And Now It’s 8 . . .

Adjame MarketHomesickness for what no longer exists continually crept into my heart over the last few days.  How does most of me know it’s an anniversary before my brain realizes it?  Are anniversaries of the tragic somehow more indelible than anniversaries of the joyous?

Besides the longing and the missing, my brain muddled life segments over the last few days.  I insisted to friends I have one cookie sheet without sides; almost 24 hours later I realized I used to own cookie sheets without sides.

It hasn’t been just cookie sheets.  Books, music, shoes, linens, appliances all point to an elsewhere life.   It’s . . .tropical rains . . . my own classroom . . . O – 0 – O – 0 – 0 – o – Miss O . . . hugs galore . . .  almost 12 hours of daylight followed by almost 12 hours of night . . .  the market  . . .  community like none other . . . househelp . . . bargaining for vegetables . . . copious amounts . . .  of cheap basil . . . students 24/7 . . . street food . . . friends close by . . . ceiling fans whirling non-stop . . . the best bananas ever . . . bananas from the plants in front of my window . . . greetings that pass quickly or last for what seems like forever . . . Harmattan sunsets . . . and a few thousand other things that escape the grasp of my mind but linger just out of reach.

Of course there are things I’m glad to be done with like the mold of rainy season . .  dust, dust and more dust in dry season . . . sweat trickling down the back of my scalp and pooling at my heel . . . the market . . .  learning that my apartment was clutter free because all my loose papers were boxed up and hidden in the back of the closet . . . fire crickets . . . snakes . . . having to figure out how to make everything from English muffins to a tasty marinade that will also tenderize meat . . . grading . . . all staff meetings . . . the neighbor’s microwave that sounds just like my alarm clock . . . bargaining for vegetables and everything else . . . intestinal parasites . . . blind roosters (really—some of them had no clue when sunrise was) . . . the next door chicken farm after a big rain . . . scrounging for resources . . . and a few hundred other things I haven’t had to deal with for eight years.

Eight years ago there was less than a week to come to grips with the idea that it was ending.  Denial and reality mingled in ways that allowed comfort, moving forward, and choking sobs.

In the last eight years the diaspora, as hard as it has been, led to much blessing.  Other schools in West Africa have grown and changed because ICA no longer exists.  What I’ve been called to has morphed and multiplied.  I see more of my family than I ever could’ve had I continued to live in Africa.

My thoughts still drift back to Job.  He lost so much.  God restored so much more.

I’m no Job.  Yes, I’ve lost much.  God has restored so much.

The truth is that even though the community is spread throughout the world, the relationships remain.  Eight years later, they’ve lost the familiarity of the every day, but they’ve gained the strength of intentionality.

My college pastor regularly repeated, “There are only two things that last forever—people and the Word of God.”  Eight years after evacuation I know the truth of that in ways I couldn’t imagine when I was in college.

Homesickness and reflection go together like poulet chaud and attieke.

photo courtesy of

16 responses to “And Now It’s 8 . . .”

  1. poignant. raw. beautiful.
    you are gifted, and yes you should write that book.
    and yes, I do think trauma anniversaries trigger memories before you are cognizant. I think psychologists would agree, and I think there’s precedence of studies of that prove it.
    we love you and are proud of what you do today, especially in the light of the grief and loss that you walked through alongside so many of those like “us”

  2. Interesting, I was just thinking about this event of 8 years ago this morning as I read yesterday’s Post. An article of significance to the WV community was in there. Eight years ago it was my job to post the latest news on the WV site. My heart broke for you and all the then strangers who were going through the unthinkable! I prayed for you and I cried for you. I am so blessed that God brought you to the office across the hall and that your kitchen floor needed new tiles so we could become friends. Much love and many prayers to you today!

  3. Hey Sheryl,
    I have no clue how difficult this loss was but I do affirm the reality that God has blessed us at Sahel Academy greatly by what was poured into some of your staff members at ICA and we are incredibly thankful. I loved what you said about losing the familiarity of every day and gaining the strength of intentionality. It’s hard to lose that familiarity but I am so thankful for those friendships that I can go back to no matter how many days, weeks or years have passed and know that the connection will be on a deep and meaningful level!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

  4. The saddest part for me is that we cannot visit what we once knew in HOPES of discovering what we loved. We KNOW that it no longer exists, and our family is permanently scattered… But there will be a reunion… One day we will be united again in Christ, and this is our glorious hope.

  5. Lauren—the glorious hope of what we know! It makes such a difference, doesn’t it? I think deep down we know that even if there had been no war, even if the school had continued, even if there were a core group who were still living and serving there, it would be different. Of course there would be much that was the same, but recapturing the moment is impossible. I find the impossibility of returning to a facsimile of life there one of the very hard things. I’ve been back once since evacuation; it was and wasn’t home all at the same time. I’m thankful my parents, grandparents and brother were all able to visit when things were “normal.” It leaves them with hooks to hang my spoken memories.

  6. Hey, Beth!

    Thanks for affirming what I’ve seen over the last few years. It was fascinating to be at ICEC this spring and see representatives of so many different schools that now have former ICA staff at them. It’s a Job and Joseph story. God restores and he takes what was meant for evil and turns it around to blessing.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. Tirzah—Isn’t it amazing what God does and how he uses incredibly difficult things to forge new strengths, new friendships, new skills? Thanks for holding the ropes on this side of the world while we were in crisis far away.

  8. Kevin and Robin—Thank you for the encouragement. I’m mulling the book idea; I’m just not sure where to go with it. If you have ideas, let me know. It’s I who am so proud of the two of you! You are totally brag-worthy. I’m glad you’ve been part of my life for (gasp!) over 20 years!

  9. Sheryl,

    Fun to have us both re-connected after our lost bouts with xanga years ago. 🙂 I’m glad to have found you again. I’ll subscribe too and be eager to watch another TCK chase after God, and his adventures around the world.

    Book? Tell me more… 🙂 Have you heard of the Proverbs 31 Ministry’s She Speaks conference for writers, speakers, women’s ministry people? Fabulous! I went this July and learned so much.

  10. Jennifer,

    Hooray (again) for reconnecting! I have about 7 book ideas rolling around my head, and no idea what to do with them. I haven’t heard of Proverbs 31 Ministry’s She Speaks. Tell me more!

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