This week has begun a series of “see you later” moments that will, Lord willing, be finished by the end of next week since that is when I hope to be on a plane bound for Togo. As these moments are mixed in with my excitement to get to Africa and begin settling in, adjusting, serving, and learning, I am faced with a deep sadness that is painful. While I said “see you later” to my younger brother Phil in the beginning of June, it almost seemed surreal because I still had at least one month to spend in the States and he was getting dropped at camp which was no new experience, so it was hard and painful yet somehow not overwhelming at the time. This week though, I am having to think through my times with my remaining family members and friends before I leave and the emotional waters are stirring with force.
Tears have become more normal to my daily routines. If we are honest, no one enjoys crying and now I find myself, sometimes randomly, facing a moment where tears are all that suffice. I am trying to allow each emotion that emerges to have its time as each is a necessary part of the growing and serving journey. Christ has called us, as His followers, to difficult, trying times and this sacrifice is one of them. As hard as it is for me to know that I am uprooting myself from the only “home” I have ever really known and laid roots in to go and settle in my new home in Africa I do not face the next steps alone. God has not built us into communities just for us to venture through by ourselves. In the 28 years I have been on this planet, God has blessed me with an enormous group of people that have loved, taught, shaped, challenged, and grown me into who I am today and I have to tell quite a few of them that I will see them sometime in or at the end of 4 years. In doing so, I realize that each of those people will be facing a sacrifice with me.
What I am trying to work through, understand, and prepare for now is how to walk through these times and the first weeks/months in Africa with others who are sacrificing with me as they again give me over to God’s will and send me where He has called. It is easy to become subconsciously selfish in these times of coming separation. It is easy for me to see what I am “giving up” to go and obey this call in my life, it is sometimes less apparent to me to see what God, in effect, called others to “give up” at the same time. The process that follows is a grieving. Strange as it may sound, those here will be in a state of grieving - some more deeply affected than others - but still grieving as I will grieve. My parents are surrendering having me close to home to come around for meals or just to chill. My church family is surrendering me to serve as an extension of themselves which means we will not have frequent times of face to face fellowship nor will I be able to tangibly serve within the churches walls. My friends are surrendering times to talk, eat, celebrate, and adventure together. My family members are surrendering me - sister, cousin, niece, granddaughter, etc. - so that I may talk, laugh, cry, and build memories with new people.
Therefore, I must say thank you to those of you participating in this sacrifice with me. You are answering God with faithful obedience when you give me over. Your release to your claim on me places me in God’s capable hands. Your support of my talents and skills allows me to use them to glorify Him. Your encouragement and prayers give me strength to press on in easy times and hard times. Your financial gifts allow me to serve without fear, worry, or want. Your character challenges me to examine myself, to grow, to change, to develop, as I seek to look more like Christ, who I see in you. Your perseverance in the faith gives me courage to run my race well, with you as my support. Thank you for choosing to obey Christ by surrendering me to His will. Thank you for choosing to sacrifice your time with me that I may serve Him where he leads. Thank you for continuing to be with me in this ministry I seek to serve and help those I will build new relationships with in Africa. Thank you for loving me well and agreeing to walk through the grief as I settle into my new home. Thank you for reminding me that the investment of our relationships is the reason why the pain and hurt of goodbyes is good; the reason why it is beautiful. The reason I can say this with such emphasis is because
God gives only good things
obeying God brings only good for even hardships, under His sovereignty, seek what is best for us in that moment
the pain is only present because it is a grief over being distanced from what has become so naturally.
In fact, through this pain I have come to understand His goodness more profoundly. It may seem strange or abnormal to view such pain with a perspective that deems it good, but it is true; this pain is good and praiseworthy. Certainly, some goodbyes are painless. Saying goodbye to the grocery clerk or a taxi driver or a customer service rep is painless because we have no time invested in them - there is no death of relationship there - but when people move to a new town, state, or country there is pain in those goodbyes. It hurts because you have shared life experience, you have built memories, you have eaten meals, and had conversations. . .and now, those things change. Life will look different. Friendship continues but there exists a literal distance between you making what may have been easy (or easier) much more difficult.
Yet, in the midst of the sadness and pain brought on by the times of hugging goodbyes, I am overjoyed and overwhelmed that He is filling me with His peace. Not once have I wavered, doubted, or questioned this call. There has been no, “God, are You really sure I am supposed to be doing this?” because we settled that years ago and I know for a fact that THIS, here and now, is EXACTLY what God is calling me to do to bring glory to His name as I introduce others to Him. Even with the length - people marvel at the thought of me being on another continent for 4 years - I have no doubts that this is God’s plan for me. This morning I wrote in my prayer journal that 4 years is a very long time, and yet, to our infinite and timeless God, 4 years is but the space of good laugh. Praise God that I have had more than my fair share of good laughs with my support system here in the last years of this journey which, began just about 4 years ago last month. I am sure that the coming 4 years will be equally as difficult, straining, stressful, and hard as the previous 4 but I am also sure that they will be as abundantly fruitful, challenging, exciting, happy, beautiful, and full of growth as well. God has great things in store for each of us as we partake in this new adventure of using media to glorify God in West Africa.
Please write, please message, please send cards, please come visit. You are welcome in my new home just as you have been in my old one. We will continue to grow together as we are apart, I am sure of that. Some days will be harder than others, no doubt, but God will still be good. I am praying for you as you are praying for me. I love you more dearly than I can say and I am more grateful than I know how to explain that God has blessed me with your friendship both near and far. Thank you for everything, I am so excited to see what God does in our lives in the next years as we minister together and apart.