shifting: thoughts on re-entry

Linking up this week at Velvet Ashes {The Grove}, where this week’s conversation centers on re-entry.

At Kasana, there is plenty of moving. People come and go; foreign staff leave and return from furlough; houses are built and their occupants are shuffled to various locations at various times. In the Ugandan English of this place, it’s called “shifting.” I shift from one house to another, from primary site to secondary, from one living situation to a new one. And now, I am preparing to shift again—from Uganda to America.

It’s a big, scary shift. One I intended to make next year, but which now faces me a bit sooner. God is working great peace in this…peace I could never generate from myself. There’s a difficult uprooting and transplanting wrapped up in every transition; this one just happens to have many thousands of miles in between the two.

Re-entry is looming. And more than that, the inevitable exit that precedes the ability to re-enter. Already, I feel I have stepped into the no man’s land of cross-cultural work—the place in between, the world suspended between two worlds, the distinctly unglamorous stretch of time and space wherein my feet can’t quite plant themselves anywhere and truly belong.

And the unique challenge of re-entry will always be that it involves returning to a place where I am supposed to belong. I’ve got a navy blue U.S. passport, supportive friends and family stateside, and “y’all” is sprinkled liberally through my vocabulary—surely I belong there, in Austin, Texas, U.S.A. But the roots of my soul run much deeper than passports and dialects, into the earthy places of cross-cultural friendships and open markets and multilingual worship and small fingers wrapped around grubby crayons. It’s strange to think that very soon, I will arrive at a place that purports to be my home—that is, in fact, my home—and yet feel placeless.

“May Christ in our marrow carry us home,” I put at the top of my entry just a few months ago—sweet words from a song by one of my favorite artists. I fall back often on that benediction: may Christ, dwelling in the deepest part of my soul and yours, bring us safely to our true home. The home I can’t buy a plane ticket to or from; the home I am created to desire, feeling somewhat placeless in all others.

I hope that the transitory struggles of both exit and entry will be continually brought into the light of this grace. And in the meantime, I’m seeking to live deeply in these weeks—flour-covered baking with David Family ladies, crazy pot-hole bus rides with my Institute class, shared meals and movies with the staff members who have become such dear family to me, even the simple wonder of looking up under a canopy of stunning stars on a clear night or breathing the scent of fresh tropical rain on dirt roads. Large and small, these are the things I know I will miss when they are no longer part of my daily routine. I don’t want to miss them now.

And so the process of “shifting” has already begun, and will likely continue for some time. It’s not a thing that can be easily rushed. Grace abounds in these days. Jesus is present here, as he is present in Austin Texas and present in every step of my journey between, from Doha to Barcelona to New York City. And if He uses this great shifting, this exiting and re-entry, to pull me closer and more deeply into the great home of His heart…then I can’t imagine a greater journey.

“The grace of God means something like: ‘Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are…. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.'”
(Frederick Buechner)

My support page has been updated to reflect that I am no longer seeking additional financial support for my time in Uganda. If you’d like to know more, I’d like to talk to you! Be free to shoot me an email at beth@bethcole.me, or we can arrange to connect more personally when I’m back in the States.

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