No doubt about it, I was agitating for an overseas experience. My wife and two daughters would have been perfectly content for us to stay on the trajectory we were on. But Dad had some half-baked ideas about pulling up stake and moving half way around the world. My wife and daughters were gracious enough to line up behind me and support this whole undertaking even when it wasn’t easy.
I remember vividly the first day of school last year. It was just six days after we arrived in Hong Kong. Because Annika’s entry-level Mandarin class conflicted with the math class she needed to be in, somehow in the midst of all the first-of-the-year start-up, she did not have a class schedule as the school day began.
Thirty-five minutes into the school day, I found her wandering around looking absolutely shell-shocked. I could tell that she was barely holding it together. I had a room full of students waiting for their teacher, but I decided at that moment that Daddy trumped Teacher. Annika and I found a sofa, sat down, and I put my arm around her. I don’t know who was closer to being in tears -her or me. I thought to myself, My God, what have I done? What have I done to my family? I have to be honest, if somebody knocked on our door that night during dinner with four one-way tickets back to Chicago, I think that we would have jumped at them.
But oh, what a difference a couple of years make. We not only survived a tough transition, but my family thrived. I asked a lot of them and they stepped up in big and small ways. This experience has stretched us all in ways that we could never have imagined when we climbed aboard that United Airline flight two years ago.
Elise was just nine when we left, now she will be entering middle school when we return. Annika was a thirteen-year-old kid who had just finished seventh grade. When we get back she will be sixth months from getting her driver’s license.
I asked a lot of my family. I turned their world upside down. We changed cities, continents, jobs. We had to meet all new people. The girls went from home-schooling to having school five days a week in an insanely academically rigorous environment. But they stepped up in big and small ways.
Before we left, somebody in Chicago said that this experience would forever change my girls; that they would come back different people than when we left.
I know for a fact that this is true. Their horizons have been broadened. They have been given a taste of what it is like to be part of an international community. And they know that when God leads, it is possible to do really bold, really big things in life.
God used me to ask a lot of family and they stepped up in big and small ways.