We are leaving Fernie soon.
Someone asked me this week ‘how do you feel?’ Well, it is a whirlpool of mixed emotions, something between can’t wait to see my family and friends in South Africa and don’t want to leave my new friends in Fernie behind. Torn. If you would have asked me this 10 months ago, the answer might surprise you. I didn’t want to come to Canada, I didn’t want to leave my homeland and move to a foreign one more permanently this time around. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the idea, I came kicking and screaming not wanting to leave our extended family behind, our friends, kids schools, my comfort zone and facing more uncertainty in the midst of Sarika’s newly discovered health issues! The goodbyes were heart wrenching.
We came to Fernie in August 2015; our main concern was Sarika’s health; she couldn’t climb even one step or walk 10meters! We got an appointment at BC Children’s Hospital fairly quickly, but It was an 11-hour trip to Vancouver, one way, without stopping. We had to see the doctors every 2 weeks to start with, and our medical aid didn’t cover the costs. After 3 expensive, emotionally draining and roller coaster months we were registered on MSP (Medical Savings Plan). Our South African friends, Steven and Sonja Brink “happened” to live halfway to the hospital; they were our supportive & encouragement pit stop. We’ve been transferred to Alberta Children’s Hospital in December, which is only a 3 hours drive, and we’ve made new friends, Ben and Lisa Snyman who took us in and helped unconditionally. Looking back now, I wouldn’t want it any other way; in South Africa there is ONLY ONE Pediatric Rheumatologist in private practice. Here we’ve started of with 6 specialists seeing her on our first visit! We have met wonderful doctors, support staff and friends, and through her treatment plan and by the grace of God, Sarika has made big strides health wise. She is doing gymnastics and climbing as many steps as she pleases.
Plugging into a church was easy, as we’ve been to Fernie, two ski seasons before and was familiar with Mountainside Community Church (www.mountainsidechurch.ca). The first service we attended was God sent as Pastor Shawn’s message was from Matthew 10:29-31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”. Why is this significant? The backstory is that a month before we departed for Canada, my girlfriends gave both Sarika and I earrings from Radiant with Hope jewelry (http://livingflame.co.za/products), which is based on this verse and a South African story of hope. It was a gift to remind us of the hope we have in Christ. Well, the doctors were concerned with Sarika’s condition and I was afraid. The first words in my journal during the service were..…Do not be afraid; you are worth than many sparrows. Have faith so strong, so secure in the Lord’s love that it frees you from fear. Our confidence is in the Lord. God knows you and loves you. Fear -> Faith -> Courage. It was so encouraging! I thank the Lord for working through Pastor Shawn on that day, strengthening my faith and let me rest in the knowledge that He will see us through this.
We were definitely more intentional in getting connected in the community this time around, and being part of a church small group was the starting point. This is where we’ve found people doing real life together, true acceptance from day one, someone to rely on in times of need. Two particular occasions occurred when Justinus wasn’t at home; I had a kidney stone and had to leave my kids with Brittany for basically the entire day, Pastor Matthew drove me to the next town and back late at night, as a scan had to be done to confirm the diagnoses. In the same week, Sarika was admitted to hospital due to a reaction to her IVIG and Faye took care of Christopher and brought dinner. I find that people here, care about one another, although they might not even know you all that well. Through this experience, God reminded me that He would take care of me through a village of people, even if things felt out of control.
Sarika is immune suppressed and wasn’t attending school as this was a great concern for me and I wanted to protect her from every bug on planet earth. Somewhere in September, someone in our JDM support group posted “live your life not your disease” and this is when we’ve decided to enroll Sarika in school, as JDM will be part of the rest of her life. What a pleasant experience to approach Isabella Dicken Elementary School with our needs! The principal, Mrs Voysey, literally arranged for assistant funding within a day, this would enable someone in the class to help Sarika with challenges; Mrs Arlene is such a warm and caring person and the right fit for her. Sarika’s teacher, Ms Leah Spergel is the best teacher we could’ve asked for, the amount of effort and communication she puts into teaching the kindies are beyond expectation. Student Services’ Ms Donna Cameron & Ms Stacy Short helped with the plan to tackle Sarika’s challenges, and they also got us connected to people who helped us get funding from the Ministry of Children for additional costs. They’ve also lowered the bathroom sinks so she can reach it without a step. Besides all the help with Sarika, Christopher was transitioning into an English school, skipping few months of school into grade 2. Mrs Sutherland was the perfect teacher for him this year, making this integration as smooth as possible. There are so many great teachers and staff at this school, and the learning approach is fantastic! We feel very grateful being part of this school for the past school year.
In December we’ve joined Mountainside’s new years celebration and during the stay-over, Pastor Ryan asked me if I didn’t want to apply for the half-day assistant position at church. I had excuses, maybe covering the fact that I didn’t want to be out of my comfort zone, exposed and dealing with a lot of people, numbers were more my strength, I thought. We were starting to plan our trip to South Africa this year, but were a bit tight financially, so I had to look for a job. There weren’t many half-day positions available in Fernie, and Justinus said I should give it a try and I’m so glad I did! It was such a fulfilling role, doing things that matter in life. Seeing how a community can stand together, helping each other, supporting one another. I thank God that this job was part of my journey.
Then the day came when Justinus said, “I’ve been thinking”, I knew our lives were going to change again. By the way, this wasn’t long after I’ve started my new job, maybe a week! We were going move to Vernon in the summer. When I broke the news to friends familiar with Vernon, the usual first response was, “Oh it is really hot there”. This made me anxious, as Sarika’s disease can flare with sun exposure. Again, God gave me a verse, Is 58:11 The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. I know that we will be just fine in Vernon.
And just as I thought I had trust in God down, came the curve ball last night! Expectation and uncertainty culminated as we were waiting on final answers on funding options for the house we’ve wanted to buy and made an offer on. It exploded into; we actually don’t have a place to stay, two weeks before leaving Canada! I defaulted to worrying. Our recent experience of looking for decent rentals close to the new school was few and far between, or rented out within a day. I was disappointed. I went to the kitchen to make tea and picked up Sarika’s Sunday school lesson; my eye caught the Bible verse in Matthew 6.
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
While I was in the kitchen, Justinus contacted a landlord he met the week before, his rental was still on the market and we took it. God provided. The house is everything we were looking for, patch of grass for the kids, close to the school and enough space to make things work. God is faithful, and I need to trust Him more.
What have I learned over the past 10 months?
The beauty of your journey is the friends you get to meet. It is good to be connected, we need it, but have to reach out and take relationship risks, in spite of having to say goodbye again at some point. Take every day, every moment at a time, appreciate it, savor it and pay attention. Reach out, no (wo)man is an island, wherever in the world.
Also that life is unpredictable, we are not in control and that is OK. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Prov 16:9. God will guide and provide, I will rest in His fatherly love for me, and know that He has good plans for my future.
My heart is building up a storm of emotions, Fernie goodbyes are coming up, our visit to SA is around the corner, new adventures, changes and finding our way in Vernon when we get back. We’ll take one day at a time.
Home is where your heart is; my heart is all over the place right now!