I was you.
It’s hard to believe it was nine years ago. I got off that plane on that small Indonesian island to the blanket of heat and the MAF team of strangers waiting for us. I climbed in the car and saw my first views of Tarakan—the palm trees, people staring at me through the window, the zooming motorbikes, the house that would become mine. I was excited and scared. I wanted to explore and hide. I wanted to finally get around to planting some roots…and run as fast as I could back to America.
The simplest things seemed impossible back then—driving on the “wrong” side of the road, stumbling through the language I’d already spent a year learning, cooking things from scratch that I’m pretty sure God designed to be bought in boxes and jars. Many days, I wondered when it would all be over so I could get back to my real life.
Then somehow … nine years happened … nine stretching, hard, wonderful, heart-breaking, heart-filling years. And blink … it was over. It was my turn to leave the house that I’d brought my three babies home to, drive past the much-taller palm trees, and get back on an airplane, as the MAF team (a mostly different one than the one with which we started) waved goodbye.
I’m writing to you today to tell you this: The team of strangers will become your best friends. The house you’re moving into will soon be filled with your most treasured memories. Some of the people staring at you will become like family. This strange, hard, hot place can become your home. And someday, it’ll break your heart to leave it.
Trust me on this one. I was you, and someday you’ll be me.
This letter is a reminder for me, too. A couple months ago, I got off the plane in another hot Indonesian town, was welcomed by my new MAF team, was driven to a house that will someday be home. It was my first time in Palangka Raya, but I’d been in that spot before.
I almost blurted out to the team who was greeting me, “You’re my new best friends.” I knew it would be true in just a blink.