She missed her sister terribly. The pain was almost unbearable, not only for Nicol who was 10 years old, but for me, her mother watching helplessly.
We had been in Congo for less than 2 years, returning to the scene of a great awakening among the Bayanzi people which took place in the late 40's. Life was far from great at this point in our lives.
It was now late fall of 1980. Nicol spent a good deal of time with the Congolese children, especially after Shawn left to attend 7th grade at school at Karawa, the Swedish Covenant mission station. . . 600 miles away with no available roads, accessible only by air.
We struggled and struggled with the thought of packing her off to boarding school, but she was down to about 80 some pounds at the age of 12, suffering severe homesickness and culture shock. Virtually everything had been pulled out from under her: no more grandparents, no more friends she grew up with, no more familiar surroundings, including department stores, grocery stores, playgrounds, school grounds, tasty food, and snow or at least a change of seasons.
So. . . we decided to try the option of different surroundings.
Because Nicol played with African children whose parents many times had to choose between a can of sardines or soap for the family with which to bathe, she developed recurrent cases of lice. We had no good and tried treatments for lice, we resorted to what we did have--kerosene. Mind you, we lived 400 miles in the interior of Congo, not exactly a place filed with Walgreens or CVS pharmacies
Bout after bout of these lice plagues, delayed culture shock (Nicol adjusted extremely well in the beginning), malaria encounters, and missing Shawn put Nicol in a pit of despair and loneliness.
Things came to a head.
I found Nicol in her bedroom sobbing.
My heart broke.
I felt guilty for ever bringing her to this isolated piece of Africa. What had we done? What were we thinking?
She poured out her heart to me as she lay on her bed.
I listened. We were alone. We cried together.
She said, "Mom, when I look out my window, all I want to see is Grandpa's green Catalina (Pontiac) driving down that hill, and instead all I hear is people speaking a language that is not my own, and I'm surrounded by unfamiliar faces." No cousins. No relatives other than our immediate family. No activities to look forward with other American playmates. No ice skating. No roller skating. No gymnastics. No Shawn.
What to do?
I had no way of bringing Shawn home for the weekend on such short notice, no way of convincing my parents to come for a visit--no way, and no way of sending Nicol back to the US for a visit.
We were stuck.
"Stuck" in living out God's will for our lives.
It's one thing to know that God has called you to be a missionary.
It's another thing to live out your missionary role.
To perform the expectations others put on you to fulfill the role of a missionary.
To live out the life God has for you.
To feel like a missionary.
It takes time. It is a process.
We needed more time.
The will of God did not yet fit like a glove as I had been told in Bible college.
I didn't even know if I could hold out. Some days I felt like I was going to lose my mind.
I felt like I was living on Mars totally inept for the call that was so evident on my husband's life.
I never felt called. I know it goes against the grain and everything you might have heard about having to have a call on your life.
I went because I belonged with my husband, and I was sure of God's call on his life.
It was this simple: If God called him, He also called me.
But as far as sensing a separate call from the Lord on my life to serve Him in Congo--no. It wasn't there.
So, there we were.
I told Nicol to wait a moment. I would be right back.
In our attic was a case of cokes. . . a very precious commodity. A treaure hard to come by.
Cokes all the way from Kinshasa, hundreds of miles away, not available locally. Saved for very special occasions.
This was a very special occasion.
Usually shared by two people, each shared bottle was sipped slowly by both.
But drastic situations call for drastic measures.
Down I came with not one coke, but two.
Nicol's eyes brightened. We had made this case last for a long time. She knew she was valued and loved.
She rose to the occasion.
We sat on the edge of the bed with feet dangling and even swinging as we sipped away.
Each one being solaced with her own bottle of Coke.
Life was good again.