My Big, Fat To-Do List

Posted on: July 18, 2012 Written by
My Big, Fat To-Do List
      Photography by: .shock from iStock    

Something weird has been happening lately.

One person called it gearing up. Another coined it exit mode.

Personally, it feels like I am spending a bit more money as I stock up on things I will need to go back to Tanzania. Hoarding. Collecting. Looking at the calendar. Skyping more…and thinking. A lot. About the future.

Finding cotton dresses and skirts on clearance, and taking stock of others I have been given. Plotting ways I can put linings in that are not going to make me sweat.

Gathering some small Christmas decorations I am considering taking back with me, and looking for little things that will make me think of Christmas. Home. Winter…when the weather is anything but on the African continent.

Making wish lists and realizing that any currently-dying electronics should probably be replaced before heading back overseas.

Requesting pictures from people so I can bring them back with me.

Looking at my schedule and making sure that I can fit in really good times with everyone I care about before the next two months fly by.

Wondering how I am even going to go back in two months, since I am not yet at full monthly support.

Praying—a lot!

Returning all the books I have borrowed.

Asking about meds—what, exactly, is available in Tanzania? My doctors switched my inhalers here, so I am back to square one on this one.

Thinking about all the things I was going to do on furlough. Get my computer screen replaced. Make a printed “book” of my blog so if the Internet ever decides to forget it hosted me, I have a copy. See the Art Institute of Chicago. Visit PBU (and the people I know there) so that I have actually seen where it is I am getting a master’s degree. Skydive (hmmm—maybe that one is more on my bucket list than on the furlough to-do list…although I would NEVER attempt something like this in the Land of Tanz, even if it WAS an option).

Thinking about places and people and foods and things I want to visit, see, eat, and enjoy at least one more time before I am out of the US again for a while.

Realizing that if I want to leave America, I may need to get some updated vaccines—which I should probably do soon.

Starting to grieve and say “goodbye” in my heart to the people I have only just started getting to know at church… in my neighborhood… in my community… in my life….

Yet feeling like I should not be doing any of this until I have actually already been “cleared” to go.

It is funny—I never saw this coming. It is like my body is starting to get the hang of this changing-cultures-climates-and-continents thing and is gearing up for the next phase of transition.

Some things I know. I have been in Tanzania two years, and I am oh-so-thankful for this experience. There are still hoards of other things I just do not know yet, like the specific place where I will be living. What is available in Musoma? How easy it is to do such-and-such? What will language school really be like? Or any number of hundreds of other questions meandering through, loitering in, and camping out in my brain these days.

Quite honestly, I am glad—and yet, I am sad—oh, so sad. I am sad that I did not get to spend extended periods of time with certain people, while I am thankful for the times I have had. I am excited for the future—teaching MKs in Musoma, and the position I get to fill. I am excited to have this completely random year of firsts-on-furlough completed so I can move on to the next phase.

And yet, I am terrified, and unsure: of learning a language, of figuring out how to get stuff from Kalamazoo to Musoma, or even of knowing what to bring and what to just leave behind. I am feeling a million other emotions, and thoughts, and I am not quite sure what to do with them all, yet.


© 2012 Women of the Harvest.

Questions to Consider: What’s on your big, fat to-do list? Have you found anything that makes the transitional process of going to the field easier…please share your tips here!

About the author

Crystal has served as an MK teacher with Wycliffe for the past three years, and is excited to be headed back to Tanzania soon! When she's not busy working with kids or making to-do lists, she's blogging about faith and life at, and working to connect and inspire kids around the world at .

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  • Katie Peacock

    Hits the nail on the head precisely.
    We are now in a mode where we travel back and forth quite often. I have an “Africa drawer” where I stash passports, the Africa cell phone, house keys, alternate power source computer cords, and so on, and a little green book with a list of essential items that “must” get packed.
    When in Africa I make a list of things I wish I’d brought out and when in North America I make myself purchase the list. I say “make” because on this side of the water they seem more trivial and less important. As soon as I get back there though I will remember why they were put on the list.

  • Crystal,
    I have just returned to East Africa after almost two months in the USA. The weeks before our departure from Africa were a whirl wind of list writing, packing up our home against the inevitable critters that would take up residence while we’d be away, arranging for people to care for our property, shamba, and animals. Then…just days before we were to leave I was hit with the worst bout of malaria I’d ever had. It laid me out completely for almost a week. No packing, no visiting friends throughout the village…just in bed.

    It was probably the best thing that could have happened. I was forced to slow down and quiet myself for all the shifts ahead of me – time zones, foods, social gatherings, style of dress, attitudes, values, and beliefs. Listening to God before such a big leap back into my “home” culture helped with the transition…and was a great lesson for my preparation as I prepared to transition back to Africa a just a week ago.

    Now I am back in my other ‘home’, a land that is warm, friendly, challenging, heart wrenching, and wonderful. The list that guided me wasn’t as important as I thought it was. Many things weren’t done but the “hakuna matata” lessons from my friends in Africa have helped me to realize that God knows what’s important and as long as I lean on Him the list diminishes in importance.

    Embrace every moment you have with those you love while you’re in America…that’s the important stuff on your list. The other things will work themselves out, through Him.

    Mungu akubariki sana!

  • Alisha

    This is me EXACTLY. We’re about 75 (give or take) days away from returning to Argentina. (assuming we get medical clearance.) I already find myself gearing up for the changes to come. Traveling w/ 2 small boys (10 & 3) is always a challenge as well ad stocking up on all the stuff they’ll need to go in the crate as well. This will be be our 3rd time to do this, and somehow it feels as if the leaving gets harder rather than easier. I know I’ll be glad to be back w/ my friends and excited about our ministry…but, oh how the leaving part tears be up.

  • Stephanie

    I agree with it all! We go to the States about every 2 1/2 years for 6 months. It’s lists, lists, lists–To Do Before Leaving, To Take to America for family and friends, To Buy in America to bring back to Lesotho, To Do in America! And it never all happens of course! We’ve been serving for close to 13 years now, and I can tell you that the the tensions of leaving/com ing NEVER go away. Our girls are almost 7 and almost 3 and right now the hardest part is thinking of our parents. They’re getting older and even though they are all 100 percent behind us being here, I sometimes think “Is this right?” Is it right to keep the grandchildren from their grandparents when other grandkids get to spend summers with with their grandparents? But this is our calling for now–maybe later, but for now we just have to follow Him.

  • Thanks for the article. We are just about done with a very long deputation and are very excited to be heading out this winter

    to Mwanza. I really needed to have the feed back that I got about the ” THE LIST” . We have been struggling about what to

    take and what to do, etc for about a year now.

    I truly appreciate what Cathy Lessig had to say about the “LIST”… “The list that guided me wasn’t as important as I thought

    it was. Many things weren’t done but the “hakuna matata” lessons from my friends in Africa have helped me to realize that

    God knows what’s important and as long as I lean on Him the list diminishes in importance.”

    Thanks for the comments.

  • Kristy Wacek

    I just came off the field a year ago. My husband and I are going back to Argentina to visit his family for 4 weeks. My “list” has consumed my thoughts the past few nights and left me restless. I traveled so many times as a single person but now with a husband and baby the “list” is even longer. Thank you for the perspective! Just what I needed 🙂

  • Renee

    Well written! You’ve articulated the transition exceptionally!!!

  • Susan

    Just arrived back in the States for our annual month of leave from Eastern Africa. I grew up in Asia into my teens, we’ve lived in several countries around the world since our marriage and this is our second time to serve in Africa (going on six years this time). But those transitions back and forth never seem to get that much easier. Believe me, I can pack well – though a bit frustrated as they’ve just started charging for that second suitcase that 6 years back shrank from 70 – 50 lbs!! I too have my lists going and coming (save a document on my computer now of the typical items that need doing or purchased or taken to and fro which is a help). It seems we step from one world to a completely different one going either way – the changes always take some getting used to despite how prepared we feel. Examples: a rare person on the roads here versus crowded roads there teaming with walking folks or loaded bicycles, a few dollars here versus thousands of the cash in our service country, grocery or department stores overloaded with colorful, multiple brands of any item imaginable that cause me to cringe at the abundance or waiver too long with the decision of what to purchase while thinking of those who get along with so much less, remembering to drive on the left or right, struggling with how to share with those on either side of the world the love of Christ and His love for His children – how to connect them all to each other meaningfully…. That list of opposites goes on and on… Like others have said before me – it’s really the people who are the most important; not the list or the things. Take time to enjoy the moments, the quietness, the love and caring, the familiarities of family/friends, the fact that children see you and don’t cry out ‘Stranger’, the relative ease at which you can locate the items on your list… Worry & stress can ruin your family/friend times or the rejuvenation period. That being so true, it’s also valuable to have a list of essentials that indeed gets purchased and a few extras to brighten the difficult days, the holidays when you crave ‘family or familiarity’. Jesus called His disciples away to ‘rest awhile’ and sometimes He also gives us that opportunity. It may be a ‘busy, bustling rest surrounded by people, but I am choosing to relish that rest – trusting in Him. Maybe I’ll put it on the top of my list today – every day for that matter! God’s blessings to all of you and His courage wherever you are at in your list!