The other day while painting the Envision center with Leanne I found myself saying, "Yeah, it's been hard, really hard, but worth it." In that moment I realized it was true. What a gift! In the recent past I've had thought patterns that run a rut around the same mountain of thought, that mountain being all the difficult and heart-wrenching challenges of the past few years. And it's been truly the most challenging time in my adult life. But here I am with different thought patterns running around a different mountain of thought, that mountain being gratitude.
The reason Leanne and I were painting at the Envision center is because Envision is leaving Gabon. The rented house that has been home to Envision for the last five years or so needs to be painted by Gabonese law before returning to it's owners at the end of an occupancy. It seems a bit backwards to have the renters responsible for the interior painting instead of the owners, but that is just one of many perplexing Gabonese laws. So Envision is leaving. It is deeply saddening to contemplate the loss of Envision and all the people it encompasses. It will mean losing our closest teammates and my dearest friends. We live in the city and the rest of our team lives in the jungle near the hospital, an 8 hour car ride (on a good day) or an 1 hour 45 minute flight.
Leanne and Hannah have been fearlessly leading Envision for nearly two years now. They are kindred spirits and I have loved living life with them. We have shared everything from the mundane to special trips and holidays together. We have ministered side-by-side and laughed and cried together. Living in a foreign land is an adventure, one fraught with joy and pain. To have cultural mates, that is, someone who intrinsically understands where you come from, who is able to share in the heartache and hilarity and sometimes the furious frustration that makes up the day to day living in this foreign place, is profoundly encouraging . Leanne and Hannah have been that support and lifeline in the midst of this beautiful disaster I call life in Libreville. I love them dearly and will miss them greatly.
So there we were painting and talking while the music played. The room empty of furniture, full of paint fumes and memories, echoed as we talked. Leanne was recounting many of the challenges I've faced living here and I found myself saying it's all been worth it. Today when I read through my fb newsfeed someone had posted a pinterest-type image of muted colors with a profile of a girl in a hooded sweatshirt hunched over as cold rain splattered, in the background lights from a city are blurred bringing focus to the hooded girl, the mood of the photo is dark, bold words state, "Don't lose faith. I didn't promise it would be easy. I promised it would be worth it. -- God" I usually don't like those often cheesy sayings splashed across images. I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to those things. However since I've been living this one it struck a chord within. It is worth it, the pain of loss, the pain of growth as God shapes and stretches. I am grateful for it all.
When we first began to process the closing of Envision Gabon Hannah brought up the Dr. Seuss quote, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Envision closing is a huge loss to us all, especially as Hannah and Leanne have poured their hearts and souls into this vibrant ministry that has touched many lives. It's always heartbreaking when something good ends and it would be easy to lament its loss in strident tones of anger and blame but at the end of it all we rejoice that Envision Gabon existed and breathed life into so many people. We rejoice at the friendships made and buildings built, medical trips made, Gabonese people coming to Christ, the Hope House kids and their infectious smiles, all in partnership with the Gabonese national church and our dear friends at the OSPAC/RBC clinic. We smile because interns have drawn closer to God and others because Envision Gabon happened. I am a better person because of Envision Gabon. I have been enriched by the people and ministry. I am inspired by Hannah and Leanne and the way they are ending well. I am grateful for the mountain of memories that will forever be a part of my interior landscape.