By Cassandra Ginter

It's decision time for Blaise and I. We are currently in the middle of deciding whether or not we are committing to another term in South Sudan. It's a big decision with massive implications.  And honestly this decision we are in the midst of making now is far harder than the one we made to come here in the first place. 

Because there is no easy answer; we are ruined for life. 

Even on the very best days in South Sudan, the ones in which everything goes right and I feel like my being here is worth the time, money, and pain it has cost us, I still want something from life Before. I want to spend an afternoon browsing through the pretty things in the Home section of my local Target, pick up a burger in the drive-through of pretty much anywhere, sip on a Venti Six-pump No-water Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks (if you're reading this from the States, I encourage you to go to your local Starbucks and try one of these...just don't tell me about it). I want to sit on my aunt's couch and talk about life, about God, about faithfulness. I want to adjust the furnace or air conditioner to make my house exactly the perfect temperature. For that matter, I want to need a furnace. I want to load Clark into my car (oh I miss my car!) and drive to see his grandma, visit for the afternoon, sip coffee, and enjoy seeing family ties deepen. Even on the very best days here, life Before beckons me.

But for us, there will never again be life Before.

Our life here and our journey over the last couple of years has radically and permanently altered us. We've suffered heartaches and traumas that the world will never hear about, we've lived a lifestyle that is in almost every way opposite the lifestyle we once lived, we've experienced life in community with all its beauty and challenges, we've wrestled with some incredibly weighty and impenetrable darkness, we've almost learned a language rich with tones and nuances, we've made friends who have changed, challenged, and encouraged us, we've walked through valleys that have broken us. 

There can only ever be life After. 

Even if our choice is to return to the States for good or even for a little while, it will not be the same.  Oh sure, there may be trips to Target, afternoons with family, date nights at Starbucks. On the outside, it will look like our life is similar to Before, yet I know now--long before stepping foot back on American soil--that I will never again be able to drive to the store without thinking of our treks through the bush in our Land Cruiser to pick up dusty lentils from the market.

I will never again be able to sit around a table full of delicious, American food without thinking of the meals I've shared with friends and teammates out here, sitting around in a circle, eating our beans and rice out of bowls balanced on our laps while the wind whips dirt in our faces and flies land on our spoons.

I will never again be able to use the restroom inside my own house without thinking of emergency runs across the compound to use the latrine in the middle of the night. 

I will never again be able to talk with a friend in the States without thinking of the deep, pouring-out-my-heart conversations I've had with people here, people I'd only just met but who I felt like I'd known for a lifetime.

I will never again be able to hear a foreign language spoken without thinking of sitting under a shade tree with our friends, struggling over the tones of Nuer or Dinka or Luo, laughing at my own mistakes, and feeling victorious when I got it right.

And there are so many other things that are too intangible to put into words. It's the way we feel out here. The way there are moments throughout the day in which we look around and know that this place is where God intended us to be, at least for this season. The way we're exhausted and a little bit defeated at the end of every single day, but also incredibly hopeful that God is doing something in and through us even when it doesn't feel like it.

So even if we choose to return to the States, to seemingly pick up where we left off, there really will never again be life Before, only a wrecked and ruined life that will forever be known as After.