I have always heard that “Home is where the heart is”. I really never gave that statement much thought. Growing up, our family had been geographically stable, living in Duncan for almost all of my first 18 years. Then, even though Jill and I lived outside of Duncan for the next 11 years, both of our families lived in Duncan. So any time I heard the word “home”, I would think of the same small town in Southern Oklahoma. Then, just to insure that my mind new where to go for home, we lived in Duncan from March of 2000 until February 2nd, of 2012. We have been in Uganda for the past 4-5 months, and I will have to admit, that we have poured a lot of our hearts out in that beautiful country.
So why am I bringing up “Home” at this point? In the midst of all of the medical clinics, new experiences, and meeting multiple “that one persons”, we have received important information from back in the US. Jill’s father, Herb Lang, has been diagnosed with stage 4 laryngeal cancer. When we left for Uganda, we knew that Herb had been dealing with a hoarse voice, but it was thought to be related to allergies or a sinus infection of some sort. You know, the usual causes of having your throat to be hoarse. Over the next couple of months, and several tests later, it was determined that there was a mass adjacent to his left vocal cord. He saw an ENT doctor, and then his Oncologist. After these consultations, he was seen by an ENT-Oncology specialist at OU medical center. After some debate and discussion between experts, it was felt Herb’s best chance for cure was to undergo a complete laryngectomy. This will leave him without a voice box and he will be required to breathe through a stoma on his neck. He will be required to explore new ways to talk and communicate. More than many other “cancer surgeries”, this one causes ongoing life adjustments.
Our flights home from Uganda have been scheduled for July 26th, since we booked them last Fall. Herb’s surgery is scheduled for June 26th. When we thought that Herb might “only” require some radiation treatments or “only” some chemo, we felt like we could complete our plans in Uganda and then return in late July to help out where we could. But with this big surgery now scheduled, we were torn about where our family should be on June 26th. How could we leave early? We have so many things, “important things”, going on in Uganda. We have about 10 kids that we are still organizing special projects/health care for in Uganda. Who would finish these projects? It would just not be right to give these families hope of a medical cure and then drop the ball. How would that show Christ’s love to them? We have completed about 70% of the student screenings for all of Africa Renewal Ministries, and we had planned to see 100% of the kids for them while in Uganda.
Eventually, the decision was easy to make, but difficult to wrap our brains around. There was no doubt that we needed to be in Duncan, and then in OKC for his surgery and recovery. We switched our tickets to return home on June 14th, and then scrambled to try to finish what we could in Uganda, before heading back to Oklahoma. We still had a 6 day swing to NE Uganda and we needed to say goodbye to many people and secure treatment plans for our “That One Persons”/starfish. The sneaky part of this plan was the fact that we did not tell anyone in Duncan, except for my parents. We had recently seen them in Uganda, so we cooked up the idea that they would pick us up from the airport and we would then surprise Jill’s parents by returning early. We chose to come home a week before the surgery so that we could spend a week with Herb, before he lost his voice. We left Uganda on Thursday night, and arrived in Duncan on Friday evening. Herb and Doris had chosen to leave town to go to Tulsa with some friends and did not get home until Saturday afternoon. When we knew that they were home, we took my dad’s suburban, covertly parked down the street, and then we walked up to their front door and rang the doorbell. Below is the video the surprise that ensued.
Family is important. There are times that family needs to trump our plans and progress. As I wrote in this blog several months ago, God does not need us in Uganda. He was just graciously allowing us to be a part of what he is doing there. Being back in Oklahoma has been a bit of a shock. We left quicker than our minds were preparing for. The air conditioning makes us feel cold when we are inside. The first stop was Braums, to get some good ice cream. We have had a “Real Hamburger” and some homemade ice cream on Saturday as well. Our sleep clocks are about to complete their readjustment to Central Daylight Time.
I have to come back to “Home is where your heart is”. Is it possible that you can have a second home? Not a “vacation home” or a “lake house”. I am talking about truly having a second home. Duncan is home for us, but how can Duncan be “home” when so much of my heart is spilled all over the people, bumpy roads, the underfunded hospitals and mud huts of Uganda. How can I be missing those things, much less within 48 hours of leaving them? I am still grappling with the riddle of home. So far, my answer is that my heart and home reside in Oklahoma, but my heart has a huge hole carved out of the center of it that looks like a map of Uganda!