A Place of Blessing

“Good job, Mom! You didn’t cry!” my daughter Zoe congratulated me recently. We were visiting our old home of 10 years on the island of Tarakan, off the coast of northeast Kalimantan. It had been over four years since we left, and I think Zoe was worried I would repeat the great outpouring of emotion that happened when we moved away from Tarakan.

Holstens visiting Tarakan

If someone had told me when we first arrived in Tarakan in 2001 that one day I would be excited to return there, I would have laughed in his face. At the time it would have been hard to imagine that little spit of an island, once described by a tour book as “not a bad town, just dull,” becoming a place I would ever choose to return to visit.

But there I was, getting misty-eyed as our plane touched down and familiar places and faces came into view. We spent the next week visiting friends and recounting memories of times together—fun times and hard times.

Hosltens visiting Tarakan team

During this return visit, I read these verses from Psalm 84:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

Tarakan started out like a Valley of Baca—or a dry place—for me. But over the years, through relationships with our MAF team and with nationals, it became a place of springs. Life-giving. Home. We went from “strength to strength” and found ourselves—sometimes very surprisingly—fulfilled in what at times could be a difficult place.

And while I didn’t bawl in front of Zoe, I privately shed a few tears. Yes, tears of sadness to part with friends, but also tears of joy and thankfulness, too, at having been so blessed.

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