Well, we’ve never been your typical family. Our kids have never had a typical childhood. Danae and I would rarely be called normal anyway. So it would be a pity to break our streak.
We have an opportunity.
Dr Christian Stoletniy and his wife, Sabrina, arrived here in November. He’s an oncological surgeon. Dr Sarah Belensky showed up in January. She’s a family practitioner with a little obstetrics training. So for the first time in seven years, we are in a place where we could leave the hospital and still have more than one single doctor here. And we are taking advantage of it.
For a while now, we’ve had some ideas cooking, but we didn’t really know if Christian and Sarah would be competent and capable or not. Well, after having spent some time with them, Christian is a great surgeon with a nose for administration and Sarah is one of the more caring doctors you will ever find. They can cover all the specialties with some overlap between them, and they didn’t feel burned out in January, our busiest month. All this made us feel very comfortable leaving things in their hands from March to November, our slow season.
Sarah is a church employee and will be here for years and Christian is a volunteer and will be here until November. So we have about eight months on our hands!!! We’ve been cooking up all manner of crazy ideas to occupy ourselves, and we’ve settled on the most harebrained.
We are leaving Chad on an eight-month vacation, starting in a few weeks. We will spend a week in Southern California, and then we will return to Washington, DC… to hike the Appalachian Trail! Or at least a few miles. We honestly have no clue how far we will go. It’s said less than 10% of those who start out complete it, and we will be tasked with doing it with four children under age 10, which I doubt has ever been done before, and probably for very good reason. We are going to need to carry one child, and probably two, most of the way. We’re hoping the boys can carry themselves at least! And we will probably ask the boys to carry 4-5 pounds each. But Danae and I will be carrying the rest. I anticipate I will be lugging 90 pounds, equipment + baby.
So we will see if the kids enjoy it. If we can keep them dry and warm and slept and fed. If they can do six miles a day or twelve. We have no clue. We will see if we can keep up with them carrying so much weight! If our old knees and feet and shoulders can keep up. If we make it a week or if we make it eight months.
Odds are incredibly long that we actually finish the whole trail. Walking 2200 miles with four children under ten, all while carrying your tents and food and water and clothes and cookware and… it’s pretty unlikely. But that isn’t really our goal. Our goal is rather to have fun as a family and get closer. The last seven years of being on call 24/7 has been pretty brutal. There is always somebody knocking on our door, either a nurse or somebody needing money or… there’s always something. We look forward to not being distracted by knocks on the tent and being able to get to know our kids better. And introduce them to some of American nature and history! And if the trail is miserable, well, then we will find something else to do. Together. As a family.
And we hope to return to Tchad refreshed and ready for the next few years.
I should also mention that we are PROFESSIONAL backpackers now! We actually found an organization who will help us out with food, which would probably be our greatest expense otherwise, feeding a family of six for eight months! We are feeling so fortunate and blessed. Blessed to have a little savings to allow this unpaid leave. Blessed that the church is allowing us to take this time off without considering it the end of our ministry, and also providing our health insurance during our time away. Blessed to have four healthy children and personal health that allows us to even dream of this craziness. Blessed to have a family who’s used to us enough to not really find this crazy at all anymore. Blessed to have a company that thinks we’re a worthwhile investment to feed us! So very blessed.