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Facing my Worst Fear: Leaving Congo


Sarah Gorenflo is an MAF missionary kid who spent seven years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For most of my life growing up, I didn’t face the normal fears of heights or spiders that other kids faced. Instead, my one huge fear was that one day we would have to leave Congo and not be able to come back. I tried to ignore my fear and concentrate on living life to the fullest.

Until one day, my fear came true.

Sarah and her family are greeted by villagers upon their arrival in Kikongo.  Photo by Marilyn Gorenflo.
Sarah and her family are greeted by villagers upon their arrival in Kikongo. Photo by Marilyn Gorenflo.
Change has always been hard for me. Moving from the only place I’d lived longer than three years in favor of a place I viewed as only inferior was possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. One wouldn’t think that someone with an American passport would have trouble adjusting to life in America, but the differences can be quite shocking. The first blow was the weather. Even though we landed in the middle of summer, it felt much cooler than the conditions I was used to. It only got worse in the winter. It was dry, too: green was only possible through irrigation (at least in the Caldwell/Nampa area) and it hardly ever rained, a far cry from the tropical rainforest I called home. That was just the beginning of the differences.

Sarah with one of her sisters at an interior village WDRC.
Sarah with one of her sisters at an interior village WDRC. Photo by John Gorenflo.

To help us get settled in, we enrolled in the public school less than a mile away. The difference between it and our old school was overwhelming. The classes were huge and the schedule was hectic; the students and their culture were nothing like what we were used to. Friendships among missionary kids tend to be fast-to-form, deep, and long-lasting. To me these teenagers seemed shallow and cared about practically nothing outside of Idaho. We floundered in the differences.

Sarah in 4th grade playing Blind Man’s Bluff with classmates.
Sarah in 4th grade playing Blind Man’s Bluff with classmates. Photo by John Gorenflo.

There can be no doubt that it was hard. But slowly we began to adapt. Technology helped; we were still able to connect with our friends in the DRC. Meanwhile, we found our outlets here. With perseverance, family and God, we began to survive.

It’s still hard. I still miss Congo every day and, often, I’m so homesick it hurts. At times, it feels like no one around me quite understands my ordeal. I still don’t understand why God has put us here and, some days, it’s all I can do not to drown. But God works all things for good for those who trust him and if I continue to trust Him, even on the bad days, maybe this will turn into something beautiful after all.

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