Saturday, June 15, 2013

Learning From Colleagues

Yesterday, we helped some friends pack a container as they head back to the States to start a new season of ministry. It has been a bittersweet time to watch them go through the heart-wrenching stages of saying goodbye to friends, co-workers, and the city that's been their home for the last few decades. 

I am often unsure whether it is harder to say goodbye to your home country and previous identity, or to leave the place into which you've poured decades of sweat and love. As we have watched our friends process this change, I have made a few observations. Mostly, these are things that I hope can be said about me in the future. They could even be called "ministry goals," though they are probably too general to be considered that. So here we go... (to see the panoramic image full screen just click on it.)

1. Grieving is a skill - like sharing, grieving is not something the we are born being able to do well. Our hearts mostly shrink away from loss. It is messy and painful to grieve, but it brings our heart to a place of health that can't be found any other way. Loss that is not acknowledged and processed will continue to weigh us down. It has been wonderful to watch our friends weep tears of pain and tears of joy. They have celebrated the work that God has done through them and the stories of lives that God has changed. But they are also mourning the separation from people that they love and care about. Both of these are important.

2. Where you start is rarely where you finish - Over their time in ministry here, their role and ministry vision has changed. They have even changed missions organizations along the way. As we have talked to more and more people about their journeys through ministry, we have found this is more and more the case. God moves us through different seasons of life and ministry as we grow and mature. This is not to say that we should constantly look for the greener pasture. I see our plans more as a child's coloring book that is loosely sketched but waiting for a creative color-er to come and fill in the details of a given moment or time of life. 

3. It is worth it - Life in general is full of change. Any of our friends that are expecting or recently have had a child can affirm this. We aren't the person we were last week or last month. Crossing oceans and cultures adds another level of change and transition to life. One of the temptations as relationships change, people come and go or life situations change, is to say that it is too hard and then to disengage. The challenge with this is that it insulates us from the community and connection that we can have through Christ. As we have gone through the transition process coming here, God has taught me that it is worth the risk and pain to engage and dig into relationships. The people we saw coming out to help our friends was a reminder that relationships are worth it. The pain of saying goodbye is worth the blessing of friendship.