As I sit in my cozy little corner of the town we have grown to love (fight as I did, this city became near and dear to me) we are less than a month from moving back to China.
In 2012, James and I moved to the Yunnan Province for 5 months to prepare for our team's arrival and the 4th tour of the region by his band, iU. (A small archive of some of the posts I wrote during that time are available here.) It stretched me and grew our marriage in unbelievable ways. We learned to trust and rely on one another. Life became suddenly and drastically different and I wouldn't change a moment of that time.
When we returned home in early 2013, I couldn't shake the longing to return. I had fallen in love. The hard times and adjustments were so outweighed by the unbelievable feeling of purpose that we experienced serving our friends in China. We returned to a community that was experiencing authentic and selfless love for one another. Amazing things were stirring at home and we felt called to stay for a while and settle into life again. Our adopted cousin, Luke, arrived in June of that year. James' language study became a part of his daily routine as he joined in the effort to welcome Luke to a new life with a forever family. Meanwhile, I opened a studio space in our tiny historic downtown and studied to become a yoga instructor. We moved, started new businesses, welcomed new friends and a Chinese exchange student into our life, and fell into a beautiful rhythm surrounded by friends and family.
I don't want to say something was missing, because that would be an embellishment. Life has been so full and fulfilling. We have learned, taught, grown and served here. The desire to move back was always there, so we waited and rooted down into our community.
About a year ago, we finally felt released to pursue that desire again. We had a timeline, a city to return to, and a vision for what might be ahead. I wrote this recently for the iU website, and it sums up the month or so ahead:
In the winter of 2014, iU will return to foster and renew friendships in cities along the southern Chinese border through a performance that seeks to bring hope to the individual's heart. iU's plans include performances for audiences in 8 cities - from elementary to high school students, local music venues to university campuses, and remote village communities - with performances spread across the Yunnan province.
The performance will be a combination of original music written by iU and Chinese originals, with over 80% of the performance delivered in Mandarin. Through long-established relationships with school leaders and local officials, iU is returning to build and encourage relationships among new & old friends of Inter-United Foundation.
...Following the 2014 tour, iU artists' James Powell (& wife, Kate) and Preston and Heidi Moreau will stay to continue to pour into the friendships established during this & previous visits. They will be available for hire while living in Wenshan in the southern Yunnan Province.
Megan and I are in the beginning stages of starting a narrative photography project called the Sojourn Project. We hope to authentically document the months ahead - the challenges and joys of moving across the world. While we are moving away from family and from a language and culture we know, there is much to be excited about.
There is vision, purpose, and open ended ellipses at the end of every "what if..." There are orphans to advocate for, friendships to return to, and dreams to unfold. There is anticipation for the joy found when finding and loving the least. As the next few months unfold, we are grateful to our community for loving us enough to send us out.
I am so thankful for those reading this for joining in our story. We hope, above all else, that you will be encouraged and awakened by our small step towards living openly.
On to the moments ahead...