Eleven years ago everything got turned upside down.  Not one of us saw it coming.  In hindsight, we probably should’ve, but that wasn’t the way it was lived.

Eleven years ago we went from trying to help students grieve well in the face of a beloved dorm dad dying to helping students grieve many additional things in the midst of a coup d’etat.  A single death didn’t make sense.  While the actions of lock downs and power outtages and bullet proof vests fit the situation, it didn’t make sense that they should be a part of our world.

Eleven years later I can embrace some of the outcomes.  I can understand (to an extent) they why of political upheaval that spills across a country, but it doesn’t necessarily compute. I’m even thankful for the path my feet landed on as they were ripped from the tropical red soil of Cote d’Ivoire and replanted in the high desert of Colorado.

Leaving is hard enough without having to do it unexpectedly.  Perhaps part of the blessing that was disguised in evacuation was we didn’t have the chance to distance ourselves and complain about and dislike where we were before we had to leave.  We left longing to be with friends, not gladly bidding them adieu as we set out on new adventures.

Perhaps part of the grace that enrobed our hasty departure was learning to lean on Jesus more than most of us had ever leaned before.  At times it wasn’t leaning, it was being carried.  Learning how not to walk is important, too.

I’ll never know why everything was allowed to unfold as it did 11 years ago.  While I can see some of the positive outcomes, I’ll never know them all.  Today some of my moments are filled with mourning, but many are permeated with joy.  Eleven years later they coexist in a way I couldn’t have imagined with the sound of a ringing phone and gunfire rousting me from sleep.

I don’t think the world is upside down anymore.  It’s just tilted in a way that makes me keep leaning into Jesus more and more.

If you want to read the whole story, check out the evacuation category

photo courtesy of kristyhall on flickr’s creative commons.

11 responses to “11”

  1. As always, Sheryl, you voice my thoughts far more lucidly than I could. That will always be part of who we are. Our lives changed profoundly. Australia was only ever a distant possibility and since then our reality. We had 5 years with my dad. Such a blessing. Were here for my sister’s wedding. Our children have had 11 years at 1 school (not my reality as a child).

    I hate good-byes any time. And I grieve not being able to do them well but I’m so thankful for our time at ICA and you’re so right, the learning to fully lean, and for where God has brought us so far.

  2. Thanks, Brooke!

    You’re too kind, Jenny. I think there are 1000’s of small decisions along the way that change us, our course, our loved ones lives . . . but the big ones? More traumatic in the happening, more profound over all. I was able to spend priceless time with my family, too. There’s so much I can’t know of how things would’ve been if we had life sans La Crise, but as each year goes on I find more things to be thankful for. I’m so glad you, too, can see the positives that came from such a difficult and traumatic week.

  3. “I don’t think the world is upside down anymore. It’s just tilted in a way that makes me keep leaning into Jesus more and more.” Great quote! As we continue to work towards going back to Africa, now with 3 kids, many days feel a bit upside down. I read all the evacuation parts tonight. Even though I was only there a short time, ICA really impacted my life and began a total redirect of my life (meeting Jess, teaching all over West Africa, deciding to pursue full time missions) as I had only planned to go for 1 year! Thanks for all the details you included and for all your neat insights. Very encouraging and helps reset my altimeter from upside down to tilted slightly just enough to keep me leaning.

  4. Happy 11th anniversary of your first date with your wife, Tyler! I’m so glad I got to be your third.

    Isn’t it amazing how one decision–a year teaching science at ICA–shakes up your whole life? I’m glad we’re still connected and that we get to lean together.

  5. I also went back and read all the parts you wrote of the story a few years back, Sheryl. You have such a gift of writing down all the things we all were/are thinking/feeling but don’t know how to express. Thanks for sharing that with all of us and thanks for being my friend after all these years since The Crise as you called it above. As I look back, one of the first things I can say I am thankful for is the people who were assigned to our dorm because that is when I got to know some of my now life-long and most wonderful friends. Except that I miss you guys still….. Keep writing so the rest of us can keep processing.

  6. Sheryl, You sure have a way with words. This is so poignant. As I read it, I feel how your life was changed so profoundly – “tilted” as you say. Hugs!

  7. Judy – I’m glad I put the links in. Hooray for rereading. I’m glad my writing benefits someone else. It’s how I process best. I’m so thankful I was assigned to your dorm, too . . . even if the carpet back there smelled like cat urine! Cementing our friendship far outweighed the assault on my olfactory nerves! I’m so thankful we remain friends. You are so important to me even if we rarely get face to face time.

    Soul, I love you, too.

    Christie . . . that means so much to me since I know you’re a pretty good wordsmith. Thanks for being part of my new life!

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