If you've never heard of Saipan, you're not alone. It is an island in the South Pacific--the other side of the world--and the Hutchisons' proverbial lemonade. It is a great opportunity that we would never have considered had we not been presented with some desperate straits (the lemon, as provided by my former clinic).
Much can happen during a lent season. We were more engaged in the spirit of lent this year, and it turned out to be one for the ages. It started with Ash Wednesday, the very day I was fired (for doing nothing less than I was taught and asked to do). The message of the Ash Wednesday service at church addressed the "brokenness" of humanity, and we were right where they wanted us.
The loss of a job and income, a looming (new) debt, and the misrepresentation of my character helped us get on the fast-track to the lenten spirit of sacrifice and stripping of one's security and life's superfluity (at least, that is my understanding of lent so far). And we were encouraged by what we had left. It seemed at first that I/we had lost everything, but we soon recognized that we indeed have everything: Our love is strong, our kids are healthy, and we have the luxury and gift of good education/credentials.
So we spent lent exercising patience, calling on friends, and in "prayerful consideration" about a dilemma that seemed to have no tolerable solution. We waited and trusted.
It was Kim's idea...What if we take a year off? What if we approach this loan repayment period as a kind of sabbatical year during which we not only survive the lemon, but rather make lemonade by transplanting our family into a geography and culture like nothing we've known? Kim's work was cool with holding her position for a year, and Kim was cool with not working for a year.
At that moment, the possibilities seemed endless. We considered rural America, Indian Reservations, remote Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and the South Pacific. Our imaginations ran wild.
In the end, coincident with the renewal of Easter, we decided on Saipan. It is 5mi wide, 13mi long, with 70,000 people. We will travel there in June (20+ hours in the air with two kids--have mercy) with what we can pack in suitcases. We'll find housing and a vehicle. I will be working in a primary care clinic, taking shifts in the emergency room of the only hospital on the island, and seeing patients at the Saipan jail.
We are aiming to live simply. We hope to grow professionally. We plan to lay in the sand a lot.
We'll send pictures.