I knew that it would take Palmer a long time to process what it means to move back to Africa, but I also knew that it was on his mind often, because every few days he would ask questions like, “Can I have a bicycle in Africa?” or “Can Grandma and Grandpa come and visit us in Africa?” and “Can Buddy and Holly come?”
Palmer has had a lot to process internally regarding Africa. Being the older of the two siblings, he has more memories, more sense of responsibility, more regret about all that happened. He remembers losing family members. He remembers struggling for survival himself. He remembers being displaced in the orphanage. He remembers saying good-bye. Palmer has a nearly photographic memory for many things. It serves as both a blessing and a curse.
For Palmer, it’s almost like these hardships have made him work all the harder now to appreciate the opportunities that he has. He works hard in school, at soccer, at chores. He appreciates what he has, and takes good care of everything he owns. He is rarely disobedient.
He is our responsible child.
I knew that this sense of responsibility has weighed heavily on his heart, when he asks how his family is in Africa. Is the orphanage still there? Are any of his friends still there? There is a tender balance in his heart of living life to its fullest in America, but remembering those who were left behind.
Palmer hides these things in his heart well. Most of the time, he is an incredibly goofy happy kid who loves to laugh. But if you look in his eyes at a serious moment, you can catch a glimpse of the years of experience he is too young to have. At times, he seems like an old man in a boy’s body.
I take what Palmer thinks and feels very seriously. He is still a child, but he has considerable survival skills and analytical skills. He is very wise for a not-quite-10ish year old. He challenges me to think about life differently as our cultures collide and mingle under one roof.
We patiently waited for weeks for Palmer to give us his answer about moving to Africa. His reaction had been fairly silent at first, but I knew that the Holy Spirit would speak to Palmer in His own way, in His own time if this was indeed what God had for our family.
Several weeks ago, we were having Sunday lunch from our favorite Chinese takeout buffet. We were taking turns reading fortune cookies. When Palmer opened his, it read, “Your dreams will come true when you least expect it.”
“Palmer, what’s your dream?” Ken asked.
“I don’t have a dream,” Palmer replied.
“Martin Luther King Jr. would be so disappointed.” I replied with a wink.
“Not a dream at night, Palmer, a dream can also be a big wish.”
I added, “So would you like to go to Disney World like your friends? Or go to the beach like we do at Christmas? Or a new video game system? What’s your dream?”
Palmer thought for a few moments and then replied, “My dream is that there would be enough doctors to take care of all the sick people in Africa.”
We had his answer. An unselfish boy realized that giving up what he has in the United States is worth it to move where healthcare is needed most. I do not take lightly the choice that he has made.
The Holy Spirit, in His own way has spoken to each of our hearts separately, and together. None of us decided on our own that moving to Africa was the right thing to do, but by prayer and consideration, God has made it clear that He is leading us back to the continent from which our children came. God does not have a calling that is separate for Ken and I than from our children. They are called by God too, and I am convinced that God will use them as much, if not more, than Ken and I while we are in Africa.
And the same God who called us as individuals and as a family has a plan for each of us, and all of us, in Africa.
Now to start the process of getting there . . .