My petite adult: A parent's perspective
by Debbie Johnston, mom of Sacha (’15) and Llewellyn (class of 2017)
Waiting with bated breath, I watched weary travelers shove their laden carts into the arrivals hall at Almaty International Airport, Kazakhstan. My stomach was in a knot as I scanned the crowd for my petite redhead daughter, returning home after her freshman year at college. Would Sacha make it?
This was the first time I was to see Sacha since I had left her nine months previously. As a missionary kid growing around the world, Sacha had always wanted to study in the United States. Initially we had picked NNU on the basis that a number of our good friends from our community at Mission Aviation Fellowship lived within close proximity, and we felt Sacha needed to have a network of support. However, as we progressed through the application, acceptance, and then visa process, we began to feel as if NNU itself would be a strong support net for Sacha. Due to the complexity of sending a foreign student to university in the States, I had many email conversations with the administration, foreign student adviser, and art department. Their willingness to answer my copious questions had helped us to believe that Sacha would not just be a “number” at the university, but would be valued as an individual and nurtured by the staff to learn what it was to be an independent adult.
Now, we waited anxiously. She had needed to fly solo, half-way-around the world! Her journey had taken her from Boise to Chicago, then across the Pacific Ocean to Abu Dhabi. That was the last place that we had heard from her, during her eight-hour layover. Had she made her remaining flight to Kazakhstan?
After what seemed an interminable amount to time, Sacha angled her cart out the sliding doors. She had made it! The first of many solo trips that she would make during her university years, this was definitely our most nerve-wracking.
On the journey back to our apartment, Sacha recounted some of the adventures she had had along the way. In particular, she recalled how confusing Chicago Airport had been, with its underground walkways, varying terminals, and subway trains. But when panic started to set in, she phoned our dear family friend and her Nampa “second mom,” Connie Risser. Together, they had figured out where she was—and more importantly, where she needed to be. Sacha had learned that being an adult often requires asking for guidance—a skill that any foreign student learns within their freshman year.
That summer, she proved to me that she had become a capable adult in many ways. In particular, she became my substitute art teacher. Weak from a recent major surgery, I was not yet capable of full-time teaching. Our English-speaking international school had no substitute art teachers, so Sacha stepped into my shoes, teaching all of my art classes for a three-week period. This was not easy, as she was only a year older—with only a year more experience—than the twelfth grade students. But she did her best, competently stepping up to the challenge.
As summer closed, I watched Sacha leave the Almaty International Departure Hall to return to Nampa once again. This time, it was not as hard as I had expected. Although it was emotionally difficult to see her leave, I knew that she was capable. She had proved that she had the necessary tools to negotiate the coming year. Her experiences in Nampa, and at NNU in particular, had helped to equip her to face the unknown. My daughter had become a dependable adult.