|Dave and Sophia, 1993 Source of Nile River, Jinja, Uganda|
When my daughter Sophia was a toddler she would stand on our front porch and cry as I left for work, “Don’t leave me daddy.” In my first time parent feebleness I vacillated between reason with a toddler and discipline. Eventually, I just closed my heart and drove away. Yet, a few times later God’s Spirit whispered, “Make her laugh.”
Sophia was crying on the porch, “Don’t leave me daddy.”
I picked her up and said, “I won’t. You’re the one who is going to leave me.”
She had a puzzled look.
I said, “Someday you’ll marry a boy you love. You’ll leave me.”
Her puzzled look turned to a dream. I hugged and kissed her. I put her feet back on the porch. She giggled. I left and came home a few hours later.
The “Don’t leave me” routine became our missionary family rhythm. We laughed at transitions.
Over a furlough in 2010 Sophia was a junior in high school. We looked at different universities as possibilities. We traveled to Wheaton College. It was the only university where I noticed young men who I would not mind asking my daughter out on a date. They even called me, “Sir.”
|Dave, Jana, and Sophia at her Harambee in Rwanda|
I took 40 days away from Rwanda to put Sophia in college. As I left her to return to Rwanda she hugged me and said, “I was right. You’re leaving me.” We giggled. The painful transition was easier.
A year later we arrived in Chicago. It’s been three years rebooting as missionaries to America. We fell into debt and poverty. Yet, two things kept us going. First, we needed to be on the same continent as all of our kids. Our first task was to shepherd them. Second, America is a Post-Christian nation. Our East African Diaspora people are in the USA. Our Diaspora people fit the church planter profile growing church movements look for more so than any demographic category in the USA. Someone must shepherd them as missionaries to America.
|Sophia at a Traditional Wedding in Uganda|
When Sophia was about 10 we walked home from a kwanjula (Traditional Ugandan Wedding.) She told me, “Dad, when I get married I want to have a traditional wedding.” She meant an African Traditional Wedding.
When Matthew Cardillo asked me if he could marry Sophia my only concern was my daughter’s wishes. I trusted her judgment. My task was to bless and honor.
On Friday, July 3 our East African Diaspora rallied to bless Matthew and Sophia in a Gusaba (Rwandan) / Kwanjula (Ugandan) / Traditional African Wedding. Over 250 people from 10 nations (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States of America) attended. The attire was exquisite. The humor was full of joy and wisdom. The food was great. The dancing was captivating. When it came time to bless the Cardillos over $5,000 was contributed.
On Saturday, July 4 our families had a small church wedding for the Cardillos.
On Friday, July 10 our Chicago based missionary family drove Matthew and Sophia Cardillo to
the O’Hare Airport. We said, “Good bye.” Sophia is returning home to serve as a
missionary teacher at Kigali International Community School (KICS.) Matthew is doing what missionaries have always
done. He’s following his best friend,
showing up, and trusting for God to use him for His glory.
|Matthew and Sophia Cardillo at their Gusaba|
I hugged Sophia and told her, “I was right. You’re leaving me.”
We laughed. I watched Matthew and her go through security until I could no longer see them.
I cried a little. I took a nap when I got home and then awoke to take a long bike ride to both grief and celebrate.
On Saturday, July 11 I spent the evening with the South Sudanese Community in Chicago celebrating their Independence.
On Sunday, July 12 we called Matthew and Sophia in Rwanda. They are good. We trust their care to our community in Africa.
Later that Sunday I went to a celebration for a Kenyan friend, Mary Tororeiy who just completed her Ph.D. and will shortly return to Kenya.
As I left the celebration I went to watch my son, Ethan play soccer for the Chicago based Ugandan Cranes.
Some summarize the current season of Diaspora Missions as “from all nations to all nations.” It is true. We live that out.
Others remark that “All Christians are missionaries.” I disagree. When all Christians are missionaries none are missionaries. (I’ll blog later extensively on that matter with an open Bible.) Also, the ability to make key missions strategic decisions is undermined when there are no priorities or philosophic commitments.
Here are some big picture missionary sweeps. Over the last 100 years Africa has been transformed by church planting missionaries. There are more evangelical Christians now in Africa than in North America. That growth ushered in great social changes ranging from the stopping of the slave trade to the relinquishment of colonialism. We’re thankful that we were a small part in that historic movement. In contemporary times that movement is about things such as education and business. One of our missionary mentors, Dr. Dwight Jackson says, “We can’t be for the liberation of the poor if we’re not for the establishment of the middle class.” We concur.
Sophia returns to teach at a KICS that creates an environment to support both missionaries and the establishment of East Africa’s middle class.
We stay on the mission field of America helping those East African Diaspora missionaries adapt to and transform Post-Christian America.
It’s all painful. Yet it is God’s missionary call.
|Jana and Sophia at Gusaba|
Let me drop Bible and missionary strategy for a moment and be parentally concise.
You’re not a missionary if your parents don’t stand at the airport and cry as you leave.
My parents do that when they leave Chicago, but marvel at the character of our African missionaries here.
I do that as I watch Matt and Sophia leave from O’Hare for Rwanda.
May God’s peace travel with all of His missionaries around the world. May missionary parents’ hearts be comforted.