Written on May 30, 2011
This morning I found myself awake and restless at 5 am. I laid there for a few minutes, tried to shift position off of my very sun burnt arm, listened to Oliver’s deep breathing (yes, he had climbed in bed with us again), and tried to force myself back into a deep slumber.
Suddenly I realized that three weeks from today, on June 20, at 5 am, I will be entering the Yerevan airport as a resident of Armenia for the last time. I can already imagine the moment – pulling up in two taxis filled with 8 bags, stroller, car seat and carry-ons. Oliver will be exhausted and will continue his tradition of making a bed on top of the stacked luggage cart. Ava will be trying desperately to slip out of her stroller to run around and charm all of her Armenian followers.
We’ll be allowed to the front of the long line of passengers waiting to check-in (Armenian culture always allows people travelling with small children to skip to the front of the line), and as we approach the counter, I am sure that we will not be able to truly comprehend the significance of the day or moment.
Nearly eight years ago, exactly, on June 16, 2003, we landed in this same airport. It was before the airport had been renovated. I remember stepping into an old, grey Soviet structure that had baggage belts so old and crickety that men would stand on top of the metal ledging to help pull bags along.
I remember the first time I stepped out of the airport on to Armenian soil. It was 6 am, newly dawn, and the birds circling overhead even looked different – small and wiry. The parking garage was filled with Soviet Ladas (a car) and crumbling cement architecture.
That day began the hardest year of our lives.
Eight years have passed. A new language was learned. A new culture experienced. New roads driven. Wonderful friends embraced. Hard work. Our family grew. And, above all, we have changed.
But, this is not the end of our life in missions, nor our connection with the Armenian people.
For years, Nick has felt a distinct calling arise in his heart. The call: to plant and pastor a new church and, later, mentor church planters to bring the love of Christ into the darkest corners of the earth.
Our Eurasia leadership was also feeling the same call – to emphasize the use of our missionaries in church planting to reach the most unreached people groups of Eurasia.
After hearing our hearts, a new opportunity was presented to us. We were asked to consider planting a non-traditional church to reach the young, post-modern generation in Tallinn, Estonia.
Peace. Doubts, and then again peace.
We know that this transition will be difficult. The easy thing for us would be to stay in Armenia. We are not running away from difficulty or bad relationships. I believe we will look back on our time in Armenia as being some of the best of our young lives.
But, we are going to a place where the need is very great. Only 16 percent of the Estonian population will even say they BELIEVE there is a God. Very few of them attend a church.
I am scared, and yet, I am filled with peace. I can’t imagine what my next house will look like. I can’t predict if my children will adapt well to this much transition and the Estonian culture. I haven’t even tried to learn the language yet. I don’t know how my melancholy self will endure the long winters with little sunlight. But, despite my racing thoughts, once again, there is peace.
We will be living in Estonia for one month before returning for a year of fundraising in the US. We hope to arrive in Tallinn, to live, in August 2012. And then, the new adventure begins.
But until then, our last three weeks in Armenia are filled with packing, saying goodbyes and thanks, speaking in churches one last time, and trying to soak in every moment amidst the stress of transition.
As I board that plane in three weeks, I’ll be leaving Armenia with quite a few more grey hairs, more experience and wisdom (hopefully), and a heart full of memories – the smiles of our friends, the beauty of its mountains, the curiosities of the Kurdish villages, their undying love for our children, and the strength of a surviving people.
I will miss Armenia and now, I realize, that a part of me will always be Armenian. Thank you, Armenia, for giving us a wonderful 8 years.
It has been the privilege of our lives to live with you and serve you.