When I was 18 . . .

I wrote the following to my youngest daughter when she turned 18 on October 8, 2005,

I turned 18 in 1972, in Elkhart, Indiana. I had only been away from Nigeria (where I was born and reared) for a year. My parents had returned to the mission field, leaving me behind to stay with a middle-aged couple from our church for my senior year of high school. I felt lonely, displaced, liked a fish out of water. I had made a few friends from church, but attending a school of 2000 students felt a little overwhelming to my raised-in-the-African-bush senses.

Bell bottoms, paisley ties, leisure suits, flower children, mini (and maxi) skirts, the peace sign, and open love and drugs were all the rage. Schools were frequently closed for race riots. It felt a far cry from my missionary upbringing where skirts were modest, profanity was unheard of, and everybody knew all the words in the hymnbook by heart. I’d never heard of Elvis, and Christians shunned the Beatles who were known as a rebellious band because of their long hair. When Jesus Christ, Superstar came out, I thought I was living in a pagan society. I longed to fit in, but I didn’t know how to bridge the gap. Staying active in my church group became my sanctuary of sanity, but even there, I was considered a different class.

I remember the joy of occasionally walking home after school a couple miles in the snow, but more often than not, I got a ride with a Jehovah’s Witness girl in our neighborhood. Besides baby-sitting, I started my very first job working in the office of an aerosol packaging plant. Most days I bicycled to work. I bought my own (secondhand) sewing machine that year and made my own clothes to save money.

I knew that when I graduated, I wanted to attend college to become a missionary medical doctor, but I had no idea how to begin the process. A lady in our church encouraged me to go to Word of Life Bible Institute to get one year of solid Bible teaching before entering the secular arena. Not knowing what else to do, I listened to her advice, packed up a trunk with all my earthly belongings, along with my marimba, and in the fall I took off for New York State. (I subsequently decided I was not interested in medicine after all and continued my education at another Bible college.)

Happy Birthday, Katie. Thank you for the trip down memory lane. I pray that when you reach my age, you will look back on your life with as much delight and satisfaction as I have had to see the hand of God in every move you make. Stay true to Him. He will never leave you or forsake you, and that’s the truth!

One thought on “When I was 18 . . .

  1. I loved this!! Memories…they are so special and sometimes we need reminders of those times now long ago. They were strange, but fun time. I cannot imagine the huge changes you had to deal with. It was hard enough living here and seeing things happening in the world around this little Zeeland girl. Oh, the 70’s!!


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