Ivan and Sara and their parents had been missionaries in Africa for more than four years. At the time this story was written, Ivan was 11 years old and Sara was 9 years old. They lived in the city of Abidjan. Abidjan is the biggest city in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa. The main language there is French, so Ivan and Sara and their parents had to learn to speak French. It is very hot in Abidjan and there are many palm trees and mosquitoes.
Ivan and Sara loved their big house in Africa. They had a black cat named Shadow. They had a friendly German Shepherd dog named Astra. Astra took care of the cat when it was a kitten. They also had 2 turtles. Their names were Blinky and Winky. Ivan and Sara loved playing with their dog and cat. Also, one of their favorite things to do was to ride their bicycles around the block. Sara liked to visit the guardians on her street. Guardians guard people’s houses night and day so robbers won’t get in.
In Africa it is very hot and you never have to wear sweaters or coats or long pants. All you need to wear is thin, loose African clothes, cool dresses, or shorts and shirts.
In the summer of 1992 Ivan and Sara’s family went on furlough to the United States. Do you know what furlough means? It means that you go on a vacation trip for three months. After a few weeks Ivan and Sara wanted to go back to Africa. Finally it was time to go home. They were happy that they would soon stop living out of suitcases and would sleep in their own beds. On the airplane ride home they said to each other, “I can’t wait to get home and play with our pets.” When they got to their gate in Abidjan their house guardian, Michel said, “Bon soir. Bon arrive.” That means “Good evening, welcome back!” in African French. When the guardian opened up the gate, Ivan and Sara ran in, forgetting to carry their stuff, and hugged their dog and cat. The cat had really grown bigger! Then they remembered to carry their things into the house.
About 10 minutes after they had all their luggage in their house, the telephone rang. Daddy picked up the phone and heard that the General Conference was calling their family to live and work in Russia (the Euro-Asia Division). Sara and Ivan shouted, “You mean, we are going to Russia?! Wow! What a change! It will be like going from the oven to the freezer!”
Instead of moving back into their house, they started packing to move out of their house. It was hard for Ivan and Sara. They had to sell or give away some of their favorite toys and they sold their bikes. One of the hardest things they had to do was to give away their dog, Astra, and their cat, Shadow, and to let their turtles go. A nice thing that happened, however, was when they shared some of their toys and clothes with some of the poor children in their neighborhood. Seeing them happy made Ivan and Sara happy.
The day came to leave Africa and the nice people who lived there. Sara said, “I will miss the guardians so much. They are so nice to me. I will also miss Ismael, our houseboy. ” (A houseboy is an African man who helps with the housework.) Ivan and Sara would miss all their other friends from school and church, and the friendly market lady who sold vegetables and fruits at their gate. She carried her vegetables and fruits in a big tin wash basin on her head.
As the big plane took off, Sara and Ivan waved goodbye to Africa. It was a long flight to the United States. It seemed rather strange to be returning to the United States so soon after furlough.
When they got to the United States, Ivan and Sara’s family went to live near the World Headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Their mom and dad went to Russian classes there. Ivan and Sara went to a new school. It was a hugh church school of almost 200 students. What a change! Their church school in Africa had only 9 students in the whole school! Mom and Dad’s Russian teacher came to Ivan and Sara’s school to teach Russian to them and some other missionary children who were also going to Russia. Russian is sure different from French! If you want to say “Hello” in Russian, you say “ZDRAWS-tvitch-ya.”
Ivan and Sara’s parents took them to lots of stores to buy warm clothes for Russia. You see, Russia gets very cold in the winter. Wow! What a change! They sure did not need warm coats when they were in hot, steamy Africa!
As they write this story, Ivan and Sara are still waiting to leave for Russia. They are eager to really settle down in their own home again. They will probably be living in a tall apartment building somewhere in Moscow. They have not seen their toys and other stuff that they saved from Africa for many months. It was all sent to Russia. They have been living with what they brought in their suitcases. “I can’t wait to see all my stuff again, and I hope that we can get some new pets in Russia. I sure miss Astra and Shadow,” said Sara. “I sure miss our big house in Africa and swimming every other day,” said Ivan.
Ivan and Sara wonder what it will be like in Russia. They don’t know what to expect. Another big change is coming. But change is not all bad. They will meet new friends, learn new games, see new places, learn to speak a new language. They will not be bored.
It’s also nice to know that Jesus is their Best Friend. He is your Best Friend, too. He NEVER changes. He ALWAYS loves us and will help us to adjust and do OK when everything seems to be changing in our lives. He will ALWAYS be with us until we fly to our new home in heaven. There we can keep our pets FOREVER. We will never have to pack and move again. Hooray!
Written by Sara-May Colon, age 9
Source: Empowering Families for Growth & Change: Family Ministries Planbook. Silver Spring, MD; Department of Family Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1994.