Wednesday, 12 September 2018

On Leaving Home and Coming Home

Five months ago, when we were packing up our lives in Manila, I wanted so badly to just stay. I didn't think I could handle anymore tearful farewells and I felt horrible tearing our kids away from our Peace Church family who helped raise our kids. I am still filled with tears when I think back on those painful goodbyes.

saying goodbye to a friend that's more like a big brother

final goodbye at the airport

I knew that when the doors of the airplane closed, so would the entire life we had built and everything and everyone that was familiar to our kids, everything that was "home," would be instantly gone, never to be rebuilt again. We were loosing it all, at once, and it hurt bad.

I never knew how hard it would be to say goodbye to our life in Manila. The emotions were intense- they still are. And while deeply grieving the farewells and painfully releasing the motherly roles I played in some of our Peace Church members lives, I was also very much looking forward to being with our family in Canada again. On our last day in Manila, I snuck out of our very full house for a quiet moment in our front veranda. I sat down to read two special messages- one from my sister, so full of excitement to have us home again soon, and one from a best friend in Manila, so sad to say her final goodbyes. I sat there and just balled. I had never felt such pain and such joy all at once- it was incredibly overwhelming. The tears flowed during our final farewells and when I saw my parents at the Vancouver airport, my tears flowed again, this time with joy as I hugged my mom and dad and finally introduced them to my baby Jericho.  We left our home in Manila, but we were also home again. 

What I didn't realize five months ago, when I was so hesitant to leave Manila, was that God had a perfect plan for us. This little town of Yarrow, where we now call home, was exactly what we needed.    It wasn't until a few days after we landed in Vancouver that our plans all fell into place- Darnell was asked to pastor Yarrow United Mennonite Church and we could live in the house owned by the church. We'd be just 20 minutes from family and friends in Abbotsford (where the house we own- but now rent out- is) but we'd get to live in this gorgeous little town between the mountains and the river. 

a 5 minute walk from our house!

Cody floating in a water hole at the river

Coming from the cement jungle of Manila, filled with 12 million people, Yarrow, a farming town of about 3,000 people, is entirely different! Instead of frequenting Manila's huge busy malls, our summer was filled with quiet walks to the river, swimming in the fresh cold water, and picking wild blackberries. Instead of a stressful drive to school along 6 lanes of jeepney-filled traffic, our school commute is a walk through fields, surrounded by river and mountains and farm animals. I don't think it could be more different. We welcome the calm of this life- it is rest for our souls.

the boys' school

Cody was given a Canada t-shirt for his birthday that says "Canada: where I call home." I asked him if he agreed, if he felt Canada was home. I expected him to say yes- its been 4 months since we left Manila and he seems so well adjusted and happy here. But he told me, with a sheepish smile, "No, Mom. Its not home for me. But maybe after I'm here a little longer it will feel like home." I understand completely. It takes time, my boy. Despite loving where we are now, feeling totally welcomed by a wonderful community here and enjoying our little town, home doesn't quite describe it yet.  But we're building it, everyday. And someday, when Cody says it is home, I'm sure I will shed a tear for Manila again. 

It hurts a lot to lose a home, to lose a life. But the pain also means there was much love to lose, and for that I am so deeply grateful. That life- the one where we laughed and struggled with our Peace Church community, the one where we brought two more babies homes, the one where we discipled and were discipled, the one that gave us so much life and energy, passion and purpose- that life is all over. We mourn it yet we rejoice in the full life it was. We thank God for the friendships that will last a lifetime and know that our work and connection to the Philippines will continue forever. 

We would like to say a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to the friends, family, and supporters who've carried us through this journey the past 6 years. To the many people who visited us, prayed for us, donated to our work, sent us cards and emails, listened to our stories, hosted us during our Canada visits and loved us as a family and as a Peace Church community, we offer you our gratitude and we thank God for the important role you had in our work in Manila. 

All our love and thanks to each one of you, 
the Barkmans (Darnell, Christina, Cody, Makai, Teyah and Jericho)

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Our Jeepney Life

Of the many unique wonders in the Philippines, the Jeepney is easily at the top of the list. Originally created from military jeeps lefts behind by American troops, Filipinos created an iconic mode of transportation, one that is also a symbol of their culture and identity and like none other in the world.

While in most modes of transportation passengers face forward, in a jeepney two rows face each other and as you travel, you really notice the people around you; you see their faces, their emotions, you track people’s comings and goings. Travellers hop on from different locations, carrying baggage from past journeys and join the trip, sitting so close to each other that your bodies practically interconnect. This is a rather unique way of travelling, but for many, it's the only way of getting where you need to go.

We, as Peace Church, travel together much like a jeepney ride. We sit face to face and we really see each other as we journey. Emotions and issues don’t go unnoticed as they would if we all faced one way; but we, looking at each other, are interconnected in a tight and caring circle, holding onto each other as we travel the sometimes bumpy roads. We come from different starting points and we each carry different baggage and have different lens through which we interpret our journey, but that only makes travelling together more interesting and eye-opening.

I am so thankful for this jeepney life. It has become so normal that it feels like the only way of getting somewhere, the only way that will take us all in the right direction. I believe this is the way God calls us to live. Not just travelling towards Jesus sitting straight and facing forward, but travelling towards Him facing our brothers and sisters, really seeing and knowing the community we're on the road with. It’s all about the journey of getting there, and it’s a journey that’s best done in community.

I have a beautiful painting of a jeepney that will forever hang in my home, reminding me of the jeepney life Peace Church shares, and also as a reminder to keep creating these jeepney communities wherever I am in the world, inviting others into a shared journey towards Jesus.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Loss of Their World

In 3 months, we’re moving back to Canada. After 6 years in Manila, we are very excited to live near family again and we look forward to the familiarities we’ve missed. But the closer we get to this move “home” the harder it’s becoming to leave our “home” here. Manila, in all its hot, busy and dirty glory, has grown on me over the years and its beautiful people are our family.

My heart hurts knowing I have to say good-bye to so many dear friends. But what hurts the most is knowing that we are taking our kids away from the only life they’ve known. I know having the experience of living in another culture is amazing and it will shape them forever and I love love love that we get to do this, but there’s also some really tough stuff that comes with it and as we near this big transition, the big emotions are surfacing for all of us.

When I’ve felt overwhelmed by this move, I’ve tried to tell myself that the kids know Canada and that it can’t be very hard to transition into a life we love every summer! A life with grandparents, cousins, good friends, mountains to hike, forests to explore and playgrounds at every corner! And they’re excited about it…. we all are. But despite this excitement, and the good good things that wait us, I realize, too, that there’s also so much to mourn.

I’ve been reading Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, and its been super helpful to understand the way being an expat kid shapes the individual and all its benefits and challenges. While reading a section on hidden losses, I stopped in my tracks and realized, gosh, yes, this is really going to be a tough move for the kids. Here’s the excerpt from the book:

"Loss of their world. With one plane ride the whole world as TCKs have known it can die. Every important place they’ve been, every tree climbed, pet owned, and virtually every close friend they’ve made are gone with the closing of the airplane door. The sights and smells of the market, waves of people walking, darting between honking cars as they cross the streets, store signs written in the local language- everything that feels so familiar and “home” are also gone. TCKs don’t lose one thing at a time; they loose everything at once. And there’s no funeral. In fact, there’s no time or space to grieve, because tomorrow they’ll be arriving at Grandma’s house to see relatives who are eagerly awaiting their return."

Oh my word. My little kids, these tiny humans I nurture and care for so much to ensure they feel loved, safe and confident…. in 3 months time their whole world will be ROCKED and will never be the same. I cannot read this paragraph without tearing up. I know we will get through this just fine as a family, I know we are better because of our experience here, I know, I know, I know, but I also need to sit and mourn. And I need to acknowledge the hard stuff my kids will go through without offering a quick, “Oh, but it will be so fun to move to Canada!” and so on and so on. We have to let them grieve, let them feel the deep sad stuff, or else these hidden losses might hit them hard in years to come. Above all else, these little ones who hardly know the depth of what they’re going through, will need to be comforted. Here’s another section from Third Culture Kid that explains it well:

"Unfortunately, in their efforts to help another person “feel better,” people often confuse comfort with encouragement and end up giving neither. Encouragement is a person’s attempt to change the griever’s perspective. It may be a reminder to look at the bright side of a situation instead of the loss or to think about a past success and presume this present situation will turn out just as well. When encouragement is given before comfort, the subtle or not so subtle message is “Buck up; you shouldn’t feel so low.” It becomes a shame message rather than an encouragement. Perhaps because the TCK’s losses are far less visible than the widow’s, this mix-up between comfort and encouragement can sometimes prevent the TCK from being comforted."

I don’t know exactly how this move will affect our kids. In a few years Teyah (age 3 now) may not even have any recollection of the Philippines (which is so sad to me!). At age 6 and 7.5, my big boys, and also Teyah, are going to be sad. Really sad. And when they feel super happy and excited about being with their cousins at the same time as feeling big big sadness because they miss Kuya Fread, they might be pretty confused and won’t know how to express it or how to deal with the sadness, especially when there’s so much fun to be had. But I will encourage them to feel it all. I will try to create that time and space they need to grieve. In the middle of our joys for being “home” again, they’ll be mourning. And after a fun day of playing at the cousins’ house, I’m sure I’ll be tucking them into bed and Teyah will ask if Tita Sam is coming tomorrow. And Makai will wonder why we don't have air-conditioning in our rooms anymore and be worrying about that particular lego piece that was lost in the move. And Cody will be wondering what Zane and Noah are doing at school today. And I will sit there trying not to cry, I’m sure, because I feel it all too- my own grief and also grief for my kids, who will be mourning the loss of their whole world.

Please carry us all in your prayers as we enter this phase of transition. With huge hope we put our trust in God and know that he will carry us through it all, with the help of awesome family and friends to support us.

We keep reminding the kids that we’re bringing all their favourite toys to Canada, their familiar storybooks will fill the shelves of our new “home” and most of all, wherever we go in this world, we go together. Whether we live in Abbotsford or in Manila, there are so many loved ones we miss, but when I ask the kids who we definitely won’t miss, they excitedly name each member of our family of 6 and I think they do really know that all will be right in their world, no matter where we are.