At the one-year anniversary of our time here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia we thought it would be fun to review our journey through the lens of the popular Pixar movie, Inside Out. If you missed part one, you can find it here.
If you are not familiar with the movie, I will outline the basic emotions/characters. First, there is Joy, she is bright yellow and consummately happy with a sunshiny disposition. Second, there is Sadness, who is always blue despite her greatest efforts to be optimistic. Thirdly, there is Disgust, a sassy, green character who straddles the line between envy and disgust with others. Anger is the fourth character, who is perpetually red hot and hopping mad. Finally, there is Fear, a purple character who is panic-stricken in a world that looks dangerous at every turn.
Inside Out Part 2: Finding a House
It took a few days to get over the jet lag, and then it was on to house hunting. We already knew the area around which we wanted to live, how could this be anything but JOY!! We set off across the city (literally as it was 40 minutes from our guesthouse). Day one in the house hunt was fun for everyone. We looked at houses; everyone envisioned which room could be theirs. Because homes are not built the same way in Ethiopia as they are in Upstate New York, we had discussions about which room we would make a kitchen, schoolroom, etc. We dreamed of what life could be like in that home.
It was in the midst of all the Joy of laying out potential homes that we met Fear. Our family dynamic is not typical by any stretch of the imagination, and in this case we turned a purple shade of Fear as we took our Jamesy into account. Jamesy has severe autism and is a runner. He will run as far as his legs will carry him for as long as the ambition stays with him, which as far as we can tell is everlasting. We began to look at each home through purple shades thinking of all the new ways Jamesy could escape or climb his way into danger. Railings are all custom built and rarely fit US standards of safety, nearly every home is built of solid concrete, with hard floors, there are weird areas in a bunch of homes that would have been a huge temptation for our Jamesy to climb into danger. Quickly the conversation shifted from how perfect each place was to how problematic each one was. It limited our possibilities significantly. By day three or four we had traded our sun-stained Joy for the blues that are Sadness as it began to feel like we were going to have to settle for something far less than what we had hoped would be our home.
On day 3 of our house hunt a rush of Joy came back as we found the perfect house. It was amazing, a huge house with a giant courtyard—the rays of Joy were beaming through its every nook and cranny. It was everything we needed for everyone involved with built-in fireplaces—we could just see the yellow Joy glow from those beautiful mantles. The problem you ask, that $300 per month above our price range price tag. We sat with the owners, a very friendly couple, explained our budget, our mission, etcetera and they explained their bank loans. It was a good conversation that ended with a case of the blues as Sadness reminded us that we just could not afford that home. We went back to the guesthouse and remained in the company of Sadness for the remainder of the evening. The next morning was a new chase and we were comingled with Fear and Sadness as we headed out to look for a place with which we could make do. Because of the various things we need to accomplish, Tiffany and the kids headed to look at homes as I tried to finalize my driver’s license. That’s when I got the call—JOY! The house was found and everyone was buzzing. By the time I got to it, the owner was boiling coffee and serving bread. I was walked through the house—my encounters, whether purple or blue, were overcome by everyone else’s bright yellow Joy. This left just one more step… meeting with the owner and signing a contract. That’s when we men our ivy green friend, Disgust. The owner was and is a very kind and reasonable man, however, it became crystal clear that one of our friends who had told us they were doing us a favor had turned the tables on us and was now seeking a hefty commission of green, which turn me, you guessed it, an Everest shade of Disgusted green! It was not what we were told, it was not what we had understood, and I was annoyed. We had to go through some awkward negotiations, as there were layers of deceit on many sides. In the end, we got through it, relatively unscathed, and we were back connected with our friend Joy! The next few days were sunny as our friend Joy accompanied us as we moved across town settled in. By the time the house adventure was finished, everyone experienced a lot of Joy, a little Disgust, some Fear, and a bit of Sadness.
It was in the days that followed that we all settled into a routine and met up with a new shade of Sadness. All was not as new, all was not as exciting, and the reality that family was so very far away was very apparent. Kids came crying, Mom and Dad hugged behind closed doors. It was a tough week or so. We had always been very close to grandparents and had been very vigilant to make time for cousins, aunts and uncles. Now we were saying, “you’ll get to see them in 16 months.” It felt horrible; it was blue.
That time really reminds me of an interaction between Jesus and a rich young ruler in Luke: “And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’’ And he said, ‘All these I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, ‘How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But he said, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’ And Peter said, ‘See, we have left our homes and followed you.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.’”
God often uses sadness in our loves to clarify our mission and expose our motives. We had to ask ourselves hard questions in those days as we navigated our sadness. “Is God in this? Are we really committed to this?” In the end, we got through with lots of love and support from one another and plenty of sitting, remembering, crying, and reminding each other why we are here—both in Ethiopia, and on earth. It was a time that His Kingdom come and His will be done were strong mantras for us.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Lk 18:18–30). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.