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being back

Posted by on December 3, 2009
Kate, our sweet tornado.

Kate, our sweet tornado.

I don’t think that it’s really possible to explain the re-entry process unless you’ve been there and done it.  Coming back to America after being gone for so long, is quite a tornado of emotion.  We’ve been calling my sweet niece Kate “Sweet Tornado”.  I think coming back to America is its own kind of sweet tornado.  Dave said something like this to me today while trying to explain his emotional state.  He said something like…. I don’t know how to put it in to words, but I know you understand.


Dave and I have just come back from two nights away together in Connecticut.  Such a good time.  The first nights I’ve spent without any children since Sam was born in May 06.  We were able to take some time to reflect on where we are in our marriage, our ministry, our family.  And where we’re going.  We were able to ask ourselves some tough questions.  Two nights ago we sat together eating seafood by the sea in a candle lit room.  “What would Dankarami say about this?”  one of us asked.  All this luxury.  “I don’t want to think about it,” I answered.  It’s embarrassing.


And we’re faced with it again.  So much blessing.

Each time we come back to our homeland it strikes us in a fresh way.

Sunday at church I was unprepared for the emotion that overflowed down my cheeks.  Realizing, as the moment hit me, that I hadn’t felt so much freedom in worship- the freedom that comes with speaking your own language- in about a year and a half.  Overwhelmed with gratitude to be THERE in that moment standing with Dave and his parents and my brother and sister in law.  Enjoying the message given in English.  Not having to concentrate on translation.  The ability to relax and receive what God had for me that day.  A church service that included nursery for my kids.  And the Ghanaian woman sitting next to me in her pania dress.  Making me wish I had worn mine too.  I love Worchester First Assembly and their congregation full of Africans.

I am trying not to concentrate on the things I want to buy.  The pressure to look good that comes with being here.  Blow drying my hair.  Should I wear makeup?  Wanting new ear rings and a new pair of shoes.  How much time I spend in this place with thoughts revolving around my own vanity.  Where does that come from?  The other day Sam said to me, “In Africa you always wear a skirt, but in America you always wear pants.”  He’s learning about the dual roles we play.

And in all of this, there is an excitement in my boys.  The buses, and airplanes, and helicopters that they can spot at any moment.  Nathaniel is saying “AIRPLANE!” now as he spots them in the sky.  This afternoon as we headed back to Grammy and Papas Sam asked if he could go to Amber and Ashley’s house.  I knew what he meant.  He misses home.  Niger.


our funny American cousins

This transition is hard for each of us in different ways.  We love the adventure, the fun, the time with family.  But the longer we are gone from home the more we wonder where our home is.  And I’m reminded…. We are strangers, we are aliens, we are not of this world.

Tomorrow we will bury my father in law’s best friend, Bill.  He’s truly home.  I’m glad for the reminder.

Whole family  copy

our Johansson family

9 Responses to being back

  1. Ann McClain

    Hope, I hear you. I know my experience cannot compare to the magnitude of yours, but I remember the return, in 1989, when Grandma-Great and I went to the Soviet Union. I had worked hard while I was there to experience some semblance of the life of the Russian people. Of course, my exposure was limited, but I rode a bus & subway, visited a grocery store in the country (horrible food to this American!) and went in the famous Gum department store on Red Square, Russia’s finest. I came home and the first time I went in WalMart I was totally disgusted. I saw all the color and the total waste of resources and realized how ridiculous we Americans are. I feel like I was more conscientious in New York, but now, I am back in Texas, the wasteful capital of the world. Gosh, I hear you Hope. I’m praying for you guys. Love you so much, Ann

  2. Chin

    what a beautiful, beautiful family picture. i love the thoughts you shared above. i don’t really understand it anymore, but recall it from years ago when i was out of the country for a period of time. what a flood of thoughts and emotions you must have. i hope you really enjoy your time here, without any guilt or reservations. be refreshed. be loved on by family and friends. and be renewed by god in a way that you would not while in niger. i love you and wish the johansson’s a blessed christmas!! xoxo chin

  3. Gma

    I am so blessed to know the woman you have become. You are so AWESOME, and I am privileged to be in your life. I can’t wait for all the fun we’re going to have. See you in less than a week!!!!

  4. Anna dela Cruz

    Really enjoyed reading this, Hope.
    Keep digging deep.
    Your take on things is refreshing.

  5. Faith

    I love reading you, because you are able to put my feelings into words like I never can!! Can’t wait to see and talk with you guys. It’s always nice to spend time with people that “get it.”

  6. Grammy J.

    This will probably be my Christmas card. So, if you see it … let me know. I won’t mail you one!!!

  7. Kim

    Hey Hope, I know exactly how you feel. I felt it every time I returned to the states this year. There is nothing like having a panic attack in Target because you can’t remember what detergent you used to buy and there are too many choices or you keep looking for your adapter that you no longer need…

  8. tia

    welcome to the Alians club! it was nice reading you!
    enjoy this time, try to find who u r there, cause u r both the american and the missionary and thats the secret enjoy both lives!

  9. Jude

    We ARE strangers in this land – I teared up thinking about those that have truly gone on to “live.” I look forward to the day when we will live together!

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