“How are you doing with all of this, son?” Dave asked Ben. It was a nice Caribbean afternoon in January as we sat down to our afternoon coffee together. Shrugging his shoulders, Ben answered, “I’ve come to accept that saying goodbye is part of our lives.” Wow! We were astounded at his answer. As the days passed it was clear, our boy was growing up and taking it all in stride.
A missionary expects the difficult ‘goodbyes’ to family and friends when they leave for the missions field. It is the ‘goodbyes’ that occur while on the field that you didn’t anticipate being so difficult. They can affect your life as much as leaving your family did. When your fellow missionaries leave the field they leave a hole in both your lives and the mission where you serve. This past December and January were filled with “Goodbyes” for our family. We said goodbye to dear friends that we had served with since the beginning, Joel and Cinthya Tumlison, as they headed back to the states to begin the next chapter in their lives. They were an important part of our lives here at Loma de Luz and we miss them a whole lot. We also said goodbye to long time missionaries, Dr. Mark and Heidi Merritt. Heidi was a dear friend that taught me much about studying the bible and living according to it.
The Hryszczuk family was here for just a year yet we became great friends. Luke Hryszczuk and Ben became quick friends because they really seemed “to get each other” as they both had older sisters. Our neighbors, the Alexanders left for a three month long furlough which seemed to last forever, and Dr. Mackenzie Slater, who introduced Mariah and I to Downton Abbey, also returned to the states. Each of these was part of our family here at Loma de Luz and their absence is felt in the mission and in our hearts. The biggest change, especially for our kids, came when the Pirkle family left for the states. Their family has been an integral part of our kids’ lives with Phillip, Ben’s best friend, and Sarah, one of Mariah’s best friends. Our kids spent most of their spare time at the Pirkle home. Now that they are gone, they are sorely missed.
I wanted to share this with each of you to help you understand another aspect of missionary life that is often overlooked. Just as Ben said, “…saying goodbye is part of our lives.” Since saying goodbye is such an integral part of our lives here, it is really difficult to continue to “love deeply and hold lightly” in each of the friendships that the Lord has given us. Jesus told us to love one another as He has loved us. This isn’t easy for anyone, regardless of location or vocation! It is often easier to guard the heart and only love so much, which is not how Christ loved us. Please pray for our family as we strive to love in the here and now of our relationships with other missionaries. As Emerson said, “It is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all.”