Our kids had been begging us to host an IVEPer for a few years. They’ve gotten to know several international volunteers at Central Christian School in Ohio. We have space in our house and our kids thought this would be fun. My husband and I were a little less enthusiastic, knowing this would be a big commitment.
We had so many questions. “Are we too busy? Is our home comfortable enough? Would the IVEPer have enough space? What if the cultural differences were too great to overcome? What if they don’t speak English? What if they don’t like our food or our rural community?” These questions plagued our minds, despite the children’s persistent interest.
In the spring of 2019, we heard that a host was needed for Abigail Tangbuin who was coming to Central Christian School in the fall. We had already discussed that we would want to host a female IVEPer (this was important to our daughter Katelyn who does not have a sister). We felt particularly interested because she was from Nigeria and my husband, Brandon, was travelling to Africa that summer. God seemed to warm our hearts to this idea. Despite our questions and hesitancy, this sounded like a good opportunity for our family to host and pursued it with cautious excitement.
The process for Abigail to get here to the U.S. was complicated with an initial visa denial, then approval, then denial and then finally an approval. Throughout this time, our family prayed for God’s will to be accomplished for us, for the school and especially for Abigail. We all deeply desired for her to come but we trusted God’s plan. Because of these complications, Abigail didn’t arrive in the U.S. until the first of October. Having prayed so much for God’s will to be done, when Abigail arrived in our home, we felt a peace about this experience, knowing that God, who had worked all of this out, would also give us just what we needed to adjust to a long-term guest in our house.
Having prayed so much for God’s will to be done, when Abigail (somewhat suddenly) arrived in our home, we felt a peace about this experience, knowing that God, who had worked all of this out, would also give us just what we needed to adjust to a long-term guest in our house."
- Monica Miller
Initially, that’s how we all approached this experience—with an expectation that this would be like having a house guest. We would try to be on our best behaviour to make her feel comfortable, welcomed and included. What a shallow expectation.
Abigail showed us how to open our hearts to welcome a daughter and a sister, not just a house guest. Pretty quickly she began to refer to me and my husband as “mom and dad” and to our children as her siblings. We live next to my husband’s parents and she immediately called them “grandma and grandpa”. She adapted to our terms and language, but she also showed us how to welcome strangers into our hearts. She did not withhold herself and this has given us the encouragement and comfort to do the same toward her.
We could not help but love Abigail. She is full of joy, laughter, fun, tenderness, compassion and patience. She quickly gave of herself, serving us with her wonderful cooking, cleaning and teaching us about her fascinating culture. There are things that our cultures naturally share like worship, prayer, Bible reading and church. Because we are part of God’s family, we learned that the things God values are important no matter where you are from. We have had wonderful discussions about the benefits and drawbacks of both of our cultural customs. She has brought all kinds of music into our home and we all enjoy dancing to her Nigerian music (well, we haven’t gotten Brandon to dance yet!).
In the months that Abigail has been with us, our world view has expanded exponentially. Of course by sharing food, music, dress and customs, but especially as our eyes have been opened to learn that Nigerian Christians have recently experienced horrible persecution and many have been martyred for their faith. We have learned about the political and economic challenges in Nigeria.
Now we are watching the way that a global pandemic hits another part of the world so differently than it hits us here. We are facing the same crisis, but our ability to respond to the viral threat is much different. Our hearts hurt for the many people in Nigeria who can’t practice social distancing, who can’t work from home or afford to stay home, who don’t have stockpiles of food to last more than a day. Abigail’s presence in our home has brought another part of the world into our minds and hearts and we are learning to consider, pray for and seek to serve others.
Now we are watching the way that a global pandemic hits another part of the world so differently than it hits us here. We are facing the same crisis, but our ability to respond to the viral threat is much different."
- Monica Miller
Opening our hearts to Abigail was much easier than we ever anticipated. And as we think of her returning to Nigeria, our hearts hurt. She is truly part of this family and we cannot imagine her not being with us. Of course, we will miss her food, her cleaning, music, dancing and laughter. But we will miss a woman who has taught us so much by loving us so well. She has shown us that our hearts can love more than we knew and that when we open our home and our hearts, we are given a wonderful gift of connection, relationship and love. God’s will for all of us was better than we could have imagined, but isn’t that just His way?
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21