan is to spend March-June writing a book called Icetod: The Ik Language, Grammar Sketch and Dictionary. Since the writing is done on my laptop, it makes the work highly mobile. I can work from home or a coffee shop, just about anywhere...including a suburb of Kampala. Had we not reached this stage in my work, moving out of Timu would not have made much sense.

After this extremely hectic morning, we spent the early afternoon trying to pack up the remaining stuff. We thought we were anti-clutter and simple-livers, but still the piles of things to process seemed to never end. But through it all, we had a deep peace and confidence that kept us going. Our AIM friends, the Germans Christoph & Heidi Rauch, agreed to feed us supper that night so we could pack up our kitchen. When they first arrived in Ikland last July, we had fed them a couple of meals so they could set up their kitchen. Now they returned the favor. The Rauchs are leading a team of 8-10 missionaries that will settle in groups along the Timu ridge for two years, starting in July of this year. We are sad that our moving now separates us from them, but we are so thankful for the wonderful times we had to spend together over the last few months. In the next photo, we are saying good-bye to the Rauchs. Lemu, who always wears her emotions openly, is obviously grieving in the moment. Mercy is showing her deep empathy for her sister, and the joy of Jesus is radiating from the Rauchs:


 On the one hand, we hated to uproot our girls from their Timu home which they had grown to love and feel secure in. But on the other hand, we believe God has wonderful things in store for them in Kampala and America. We tried to stay very positive about our move, focusing on the things we can enjoy in the city, and thankfully they have followed our lead. One thing they'll miss especially is their daily 'lunch club', where 2-6 neighborhood children came to play in our playground and eat lunch:

Kids' lunch club on the last day
Little masters of the tire swings
Though we'll miss our girls' little friends, we won't miss their negative influences of lying, grabbing, using foul language, etc. We are grateful for the amount of exposure Mercy and Immaculate got to Ik culture and language, but we are eager to have them interact with more people who share our morals.

After getting back home from the Rauchs, I worked feverishly until well after dark dismantling our extensive playground system. This included pouring used motor oil on the legs of the swing-set, picnic table, and tree-house ladder to prevent termites from eating them up. Most things we left with the house, but one thing we did bring to Kampala is the zipline! When I was done outside, I joined Amber inside for the final round of packing. Amazingly, we crashed into bed around 10:30, exhausted but happy. We slept fitfully and awoke early enough to leave around sunrise. The moment depicted below represents us leaving a period of darkness in our lives under the light of a new sun:

Sunrise during our exodus
We drove down to Kaabong and stopped to say good-bye to the girls' mother, Adupa Alice. Mercifully, the good-bye was smooth and no tears were shed at the time. We will try to see Alice once or twice more before moving to America. She'll probably be summoned down to the US Embassy when we have our interviews for immigrant visas.

Adupa Alice

Lemu with their half-sister, Akello Prisca

Mercy with Alice
 After parting ways with Alice, we spent the rest of the day in Kaabong and then left at 9:00 p.m. and and drove all night to Kampala. It's like having waited at a red light for months and months, when we finally got the green light to leave Ikland, we punched the accelerator. It's not that we didn't love it there. We did love the place and do love the people very much; we even have that bitter-sweet affection for the instrument of so much personal growth. It's just that we were burnt out, tired, weary, lonely, and as of the beginning of this year, unhealthy. And it's incredible how God arranged everything at just the right time to make our move to Kampala possible and practical. How many times did Amber and I tell each other "We will NEVER live in Kampala!" Hmmm...funny how that works. Living in Kampala presents a whole new set of challenges, but in our current circumstances, our stress levels are much, much lower on average. And that is a huge relief--God is kind to us.