“I am in all the places in which I've left my heart." Marina Sofia
We've had the luxury of keeping our four children in close proximity all these years in India, till now. I say luxury because so many people who serve in remote places need to send their children to boarding schools. To live out their life mission, parents make that sacrifice. Only a couple of Christian boarding schools exist in India, so parents often have to travel several days on trains to meet up for half-term, Christmas and summer breaks. The distance is long, the effort monumental.
In the first five years we lived in Mumbai, Greg worked with the International Justice Mission,(IJM) and I taught the children at home. Eventually, we teamed up with a couple of ex-pat families and started a small school with just six children. These were stop-gap efforts that were sufficient for a year or two, but not really sustainable in the long run.
When our oldest, Kavi, turned ten, we realized she was incredibly lonely. Though the city was teeming with children, our kids weren't a part of the school system and they had no friends.
Leaving IJM was in a large part motivated by our desire to find a good school and good friends for the children, yet also stay together as a family. We traveled hundreds of miles across India, searching for the best school we could afford since most international schools were $20,000 per child.
After visiting Hebron school, we knew we had found the right place. Though a boarding school, they still had a few open slots for day students to attend. Hebron was our “fleece,” if the children were accepted, this was a sign from God that we were meant to stay in India and continue our work. If not, we would head back to the US. Although they were not admitted at first, our second attempt met with success. We were elated.
After moving to Ooty, we founded Freedom Firm, and the Ooty office became the home office. The children did thrive; the British education was excellent and the environment was supportive, loving, and sheltering. Greg had to travel one week every month, a sacrifice we made with joy, knowing that anything else meant either separating from our children or giving up our work entirely.
Now, ten years later, Kavi our oldest is twenty and Rachael is nineteen. They have graduated from Hebron and moved to the States for college. We are 20,000 miles apart now and we only see them once a year. Abbi is sixteen and only has two years left at Hebron, while Morgan will graduate in three years.
The family is divided. There are no long weekends home from college, no Thanksgiving break, no Christmas holidays to anticipate the end of our separation. We watch in gratitude and awe as Greg's and my siblings and parents step forward to welcome the children into their homes for holidays, parent where we cannot parent, and provide a sense of family where we can no longer be physically present.
The pain in my heart experiencing my oldest girls take flight is searing, ever-present. The inward groaning as I look at my two youngest and know that time is short, is sharp and visceral. The sacrifice of doing work in India is finally catching up to us as our children leave home. We are so grateful for the years we had together. Now, as we continue our work, we need the grace to let go, and to make monumental efforts in communication across the miles.