Mack in Senegal
Updated: Mar 12
The decision to uproot your kids and move half way across the globe isn't easy. Once the novelty wears off and you're left with a new normal, there are moments of questioning as a parent, "did we do the right thing for our kids?". Tear filled nights still show up once in awhile, but we've been mostly surprised that our children are really happy here and thriving. So much so that they often ask if we'll be staying longer to serve on the new ship! (*The Global Mercy is supposed to come on line this December with double the capacity of The Africa Mercy).
As I mentioned in a previous post, we've found that our being here is making an impact at home just as much as it is here. This played out again last week as Mack's 5th grade class in California was deciding on a country to study for International Day. Inspired by Mack, they chose Senegal! The class Face Timed Mack as part of their research and they asked Mack to make a video to send to show the school during the International Day presentations.
A friend posted a picture of the door decorating competition portion of International Day. I commented, "Oh you've done it again with an awesome door!" (she and I created the first place door last year!) She replied, "Tell Mack we miss him but he is our theme this year." Of course I started to cry when I read this along with the picture of Africa with the arrow saying "Mack is here." I felt so badly that we took him away from these precious friends.
I was concerned that all of this talk of his class back home and his friends would make him sad and homesick. But instead he felt special that they chose to study the new country he is living in and he thought it was cool that he could represent Mercy Ships. Sometimes I think my children are adjusting to this new life far better than I am!
It's funny because as parents we often fear that we're making decisions that are going to impact our children in a negative way. Moving away from all of their friends is going to destroy them. They're missing out on all of the normal childhood activities and special moments of junior high and high school. But why should I impose my normal and my childhood experiences upon my children? Well, maybe because my childhood was amazing! Really thought, it's because it is what I've known, lived and loved. But just maybe there are different experiences that I never had that will greatly bless, grow and stretch my children - and that might include sacrifice.
Our decision to come here meant Mack giving up playing on a baseball team and riding his bike down to the creek every weekend. It meant the girls missing junior high friendships, the 8th grade trip to D.C., and foregoing a typical high school freshman experience with cheerleading and football teams and dances. I know what they are experiencing here is priceless and could never be gained back home, but sometimes I feel badly about all that they've given up.
The crazy thing is, I think I'm more upset about what they're missing out on than they are! It's my struggle to let go of my ideal and allow my children to have their own experiences and make their own life stories, even if they look very different from mine. Their ability to live in the moment and embrace all the new as their normal has left me awe struck at their maturity.
"As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him." Mark 1:16-18
That last line stands out to me - "At once they left their nets" - all that they knew, all that was normal all that was safe and familiar, and followed him. Followed him into a new life, new experiences, new friendships, a new normal! I'm sure there were moments when they missed their old life of fishing peacefully, especially when their new life proved a bit dangerous and unclear. But still they remained faithful and followed Jesus wherever he led.
I'm still struggling with leaving my nets - the expectations and desires I have for my children that entangle and hinder. I'm grateful for children that I can learn from as they embrace a childhood that is exactly what God has for them uniquely, even if it looks very different from mine.
Here's the video Mack made for his class. Enjoy!