Strangers in This Land

“Mommy, look – she carry it on her head! That silly!”

Keturah pointed and chuckled and didn’t seem to realize that she was the only one who thought this sight was “silly”. She is only 2 years old, but already she has a basic understanding of cultural “norms”. After a year in the U.S. it has been an adjustment for her to come back to Africa. There are so many new and strange things to see and discover. So many new things to learn about living in a new culture – one that challenges her idea of what is normal.



When we go out in the village it is very common that all the kids come running when they see her. They love to touch her white skin and soft curls. They like to play with her and laugh at all the silly things she does. She is perfectly content with all of this and actually really enjoys all the attention.

“They’re my new friends!” she says, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, . . . 12! LOTS of new friends!”

She gets along well with the village kids and enjoys playing with them. It’s a beautiful thing to see how freely they interact with each other without hardly noticing any language barrier.

And yet, there is ONE thing that really bothers Keturah – the way the kids pronounce her name . . .

“Ket – too – rlah!”

It really bothers her to hear this “mispronunciation”.

“I’m not ‘too-rlah’!” she calls out in response. Over a dozen times on our walks she’ll be repeating this over and over again, telling everyone who calls out to her, “I’m not ‘too-rlah’!”

We have tried explaining things to her in a number of different ways. We’ve tried explaining that they say her name differently here in Africa. We’ve tried explaining that she has TWO names and that this one is her AFRICAN name. We’ve tried to explain that they speak a different language which makes her name sound different. So many ways of trying to help her understand it, but one thing we have been careful about is NOT to say that they “can’t say it right” – that would give her the impression that our way is right and their way is wrong, which will not be helpful to he at all in her cultural adaptations.

When we moved into the village we became the minority. Our language is in the minority. Our skin color is in the minority. Our culture and way of doing things is in the minority. One is not better than the other, they’re just different. But if anything, WE are the strange ones here.

We are strangers in this land. Our ways of doing things, our way of talking, WE are the strange ones!And in spite of our efforts to adapt, or fit in, or embrace the culture around us, we will still always stand out. It can’t be helped. We are different in ways that are very obvious – different in ways that can never change.

Some of these differences are a disadvantage to us, while others serve as a huge advantage that empowers us to help others around us. Good or bad, advantaged or disadvantaged, for better or worse, we are different!

“By faith [Abraham] went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land . . . for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. . . . These all died in faith, having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (selections from Hebrews 11)

“But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

Transitus (Transition Syndrome) . . .

(The following was written in jest . . . though only partially)


Transitus (trān-sī-tus), also known as Transition Syndrome, is a very common ailment that affects hundreds of travelers around the world. It can occur at any time in life, regardless of age, gender, or nationality.

The word “transitus” is Latin, meaning “Transition”. It is typically caused by a drastic change of location, time zone, culture, and climate. It is also very often associated with separation anxiety or the leaving of a familiar lifestyle and/or loved ones.



Symptoms may include any or all of the following . . .

  • sudden change in sleeping habits
  • exhaustion / fatigue
  • upset stomach
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • loss of appetite (or craving foods that are not available locally)
  • irritability
  • mood-swings (or wildly turbulent emotions)
  • frequently tearful eyes
  • foggy brain
  • unusual aches and pains
  • insomnia (inability to sleep at night)
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • developing an obsession regarding cleanliness
  • second guessing or doubting your decisions
  • feeling stressed or overwhelmed
  • idealizing your home culture
  • feeling a little lost, insecure, confused, or lonely
  • cravings for familiar, comfort foods


In Children

In addition to the above symptoms, children may also experience . . .

  • hyper-activity
  • increased naughtiness
  • an obsession with wanting to be held
  • increased need for tender loving care
  • greater dependency on comfort items
  • shorter attention spans
  • impromptu play times between 1-4am



The only known method of prevention is to avoid traveling at all costs.



  • understanding the cause of your symptoms can help a lot in managing them
  • be intentional about planning fun and enjoyable activities amidst the travels
  • drink lots of (filtered) water
  • establish a new (but consistent) routine
  • try to keep bedtime routines as familiar as possible, using familiar “comfort items” (favorite music, personal pillow or blanket, stuffed animal or doll, etc) to create familiar and comforting surroundings
  • don’t be afraid to take frequent showers and do a little “pampering”
  • don’t over analyse or make life-changing decisions while suffering from transitus.
  • keep your schedule light the first few days and just spend a lot of quality time with your spouse and kids
  • take lots of pictures and really take in the beauty around you and enjoy the adventure


How to Support Someone Suffering from Transitus

  • understand that their changes in routine or behavior are temporary and will resolve themselves in a matter of time
  • be ready with lots and lots of grace, understanding, love, encouragement, and hugs
  • encourage a balance between necessary tasks associated with the journey and fun, distracting activities to encourage rest and refreshment
  • encourage them in keeping a familiar and regular routine
  • make sure they are getting plenty of nutritious foods and are keeping well hydrated
  • subtly remind them of the reason why they decided to make this journey in the first place and assure them that it will all be worth while in the end
  • if the person suffering from transitus is very close to you, bear in mind that you may also be experiencing symptoms of this condition, so re-read this information sheet and apply it to yourself


Other Helpful Resources

  • chocolate and ice cream both contain properties that comfort and sooth the symptoms of transitus
  • laughter is good medicine and should be given in large, frequent doses
  • use email, cell phones, Facebook, or other social media options as best you can to stay connected with loved ones
  • find an activity or hobby you enjoy and engage in it regularly



  • “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)
  • “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
  • “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
  • “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)
  • “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
  • “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
  • “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)




“Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow . . .”

Sunday afternoon we said our goodbyes before heading to the airport. There were tears, both of joy and sadness. Sadness in the parting, not knowing when the next time would be that we would meet again. And yet joy as well . . . joy in the realization that our furlough had been longer than expected and more time had been spent with our loved ones than ever we had hoped or imagined.

As the farewells were being said, I was reminded once again of the pioneers and the pioneer missionaries of old. Our different it was to say goodbye in those days. With no internet, no Facebook, no cell phones, and no email. Partings in those days was almost like a death in the family. The goodbyes were expected to be permanent, with little or no hope of ever meeting again this side of heaven.

In some cases there could arise an opportunity to send an occasional correspondence by post. A letter or small parcel that could take months to reach its destination, and always the possibility that it may never be delivered at all.

How different it is in the world today! There are so many options for long distance communication now that we can say goodbye in person but never fully feel the disconnection and separation that was felt by those in the past.

Saying goodbye is never easy, but as we set out and make the transition back to Africa, this phrase just kept coming to my mind . . . “Parting is such sweet sorrow” . . . how true it is! This parting of loved ones has been “bitter sweet”. The sweetness being primarily the excitement of knowing that we are called by God to embark on this adventure. And sweet because we know that God is all powerful and omnipresent. He is as much with us in Africa as He is with our family back in the US. The same God that watches over us is watching over our loved ones half a world away. And sweet, also, because we have the blessing of being able to communicate long distance through many different means. We have the ability to stay connected even while we are apart.

Yes, and sweet, also, because we know that even if it turns out that we would never meet again in this life, we know that we have all of eternity with which to spend together, never to be parted again!