Because of the conflict in South Sudan, many people have fled across the border to Ethiopia. Some are living in refugee camps, but others have gone to surrounding towns to stay with family. When you add the flood of NGO workers to the area, you have a major housing shortage on your hands. Consequently, it was a gift from God that the Pierces, Christina, and I were able to find a small house for the seven of us to share.
As much as it’s an adjustment to live with a family of five, I know that it’s just as much of an adjustment for them. It’s not easy to be a parent with an audience--having to go to another room to discipline in private, trying to keep things clean or keep the children quiet on a Saturday morning.
It’s also not easy to be the audience. There’s a certain amount of rule breaking that kids get away with when mom or dad is in the other room, but when there are four adults instead of two, not much goes unobserved. When do I say something and when do I keep quiet? When it looks like someone might get hurt? How much is interfering with someone else’s children and how much is part of “it takes a village?”
We’re also not talking about the few hours you spend with your roommate or family after everyone gets home from work or school. This is 24/7 living with the people that are your coworkers, friends, and small group. You eat together, work together, pray together, and battle sickness together. You don’t ask each other, “How was your day?” over dinner, because you already know the answer.
Sometimes it can be frustrating, feeling like there’s no place to retreat, but living in community is also freeing. I’m pretty good at covering up my issues for a two hour weekly small group, but when you live together there’s no hiding your sin. My teammates know when I’m having a bad day; they see my frustrations and my selfishness. And it’s a good thing, because it forces me to face it.
In spite of the challenges of intense communal living, I’m so thankful for my teammates. I’m a different person than before we started living together, and I have a much better perspective on parenting. I can’t think of anyone else with whom I’d rather have shared the last 11 months, three African countries, and eight different living arrangements.