The Cost

We had mixed feelings coming into this State-side Assignment. Part of us just wanted to stay put--the thought of transition and uprooting the kids, even for the sake of seeing family and friends again, seemed inordinately painful. But the other part knew we were tired, knew we needed a bit of a break from the stress of living overseas in a foreign culture. So we packed our bags and we psyched the kids up for a grueling 36-hour trip to the Pacific Northwest via London and then Dallas. And our first 3 days, with my parents on their small 15-acre farm in the middle of the Willamette Valley, were everything we hoped they would be. Fresh berries and ice cream, hot tubs, slow mornings on the porch with coffee, not to mention showers with good water pressure, no power outages, and drinking sweet water from the tap!

Then came day 4. Dad went in for an Endoscopy due to abdominal pain. When he told me of his symptoms (abdominal pain that woke him up at night) I didn't like the sounds of it, but I wasn't prepared for the news just a few hours later. Esophageal cancer. Lymph nodes involved.

There are times when you can know too much, when ignorance is actually, at least temporarily, bliss. I knew too much. But when the CT scan came back negative for liver or lung involvement... hope. Chemo. Radiation. Radical surgery to remove esophagus and stomach. But a chance to beat this ugly thing called cancer.Then yesterday, the PET scan. Nodes involved as far away as the adrenal glands as well as the pancreas. Inoperable.

Mom and dad were about to start orientation next month, in order to prepare them to move back to Africa. Only my parents would think about 'easing' into retirement with one last term in Juba, South Sudan! Dad describes his experience of the past few weeks like a bridge which collapses without warning, and he is the unexpected driver who was tootling along on his way when suddenly the road is gone and he's free-falling. I can't find words to describe how it's felt to me.

My dad is a good man. A man who has faced many, many challenges and has always found a way to come out stronger for it. He's not perfect, but he's perfect for us. He taught us commitment and loyalty and hard work. Integrity. Tenacity. He has perfected the ability to 'keep on swimming,' all the while leaving things more beautiful than when he arrived.

He is a good man who doesn't deserve cancer. But then again, does anyone??? So I don't feel any anger at this diagnosis. No blame. I surely don't claim to understand the timing, or the reason, if there is one that we can comprehend. But no...I'm not struggling with any deep or philosophical musings. I have no doubt that God is still on the Throne. I'm just wallowing in old-fashioned grief, and it's unfamiliar territory.

Both Chad and I lost very special grandparents during this last term we were gone. Perhaps we've not processed that fully, having been so far away and unable to come home for either of the funerals. We hugged healthy grand-parents good-bye, and now we're back here and they're gone. Just like that. And I really miss them both, but we knew it was possible. This...this I wasn't ready for.

I feel the cost of obedience right now. I wouldn't change the life God has called us to in Nairobi. But I feel grief over the loss of the last 4 years we could have spent with family, the memories the kids could have made with their grandpa, the fact that we don't know what the future holds for him right now, and yet we're supposed to return to Kenya in December.

I don't know how this is all going to end, but I would appreciate your prayers for our family. It's 1:30am and I'm sitting in the dark, trying to process enough to share, but these tears keep blurring the screen. 


  1. oh miriam! i'm so sorry to hear this devastating news. we've walked this road with jamie's mom and it's hard and yet there's hope, there's pain and yet there's joy. we will hold your whole family up in prayer in these days, weeks and months ahead. may god's grace and peace be heavily upon each of you!

  2. Crying with you, prayers coming your way x

  3. Miriam, I am praying and I am glad you have this time with him all will be very precious. I can't think of what to say...I wish we were closer, I prefer meaningful silence. :-) just know we love you guys and understand some...we will be holding you up in prayer, call if you need anything 580-381-0469

  4. Miriam I can't tell you how sorry I am to hear about Mark. He is a great man. It seems cancer strikes so many good people for no reason. I guess God wants them and He knows best. But it still hurts! Know I am praying for you and your whole family during this terrible time.

  5. Marci Langston directed us to your blog. I will be praying for you all. Your very honest writing is moving and makes me even more sad for you all. We were IMB missionaries years ago and I know that pull to be near family when they are hurting. Praying for strength for these days ahead.
    Bambi McLaughlin

  6. Miriam...I'm so sorry....I'll be praying for you all. Lots of love Didi


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