Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
A little over a year ago I wrote about our first year being summed up in one word: Sustained. Our second year in Asia can also be summed up in one word: Perseverance. Our second year fittingly came to a close at it began: with vomit. That might seem like too much information for you, but it’s true and it’s our life. Last year on 10 October Samuel woke up at 1 am getting sick (almost exactly a year to the minute of when we landed in our new city) and ended up spending three days in the hospital-his first of two hospital stays this past year. This year we had a great outing planned to go to a local garden in the morning and dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant we really like. That plan screeched to a halt in the parking lot of a gas station I pulled into when Benjamin kept saying he felt sick. Samuel’s almost monthly stomach virus had hit both him and Benjamin and a couple days later I also got to experience it. If you can’t tell I’ve become rather comfortable with talking about illness. It’s been a significant part of lives this year.
Month after month we’ve prayed and asked people to pray for health and strength as we continued on with illness after illness. And it hasn’t just been our boys. Toffer came home from four or five trips in a row with one illness or another. We joke that we should have a reserved parking place at the hospital since we go so often. Other than morning sickness and a couple other illnesses God has very graciously spared me from most of what has come through our house. I’m not sure we would have made if I had been getting sick along with everyone else.
After several months of what seemed like non-stop illness it appeared to us that we weren’t going to get a reprieve, so we began asking for prayer for strength, perseverance, and energy to keep going even with all the illness. God was faithful to us. He gave us those things and so much more.
Somehow we still managed to invest in relationships. We got through one year of school and started another. The boys played outside when they weren’t sick and made friends with a few neighbor kids. We got to church-sometimes more sporadically than others. Toffer never had to cancel or change dates of a work trip due to illness in our family. We continued to settle in to our new normal, which just happens to include a lot of time at the hospital. We celebrated birthdays and rejoiced in milestones our boys reached.
I certainly would not ever wish illness upon any of my sweet boys. I would never want any of them to be sick. But all of the time spent at the hospital, all the medications and treatments, all of the discomfort and pain they’ve endured, the isolation we’ve experienced (which definitely contributed to our homesickness this summer)-it was all worth it. God grew us and strengthened us and pushed us to keep going when the going was tough. I would never give back the opportunity to be right in the middle of where God wants me when He wants me there to use me and grow me and bring glory to Himself. At times I questioned whether we were doing the right thing by staying, but God kept saying “stay” and kept reminding me that going back to the US would not change anything except that we would not be where He wanted us to be.
We say frequently that this life will never be easy (cross-cultural living is hard even without illness), but this life is good because God is good. I don’t know what the next year will bring for our family. We know Caterpillar will make an arrival in February. Our boys will continue to grow and eat every meal like they’re in an eating competition. Toffer will continue to travel to places near and far as God shows the way for him and the rest of our team. We will keep going to four or five places to get most of what’s on our grocery list and figure out what to do to make up for what’s missing. Every day will be a new day created by God to be used for His glory. And we will keep going day-by-day with His strength, perseverance, and grace.