When You’re Scared of Moving Your Family Overseas

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scared of moving overseas

Recently, someone asked me about our move to Uganda. Did we have all our kids over there? they wondered.

“No, we moved over when our youngest”–of our four kids–“was two.”

“Oh. …Wow.”

Even just that little exclamation was somehow validating.

As in, maybe I wasn’t imagining the tsunami of stress of carting four kids under seven to Africa. Maybe it would have been a bit of an overwhelming endeavor for other people, too. Maybe other people would be scared of moving overseas, taking this show on the road.

“You realize you’re on the crazy train, right?”

I recall retrieving some medicine from the pharmacy; yes, in the middle of that hurricane, my kindergartener had been diagnosed with ADHD.

My kids were bouncing up and down like little pogo sticks. “We’re moving to Uganda!” one of them brightly announced to the pharmacist.

The tidy Caucasian woman, tucked in her clean little booth where everything could be counted and qualified, maybe thought something like, What a nice story. Where did you hear about that place? Isn’t that in South America?

So I offered a lopsided grin. “Yeah, they’re telling the truth. We’re moving overseas. We’re headed to Africa.”

She looked at me, then the kids currently using me as a maypole. Her eyebrows lifted.

“Are y’all nuts?”

Good grief. I didn’t even have all my kids with me.

During that season, my hairstylist–in one of those moments where I surrendered to the fact my hair would never be cut unless I actually scheduled it–noticed my hair was falling out. “Are you under some stress?” she blinked politely.

How does one even answer that?

I mean, how many spreadsheets were we corralling, organizing our tasks for departure? How many support appointments had we held? How many versions of passport photos had we taken? I do know we didn’t have to sell our minivan, because it had been totaled not once, but twice, from people hitting us during that time period.

“Stress” didn’t even begin to cover it, people.

And that was less than the sheer fear I was stepping over–for my kids’ lives, for the dangers of malaria, for wondering if yes, we should really quit our jobs and move to the developing world.

No place like…

But yesterday evening, my 15-year-old daughter and I sat on the sofa here in Colorado, five years after we’ve returned to this place. She was four during that trip to the pharmacy. We now look out the window onto pines rather than palms, balsams rather than bananas.

Because my husband now works in upper-level management for that same missions organization (Engineering Ministries International), he was recently asked to return to our Uganda office for a trip.

My daughter was reflecting that so many of the items she’d brought back were for herself as a child–and she wondered if her dad would pick up a few things she could hold onto as an adult.

“I miss the smell,” she said. And then the tears started to roll for both of us as we recounted how we missed the bougainvillea in the backyard, the scritch of stick brooms on the sidewalk, the orange sweetness of mangoes dripping from our chins.

She used to chew the basil from the huge plant outside our door, pretending it was tobacco, she laughed. I missed the Friday afternoons with other homeschoolers, and the sweaty Thursdays at the refugee center, laughing with students. I missed the cool of the tile beneath our feet and the calm pace of mornings as sunlight broke, the sounds of livestock spilling over the compound walls. She spoke thoughtfully of the trips to the corner grocery store where everyone knew her name.

I say this to tell you that, if your experience is anything like mine, your fear may morph over time. Perhaps you’ll learn, as I did, that diseases can largely be anticipated and treated if you know what to look for. You’ll learn how to drive in the heart-clenching traffic, say, but learn to fear something else.

But if God is beckoning you overseas, he’s also drawing you to a home–a new tent here on planet earth.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8-10


And by nature–demonstrated by the Cross and the Resurrection–he always gives more than he takes.

Someday, perhaps you’ll find yourself grieving the loss of this place you legitimately feared.

(Maybe it’s a bit like a good marriage in that way: Saying your vows may find you on the edge of terror. But perhaps the older version of you wishes you could tap that kid on the shoulder: Yes, this is going to be tougher than you thought.

But don’t worry. This is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Like, ever.)

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