Thursday, July 7, 2016

Answering London

I spent two weeks in London in April. I didn’t expect to like it. I thought it would be unfriendly like Paris. France always made me homesick. I felt like a pudgy alien in India and Vietnam. And I have come to adore my Nashville life. Travel + Leisure agrees and just ranked it No. 5 of the top ten best places to live. I love walking the large concrete sidewalks in East Nashville and the sweet smells of gardenia remind me of my childhood. I love the hipsters and their food. I have collected my own black and denim and well-worn leather wardrobe. But in spite of amazing donuts, lush green hills and unlimited live music, my heart wants something different. I miss Africa. Not a day goes by. I miss waking up to the grand life of living in the center of where I am supposed to be. I miss “pinch me” moments riding my scooter through the village. I miss market shopping. I miss African smiles and charade conversations. I miss seeing my students working in a job I helped them get. The list of things I don’t miss is equally as long and need not be conjured up right now. But I didn’t think London would impress. Yet afternoon walks down Abbeville Road and Sunday lunch with Erin and Russell and the new baby and a weekend visit to the countryside to see Ruth Alexander and castle touring and lunch with Jessica Davies and dinner with Sam and Grace in Chelsea and coffee with Beth and her sister and long conversations about God and non-profits and finding work in London and going back and forth to Africa and Holy Trinity Brompton and eradicating poverty and international development started to change things.


I have a little community there now. From all my travels I have a small collection of quality, amazing friends who are all connected in one way or another with non-profits and working in Africa and are living beautiful community-filled lives in London. It felt like home. It is quaint (in bits) and charming and historic and fantastic and makes Nashville pale (just a little). I left my Wellies, trench coat, wool sweater and my favorite jeans. I left knowing I would be back, eventually. I left knowing there is something for me in London, a launching pad, a church, a little closer to Africa, cheaper flights, a community, a home, fish & chips. 

Back in Nashville, I settled back into Shopgirl life. I am not meant to be a Shopgirl and it shows. I am not good at it. I feel like you should be able to shop in silence, dress yourself and if you like it, buy it. It wears my introverted self slap out. It was to be my season of “tent making” to make some cash to get back to Africa. All the employees there seemed suspicious of me and were all so serious. Recently my boss asked about my previous work and I, ever vague and private, summed it up by saying, “It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but nothing compares to living in the center of where you are supposed to be.” It hit us both at the same time as I saw blatantly it was time to go back and he answered, “Not many people can say they’ve even done that.” I knew then, it was time to take my tiny little lunch and get back to where I belong. Suddenly the job there got a whole lot easier. Everyone started being nicer to me for some reason. They laughed at my jokes and impersonations. They shared their Jolly Ranchers and asked if I wanted coffee when someone escaped to Three Brothers. They even gave me a key to the store and made me a Key Holder which I always assumed when referenced meant a financial investor but it really just means someone who holds a key and has to get there early and stay really late. 

And then Twyla died. And I grieved and mourned and wept and I still do. Twyla was a fellow missionary in Pemba. She was a gun-toting pioneer woman from the Midwest who gave up everything to come and live with the poor in Africa. She died of a stroke on the mission field. Twyla taught me how to rest. I daily came to her house in a tizzy about a constant crisis. She met me at the door with an apron on, cooking or sewing or playing keyboard, painting or drawing. She taught me how to make yogurt. She fed me. She loved me. We sewed together and played endless hours of card games. Galeria dos Sonhos would have never existed without her help. In the middle of the chaos of a life in deep poverty, she carried peace. And she delivered it to me on plates of fried okra and in tall glasses of Amarula over ice. On our drives into town we would always comment on the beauty around us, the Mozambicans, the palm trees and huts, the boy selling lobster and the sea. We would both convey how grateful we were to be living in the center of our dreams and ride in awe at God’s provision. We would talk about our old jobs and laugh. She lived a fearless life. In the middle of a very intense place, Twyla remained calm. She trusted God’s provision for her life and was willing to lay down her life for whatever He asked her to do.  She loved Mozambicans deeply and was endlessly patient. I miss the fearless life. She died doing what she knew she was called to do. And not many people can say that.

It is time to go back to the fearless life I once knew. It is time to go back to trusting Him for provision. It is time to go back to living the life to which I know I have been called. Nashville has been a real gift and nursing W for the past year was absolutely my pleasure, along with it I got deep rest and gained a new army of friends. I bought a plane ticket a few weeks ago. And as of last week, the house in Atlanta is miraculously no longer mine! I am free to go. I leave September 8th for London. I will stay there for two weeks, establishing that as a new “base”. I will then spend a month in Madagascar where I hope to help set up social enterprises and micro loan programs with women there. I will then spend a month in Mozambique, visiting with the Galeria dos Sonhos women and my students there. I will also spend time in South Africa visiting friends there and looking into their projects and seeing if I might fit. I will be back in London by Christmas. 

I have no clue what will happen next. Hopefully doors will open, they usually do. I will continue to push on them. Leaving a perfectly good job for no job at all is scary. But there is nothing like living in the center of what you know you are supposed to be.