About a month ago, I told the Mozambican nurses and tias I work with that I was leaving. It was really hard for me, because it made leaving so final. My Mozambican nurse, that I trained and have been working with for the last 20 months now, responded something like this....."but Mana Erin....what am I supposed to do without my spiritual mother?" and...."I'm going to be sad and sick and alone like baby Dionisio when he was left here in the beginning days when you leave. What am I going to do without you?" I have seen such a growth in this wonderful woman...spiritually, intellectually, as a nurse, as a woman, and as a nurse working with pediatric patients. It makes me proud and excited. It also makes me very sad to leave a lot of relationships with tias and babies that I have. Dionisio always senses something's up before I leave and has been a bit more clingy lately....then one of the tias said to him one day (not meaning it to be mean)...."What are you going to do when Erin leaves for forever....you are going to be so sad and miss her every day." He didn't take well to this and now has started screaming when I can't pick him up or play, throwing tantrums frequently, and just demanding to stay by my side. He had been doing so well, so sure of himself, so bonded to the tias, and confident in the last 6 weeks, that I was excited to think he'd be better than ok after I left. So these last few weeks have been hard and heart breaking to deal with. I know I will miss this place-missionaries, tots, tias....friends. but it IS time and I am ready. And God has ordered my next steps and He will take care of all of these things.
After a lot of prayer, I've officially decided (aka God told me) to spend a little "me time" over the next 7 months back in the States. While I'm calling it "me time," it's really going to be me taking graduate school classes full time for one semester, while trying to work a bit on the side, travelling around to visit supporters and friends/family, as well as finding some time to rest, reflect, process, refresh, switch gears, grow, and allow myself to be ministered to. These last 2 years have been absolutely amazing, but draining and emotional all at the same time. I've loved and cared for many children (around 75) as if they were my own-diapered, fed, prayed over and for, read stories, gave baths, tickled, laughed with, cried with, said bedtime prayers and given goodnight kisses, disciplined, and hugged. That's just the mommy, nonmedical, side of my job here. I've watched as some of them have been reintegrated to family which is exciting, but some have suffered immensely and either been healed or taken home to be with our Heavenly Father. The losses of these children have affected me greatly and on the field there is little time to deal with the grief, much less heal from it. Just yesterday as I sent another child to the hospital (whom I had known for all of 1 hr as the child had just arrived in the center), I broke down in complete uncontrollable tears and couldn't shake the fear. I know God is going to use this time for big things. It's going to be a time of preparation. I have decided to pursue 2 different graduate certificates through colleges of public health in the focus areas of Global Health (cross-culturally working in resource limited environments, with the diseases that tend to affect and kill most often in 3rd world countries, as well as how to develop programs to help the people help themselves) and Maternal-Child health (focusing on pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and the post-partum period for the woman of child bearing age as well as children from birth to 5 years and the diseases that affect this vulnerable population and often kill in 3rd world countries, along with programming that will benefit these population groups). Both of these will require 4-5 3 hr graduate level classes. All will be online. I'm hoping to get half of this out of the way, so when I return to Mozambique in January 2011, I can continue 1 class a semester. I'm excited to study again because these classes are completely perfect for what I'm doing here in Africa, and will continue preparing me for what the Lord has for me in my future, serving His children.
I don't know all the details at the present, as the Lord is still working them out. I will spend the first month in SC with my family, resting, and then I will be living with a close friend (Courtney) in Nashville, TN and working as a nurse in a local hospital (tbd) whenever I can pick up shifts as my class and travel schedule allows. It's funny to be leaving here in 10 days and STILL not have a super clear idea of what my life is about to look like....but the thing the Lord has taught me well while I've been here in Mozambique is: He is good; He is in control; His ways are best and good; His timing is ALWAYS perfect; He will provide my every need; and resting in THAT assurance of good things to come is even better! So that's what I'm doing....I'm not even the least bit nervous that it won't all work out. I'll keep giving you all information as I get it. Prayers are appreciated. I believe strongly in the power of prayer and even more so since being here, when quite frequently, it's ALL myself or the people I have been serving have had. And I have seen God show up in big and unexpected ways that have stretched my faith and taught me to be in more consistently constant prayer over every thing no matter how tiny, trivial, or life changing it may be. It is now one of the FIRST things I do in EVERY situation instead of running to Him only when I need bailed out or need something(as I feel we often do in the West). I choose prayer over medicine any day....especially when we have a lack of it. I've seen miracles happen before my eyes. It tends to change your world view a bit.
Please continuing praying with me over each leg of my travels and my next steps as they are unfolding. I leave Maputo May 29th and will meet a friend in Lisbon, Portugal (via Johannesburg, South Africa and Frankfurt, Germany) for 6 days of rest and refueling (for me). Then I'll be on my way back to the States (via London, England) and will land in Boston June 5th, overnight, then fly to Charlotte, NC on the 6th where a close friend has kindly offered to pick me up from the airport, let me stay at her house the night, and bring me to my parent's home in Clemson, SC the next day! Two of my flights home are on British Airways which has scheduled on again/off again to be on strike during those times. At the moment it looks as if my flights will still operate, but I won't know for sure till I take off or they call it off. Because I've already travelled the first leg of my ticket (back in October) I can't get a refund or rebook unless the flights are actually cancelled....so I'm playing the waiting game and hoping to not be literally STUCK in Lisbon, Portugal (although truthfully, I might not complain). Also, please keep the ash cloud over Europe (from the Icelandic volcano) that is still delaying and closing some airports which changes daily, in your prayers. I'll be flying into Lisbon, Portugal; Frankfurt, Germany; and London, England on my flights home.
I would love to share about my last 2 years here in Mozambique; the joys, adventures, deep sadness, and amazing transformations through the Spirit as well as the physical; the things God has taught me; where He's leading me and what my life is about to look like. I love this culture, country, and their amazing spirit and faith. Please contact me if you would like me to speak/share with your Bible Study, discipleship group, Sunday School class, Youth Group, or Church. Since it looks like I'll be in the States for almost 7 months, I'll be making my usual rounds to the New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and Clemson areas, with some new places added in (Ohio). I also really want to visit all those supporters that I usually can't get around to because of limited time and long distances! So contact me and we'll start getting something set up.