On moving countries: the stirrings, the struggle, the step

Dear wonderful reader

I’d love to tell you this story over coffee and rusks at my kitchen table. Maybe there’ll be time for that, as Robert Frost said, ‘somewhere ages and ages hence.’

For now, I wanted to let you know that as of February 2021, God willing, I’ll be writing to you from the other side of the equator.

The full story is a long story. Too long for a blog post. I hope to have time and space soon enough to write it all up into the book it needs to be. It’s been a breath-taking, faith-building, multi-faceted experience of proper adulting and every steep, emotionally-textured learning curve needs its own chapter.

The blog-length summary goes something like this:

The stirrings

Twelve and a half years ago, when we discovered our firstborn was blind and would be visually impaired despite surgery, we knew God had set us on a unique journey as a family.

There’s grace aplenty for all this, every time the sun comes up. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t feel sorry for our son. Or his brother, Scott. Cameron’s disability doesn’t define him, or us. In fact, Cam doesn’t see himself as disabled – just adaptive.

Still, the reality is we’re called to make decisions differently to most other families. Atypical things are at stake, and up for consideration. In trying to unlock whatever spaces will help Cam lean into his full potential as a marvellous human, we constantly scour the horizon of his future for options that will create greater freedom for him – maximum access and dignity and independence.

There have been spoons stirring what swirls in other areas of our lives too – but more about that in the book I haven’t yet written.

All these simmering stirrings were brought to the boil in February this year.

Because my grandfather was born in England, I qualify for a five-year Ancestry Visa to the UK. Murray and our boys get to hop onto that thing as dependents.

A month before lockdown, we found out that if we head to the UK for the full five years, and if those five years fall before our boys turn eighteen, they qualify for British citizenship. (If Murray and I wanted citizenship – and the jury is still out on that one – we’d need to stay longer.)

Thing is, Cam turns thirteen in April 2021. For us to take advantage of the get-your-British-passport-in-a-mere-five-years deal, we need to leave before then.  

It’s now or never.

The struggle


We pretty much spent 2020 crying and praying, and then praying. And then crying. And praying some more. And scenario-planning around Scott’s dreams, and Murray’s, and mine. And unpacking Cam’s textbook condition from every angle. And drinking thousands of cups of tea to rival the tide of overwhelm. We did this very, very late into the night. For many nights.

It’s an easy decision at face value:

An incredible window of opportunity has opened! What’s the big deal?

What’s made the decision excruciatingly difficult (and I’m not being dramatic), is how much we love our continent, and our community. It’s actually good that it’s been difficult. If we’ve loved and been loved – and we have, and have been – then a decision like this should be the very hardest thing any of us ever do.

I love South Africa with the marrow of my bones.

I love my family and friends even more.

Murray and I were both born under the jacarandas of our nation’s capital, and so were on boys. Our roots in this city run kilometres deep and for sure, you can take the girl out of Pretoria but you can never take Pretoria out of the girl.

We love the life we’ve built.

We love our church. We love our home. We love our school. We love our work. We love our daily-weekly-yearly rhythms. We’ve been dropped into a strong current of community through which the power and love of God flow deep and wide, fast and free. It’s lifted our feet. We can’t touch the sides or the bottom. So great has been the love we’ve been freely given, and which we’ve freely been able to give.

And yet, as Rosa Luxemburg said, ‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.’ God has been tugging on us to strain against the chains, even though the chains are gold and they make us rich and safe.

We’ve wrestled with the paradoxical truths of life is people but also, people move on. We’re called to build Kingdom by knitting our souls and our stories to others. We’re called to build Kingdom by following the unique call of God on each of our lives.

And so, the struggle.

The step

Through all the crying, praying, and tea-drinking, God has confirmed over and over (through His Word, miraculous circumstances, our family and community, peace and opportunity – again, more in the book) that taking this step is the wisest thing to do – and that not taking this step would be something we’d regret in decades to come.

So we’re determined not to allow fear or comfort to keep us from stepping into what we’re framing as the Five-Year Reyburn Family Adventure.

The future is unknown and uncertain for every one of us. Yet we’re in the hands of a kind and generous Father who doesn’t do things TO us; He does things FOR us. And as my friend Blaine Vorster writes, ‘I wonder how many incredible adventures have been missed from fear of taking the first step.’

I’d be so grateful if you prayed for us.

A.W. Tozer said, ‘God never uses anyone greatly until He tests them deeply.’

The overarching desire of my heart is to be used of God for the fame of His name. If Tozer was right – and I suspect he was – then I trust God will use our family for His Kingdom and glory, because this has been off-the-charts our biggest test yet.

All we ever have is right now, and eternity. And all we’re called to do is the next right thing with the right now that’s right in front of us.

For us, it’s this move.

We’re sad, but we’re not stuck, because seas separate lands, not souls.

I’m grateful and honoured we get to stay friends here in this small corner of the internet, and at the end of this wild ride called 2020, I’m sending you Christmas tidings of comfort and joy. May you know strength and laughter and love in all your tomorrows.


. . .

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  1. Made this same excruciating move 18 months ago, Dalene. May God bless you and go before you. May you walk in His favor. And, depending on where on Mud island you land, I would love to take you for a welcome-coffee in 2021.


  2. I know that God sized arms are wrapped tightly around you all as you take this huge step. But I know you all know that God will keep His arms wrapped tightly around you in every step you make. And if these small hands and arms and feet can help you in anyway, please do get in touch. There’s tea by the mugful awaiting you on this side whenever you all need it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is, as you have said, one of the most difficult decisions you can ever make. I will be praying for you and your family as you say your goodbyes. It is a tearful experience, I can promise you that. But then always remember after goodbyes come hellos to new friends, new places and new normals. Leaving your country is a constant roller coaster of excitement and heart numbing sadness. If ever the world returns ro normal and you fancy a trip to the Netherlands, you are always welcome to pop in here. Please give my parents a wave ovee the fence next time you see them!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have tears of surprise, but joy for you and your fam dear Dalene! The paradox of love for your home and people vs the privilege of following God’s plan for your life is a lot to bear. May He use you mightily in the UK. We’ll be here reading your updates and praying for you from homebase.
    My brother has been living in UK since 2003, my heart friend moved in Aug 2019. With both of them I have amazing relationships. Technology is a blessing.
    All my love to you xxx Johanni

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow Dalene! I can so relate to your story. The funny thing is, in a 2020 Covid/lockdown year, so many hearts have been stirred by the Lord to go beyond. Its up to us to take those steps, and trust the Lord to open the way in these uncertain times. May it be an exciting, Gospel adventure for you and your family. Have a blessed Festive Season!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dalene, you are doing the right thing. It is by FAR, to date, the most difficult thing that Phil and I have ever had to do. Difficult, but so rewarding! We have taught our children that even adults get scared and that taking risks is what we are built for. I pray for an easy transition for your family. Lots of love, Jayne.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It will be hard and different in the beginning…..When you have work and a good school for the boys….the rest will fall into place…..then you will find the right church for you….friends you make along the way! Focus on the new…..not what you are leaving behind! Traveling the UK and surrounding places is a journey…..the museums are great….great history…castles,heritage sights…markets….gardens and lots lots more….infrastructure with trains buses are just functional… helps with the adventurous experience that no one can take away from you! You will not regret it…..it’s a good decision!! It will be an awesome blessed journey!

    Liked by 1 person

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