As pastoral families, many times we refer to ourselves as belonging to the "Great Advent Movement." This carries a double meaning when we combine our theology and literal "moving." The reality of belonging to this "Movement" came to me once again when the telephone abruptly woke the silence of our sleep one night at 11:45 p.m. In the middle of the night, we were faced with the decision of accepting or rejecting a call to the United States—the Carolina Conference to be specific. Wheels started spinning along with my head. Arrangements and paperwork surrounding a move halfway around the world are endless. When I look back now, I am amazed how we accomplished everything that needed to be done in three short months.
A lot of friends back in South Africa and out here in North Carolina have asked me how it is possible to cope with such major changes. They seem especially concerned about how we dealt with most of our belongings.
One thing I know, it only comes through the knowledge that God is leading in your life. One thing that has helped me deal with this transition is to think of it as a great "adventure." Fortunately I am a very adventurous person, with very adventurous kids, and we are all blessed with a good sense of humor.
Attitude is the key word to any situation in life, and it will determine whether you are happy or miserable, I noticed a plaque on a reception desk the other day with the following inscription: "A positive attitude is one's most precious belonging." This is especially true for a pastoral wife.
As I was preparing for our move to the United States, there was a great deal of sorting to do. I had four piles: selling pile, keeping pile, throwing-away pile, and giving-away pile. One day while working on the sorting project, I thought of what a beggar had said to me one day while asking for a handout. Trying to make a good impression on me and thus obtain my help, she said, "I am also a Seven-Days Adventurer." As I contemplated these words with a smile, I thought about how she wasn't so far off! Here I was having seven days of adventure every week. In which other work would I have such a wonderful privilege? How many of us have the opportunity to start all over again in a completely new ministry? I felt like a newly wed, despite the fact that we have three children. I was entering a new adventure with new challenges and new problems.
We arrived in the United States with our bags of clothing and 23 boxes, most of which were books from my husband's library. A few others contained photo albums and a few personal sentimental items. The first part of our "adventure" was watching how God miraculously stretched South African Rands (the currency used there which was R3 for every $1) to supply our every need.
In making a major change, there is an old saying which makes a lot of very good sense: To be forewarned is to be forearmed. There are some very important things that we can know and do in preparation for such a major change in our lives:
- Know that it is the will of the Lord for you in your life.
- Keep a positive attitude about everything.
- Prepare your children and yourself for change—remember to be flexible.
- Speak to others who have made such changes and make a list of the pros and the cons and work through this list as a family. Be honest enough to recognize the cons that will be difficult to deal with, and start dealing with them right away.
- Do not live in a "fool's paradise" where you think everything is just going to always be wonderful and exciting. (After all—anywhere you may go—is still on planet earth under the attack of Satan and his angels).
- Read everything you can find about the place where you are going.
- Begin preparing yourself emotionally for the separation from your family and friends. This will probably one of the hardest things for you to deal with.
- Tell yourself how fortunate you are to have such an opportunity and remember that the number of people who get these opportunities is very small.
- Remember that Adventists are "family" everywhere.
- Prepare yourself for new terminologies and for things to be done in a little different way than what you are used to. Look for the humorous side and then the differences will be interesting, pleasant and refreshing to you, and you will not be shocked (as in cultural shock) by many of the differences.
For me, it is very interesting to observe the difference in terminologies. There are so many different expressions between countries, that it seems like almost a new language! In America I go to the store, choose a yard of fabric, and pay for it at the cash register or the checkout. In South Africa, I would go to the shop, choose a meter of material, and pay for it at the till. Different words but accomplishing the same thing. In America you drink a can of soda, whereas in South Africa, you drink a tin of cool drink. One of the most confusing and puzzling differences comes when we talk about vehicles and their parts. Americans refer to the hood and the trunk, but I am used to referring to the bonnet and the boot. Even after these many months, I often still have to bashfully explain what on earth I am talking about. In America, people put trash in the trash can, but I am used to putting the rubbish in the rubbish bin. I say I am eating chips with tomato sauce on it, Americans eat french fries with ketchup on them,
Moving from one continent to another, from one state to another, or one city to another can either be a wonderful adventurous challenge, or it can be a terribly depressing experience. It will depend on your attitude. It does not mean that you will not miss your family and friends, but you will have new family and new friends. A dear old sister in one of our churches here came to me the other day, put her arms around me, and said: "I love you, Elieze . . I loved you from the first moment I saw your How that warmed my heart. I do not have a biological mother close by to say that to me, but Jesus provided a spiritual mother for me right in my own church. I felt so loved and wanted, I knew God was giving me family here to fill the void until I can see my own again. He was stretching the love of friends to fill my emotional needs just as He miraculously stretched the South African Rands to supply all our physical needs.