We've been in Michigan 7 weeks.
Most of the time, we still feel like we're just visiting. We have heard from other missionary friends who have transitioned back to their passport country that the transition can be hard, that it can take a while to feel settled and emotionally stable again. We did our best to prepare for this transition. We read books, met regularly via video chats with mentors, made lists of people and places we wanted/needed to visit one last time to say goodbye. We didn't just run away, we said the hard goodbyes, we felt that pain and sadness. We struggled feeling like we were running away from hardship and leaving friends who didn't have that same opportunity.
We love Haiti and the people we made relationships with there. It's hard to share the difficult stories when you want people to see the GOOD. But when you live in a culture that is not your own, inevitably the stress of that catches up with you.
- Working with corruption and city and government officials who want as much as they can get from you...
- Never knowing when you leave your house and drive on the streets if you're going to make it to your destination and back or hit a roadblock and either have rocks thrown at your vehicle, or possibly be held up at gunpoint
- Dealing with too many people willing to work and not enough jobs to go around
- Neighbors digging through your trash pile to find treasures for their home
- Coming up on random police checks on the road and knowing that you have all the legal paperwork, but more than likely, you'll still be pulled over and taken into the jail to be harassed until you either pay them off, or they realize that you won't back down and be intimidated and they literally then call you friend and ask you to eat breakfast with them
- Children rejoicing over finding an egg when you have two dozen in your refrigerator
- Not getting through to your husband when he makes a trip to Port au Prince and wondering if his cell phone battery died, or if he did
- Heading out to one of your favorite restaurants and getting a call to turn back because two men who stole a motorcycle were being beaten and burned alive next door
- Having family meetings to discuss escape plans if our compound were to be compromised
- Jealousy, voodoo spells, political instability, gas shortages, hurricanes, jumping over barricades of burning tires, dead bodies in the streets...and the list goes on
Some of these things became so normal that we didn't even realize it until we had visitors and saw how they responded to the things that were daily events in our lives. Our children didn't realize that their normal was not normal and that most American adults have never seen a dead body in the road.
Moving back to our passport culture, the land of hot showers and too many options, has been good for us; but it has also been hard.
Many of the BIG stress inducers of transition are housing, jobs, community/support system and schools. Moving to Michigan helped solve many of these concerns. We had a house that was already 90% furnished, we have family and a great community of support and once Craig decided to stay on with Extollo, the financial concern was removed as well. So, overall, from the outside/physical standpoint, our transition has been very smooth.
We are the type of people who have done transition in the past. We have ended one thing and moved right into the next. We're good about burying, moving on. But this time, we want to do things the healthy way. We want to be able to feel and process the things that have changed who we are at our core. We want to live wholeheartedly, which is only possible when you deal with the crap that's under the surface.
So we are. At the end of the month, Craig and I will head to California for a week of debriefing, stress management coaching, and an opportunity to process past and current events through psychotherapeutically informed coaching with a couple who has experience and training working through re-entry.
After our time with this couple, we are hopeful that we will have some clarity to the things we would like to further work on with a counselor on a regular basis.
We recently realized that we've failed to update with what we are now doing for jobs here in the States! Craig accepted a position with Extollo International, the same organization we have been working with for the past 3 years in Haiti. He is now working as the Director of Strategic Initiatives. This is a brand new position and it fits perfectly with Craig's experience and gifting. He is working with donor management, marketing, communication and fundraising. He will still be traveling from time to time out to California (where Extollo is based) and to Haiti, but most of the time, he will be able to work from his office right at home!
I, Renee, have agreed to continue working part time with Extollo as the Digital Media Manager. I do the website design, social media updates, and help with other digital communication. I'm also helping the kids finish up their schooling and getting them enrolled to start this fall in the public schools. They're both excited and a bit nervous. I'm so thankful for the many friends God has brought into both of their lives to calm those nerves a little!! After the kids are in school this fall, I may jump back into some photography that I have missed these past six years, but I've had a small business dream since Morgan was a baby and I have had the feeling it may be getting close to actually putting into reality! (I'd love to share more on this...but it's a very vulnerable feeling at this point!! Just think moms...relationships...Haiti...it all fits together!)
What do you need? How can we help?
These have been questions that we've heard often since being back. First of all, thank you. Thank you for caring enough to ask. Our usual response is...I don't know. We know that from the outside, we look like we're doing great...and for the most part, we really are. But there is so much emotional pain that bubbles up and we don't know where it comes from or what triggers it. (I recently sat at a sixth grade choir concert bawling and I didn't even know any of them)! We just know that we need grace. We know that many of the things we've experienced, most in our circle will never begin to be able to understand. And that is okay. But, if you are interested in listening and asking questions, please do. Don't feel obligated; we're more than okay not talking about Haiti, but we are also willing to share.
We also have an amazing mentor who has encouraged us to allow this time in our lives to be a time when we learn to receive. We know how to give; it comes naturally. But it's humbling and hard to allow ourselves to receive, especially when we know we can do it on our own. We've also been told we rob others of the blessing of giving when we are not open to receiving. So, a team has been put together to help our family "THRIVE" during this season of our lives. They are working to help find counselors for our family, generate ways of raising funds to help cover not only the costs incurred through transition but the costs of ongoing emotional, mental and spiritual care and help us feel loved and encouraged over these next weeks, months and years.
So for those of you who have asked "What do you need?" and "How can we help?" honestly the best thing you can do for us is pray that each of us transition well. Pray that we do the hard work of dealing with all that crap below the surface I mentioned before and, if you are able, give financially.
From the THRIVE Team:
"Craig and Renee are hardworking, independent and self-sufficient people. They don’t need any help with their basic living expenses. There are however some things that would really help them transition back to life in the U.S. in a way that leads to them thriving as opposed to merely surviving the transition. Debrief and re-entry training, counseling, help with medical related bills, to name a few. Working in modest oversees roles for over 5 years doesn’t afford much opportunity to save money. In fact, it requires the willingness to lay down opportunities to build wealth and financial security."
Gifts for the Janofski family can be made payable to ChapNaz and mailed to:
7520 East U Ave.
Vicksburg, MI 49097
**Donors should put “Thrive” in the memo line
I know I shared this in one of my previous blogs, but being on this side of the transition, it still speaks volumes and I resonate with so much of it:
"People who live abroad get broken there. Then they come home and their wounds go unacknowledged. They are heroes. They are brave. They are warriors.
Fine (sort of). But guess what? They are also weak, lonely, confused, shattered. Their marriages are damaged, their children have depression, their bodies are fragile and filled with parasites, their resumes have unexplainable holes, their job skills fail to translate. They are lonely, their faith has been pushed sometimes to the breaking point. They have seen poverty and the global realities of politics and their own ideas on these topics have been transformed. They are no longer welcome, when they speak from what they’ve learned, in the places which sent them out.
I certainly see churches ready to send people triumphantly out.
Please, dear Western Church, be willing and ready to welcome them brokenly back."
I'm so thankful. I'm thankful our family has had the opportunity to live overseas. I'm thankful to have so many who do love us well. I'm thankful that God knows just what we need and is faithful to meet us where we are. I'm going to close this with a song from church this week that was just what I needed and may be what some of you need to hear too.
Much love to you all!!!
You are not hidden There's never been a moment You were forgotten You are not hopeless Though you have been broken Your innocence stolen
I hear you whisper underneath your breath I hear your SOS, your SOS
I will send out an army to find you In the middle of the darkest night It's true, I will rescue you
There is no distance That cannot be covered Over and over You're not defenseless I'll be your shelter I'll be your armor
I hear the whisper underneath your breath I hear you whisper, you have nothing left
I will send out an army to find you In the middle of the darkest night It's true, I will rescue you
I will never stop marching to reach you In the middle of the hardest fight It's true, I will rescue you
Oh, I will rescue you