11 years and 9 months ago, Evan and I packed all we could fit into 3 pieces of luggage each and prepared to board a one-way flight from Jamaica to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We were leaving home.
We had been anticipating the move for several months, and logistically we were all set to go. Well, mostly all set. Packing our luggage came down to 2 choices: what’s important versus what’s needed. This was a no-brainer if the items were heavy … Smaller, lighter items, however, posed a more significant challenge. I’m not a hoarder, but if you’ve ever given me/us a greeting card, chances are I still have it!
As moving day drew closer, nothing could have prepared me for the myriad of emotions and thoughts – underscored by all the unknowns …
Journey of Uncertainty
On the one hand, we were excited! We knew this was where God was leading us at this juncture in our lives. We were expecting our first child and about to embark on an adventure in a new country with the opportunity to learn a different culture, develop new and existing skills, try unfamiliar foods, experience different seasons, meet new people, and make new friendships. We would also get to reconnect with 2 of our closest friends and their young family.
On the other hand, we were saying goodbye to our families and friends, some of whom we‘ve known our entire lives. They’ve been our support system, our network, our shoulders to cry on; they’ve prayed with us and for us, celebrated our joys, and shared in our sorrows. We’ve played together, gone to school together, and worked together. We’ve grown together, had disagreements, and witnessed each other’s weddings. We’ve cheered each other on in good times and encouraged each other through difficult times. This was more than just relocating … We were leaving behind everyone we knew and loved – the people who knew us, and loved us anyway. If ‘home is where the heart is,’ we were leaving a huge chunk of our hearts behind.
We boarded the plane for an almost 8-hour flight. We had invested everything into this moment. Now we had to trust that after several months of preparation all our paperwork was in order. The reality for most immigrants travelling is that boarding a flight is only 1 step in what’s often a long and rigorous journey, riddled with uncertainty. Aside from arriving safely at our destination, there was a cloud of doubt that would linger in my mind until we had ‘crossed over the border.’ The connecting flight and every checkpoint along the way represented a moment where someone could potentially send us back to where we were coming from. Returning home would no doubt have its hurdles, besides the obvious disappointment of not being allowed across the border; that pales in comparison to the personal inner turmoil.
The Path Ahead
The decision to leave home was by no means an easy one. We had community in every facet of our lives – work, church, and home; strangers who became family. A number of moving parts and pieces had to come together for us to even qualify for ‘immigration status.’ It was a leap of faith, trusting that God’s plan for us exists beyond what we can see; that it’s far more than the sum of our past experiences.
Even with all the challenges we faced, I’m well aware that I’m sharing this story from a place of privilege. Not many people get to choose to leave their home, to decide which items to take with them, or which items to leave behind. Many flee their homes with no time to prepare, and are just grateful to make it across the border alive!
As I reflect on the pandemic and its effects on lives across the world; it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all that we’ve lost and continue to lose. I found myself complaining about having to do online school with my kids. Then I remembered, there are places in the world where online school isn’t an option for some families. Households that have to choose between paying for data or paying for food.
Repeatedly we’ve witnessed God’s hand in our lives. We experienced God’s love in our friends who shared their home with us … The strangers who picked us up at the airport … Those who gave us their furniture, shared their food, their dollars, their clothes; who babysat our children, prayed for us, and opened up their hearts. We’ve learnt to trust in His provision through the darkest of times. And though we often can’t see clearly the path that lies ahead, we press on with hope.
“… being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)
Deon Watson, along with her husband Evan and their 4 children, have called FAC home since soon after they arrived in Calgary. Deon serves as FAC’s Communications Director. Read more of Deon’s story (originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Storyline) here!