Tessa here. After our most recent trip, I wanted to chime in with some honest, but sort of disconnected, thoughts about our bush trips.
It’s been cool (read: challenging, at times terrifying, exhausting) to see how intensely Chyella’s development affects our bush trips, especially for me. One of our first family trips, back in July, was kind of a dream. C was still nursing, so I got to completely control her food options, and throughout the trip she miraculously napped against me twice a day out in the villages. It was pretty incredible.
But, as she was just crawling then, it was also tiring holding her most of the time. Dirt is everywhere in the bush, and the combination of her crawling and her putting everything (including her hands) in her mouth was just too much for me . . . so I held her above the dirt.
On a later trip, where I was still holding her a lot, I was sitting with a group of women, and they started whispering. I smiled and asked, “What are y’all talking about?” They responded, “Well, we’re just noticing that you don’t really put her on the ground much.”
I smiled apologetically, “Well, it’s just that she eats everything, and I don’t want her to eat dirt. What do you do with your kids?”
They answered, matter-of-factly—“Oh, we put them on the ground, they eat everything and then they get diarrhea.” Gotcha. Good to know.
Mobility has made a huge difference for C and I out in the bush. To be able to set her down and have her toddle off, where only her feet touch the ground, has been amazing! Still, though, there are new challenges. This most recent trip, I found myself sitting on a mat, talking with an old friend and a new one, looking for ways to get to know them and also turn the conversation to the Gospel. In the meantime, I’m scanning: She’s playing with dirt . . . ok. She’s playing with actual trash (piled up in front of where we’re sitting) . . . not so ok. She’s playing with dirt outside the potty . . . not good. She’s playing in a little pond . . . fine. She’s drinking the water in the pond . . . not good. She’s playing with a knife . . . definitely not good. She’s playing with a chicken . . . ok . . . and on and on and on. The idea of a playground—a clean one, with that fun, rubbery stuff under it, and nothing dangerous in sight, where I can sit more than 10 feet away and maybe have a real conversation . . . that’s such a nice idea.
One huge step of this last trip was in her communication. We’ve been doing signs with her, and on this trip I started trying to double the signs in English and in Malagasy. So, if someone hands her something, I prompt her to sign, “Thank you,” while saying, “Thank you, Misaotra!” This worked great! She caught on very quickly, and it also gave the women and even the kids we were playing with a way to communicate with her. She’s such an anomaly for them, but on this trip I actually got to watch her communicate, and that was a huge blessing to me!
This trip was also the first time Chyella actually played with the kids close to her age. In the past, older kids have “played” with her, taking care of her and being sweet to her. This time, a little boy and girl about two and three years old played with her. They climbed up on this big pile of sand, and Chyella climbed with them—jumping and plopping and screaming. It’s a strange thing to watch your baby becoming her own person—an amazing, beautiful thing.
I know our life would look much different if we actually lived out in this rural area. In some ways it seems like it would be easier . . . in some ways it would be much, much, much harder. I’m not actually sure we could do it. Either way, though, our churches and believers are growing, and we truly believe that they will continue to take the Gospel further out. Why would we step in and steal that from them? Why not come alongside them as we can and encourage and empower them? That’s the why, but the how—how do we encourage them? Are we coming alongside enough when we don’t live there? Do C and I have a role as a family there, or are visits enough? What is the point of the visit if I spend most of it watching her?
These are the tough questions we’re always asking. But we’re thankful for the time He gives, and trying to remain open to any changes He might lead us toward. In the meantime, thankfully, this whole thing is not about us at all. It’s about Him, what He’s doing in so many of His people here, and what He will do as we all continue to hope in Him.