Sunday, October 25, 2015

Saying Goodbye...again

Send-off at church this morning
I'm not gonna lie...Sometimes, being a missionary is really exhausting. Case in point: We said many many goodbyes at church this morning. As many of you know, we are preparing for a 7-month "home assignment" in the States. We will fly back Thursday morning and spend the time there updating churches, friends and supporters on our ministry here in Austria and what God is doing. We hope to spread the word to more people about the needs here and in western Europe in general. We will also, of course, spend quality time with friends and family and serve in the churches where we are at.

I really dislike saying goodbye. Perhaps that is a universal thing...but I think I especially dislike it. I sometimes avoid goodbyes entirely, which I know is not healthy, but I do it anyways. And sometimes when I'm saying goodbye to someone (especially for a long time), I have no idea what to say so I end up saying weird or awkward things. Not great.

I don't think we, as people, were designed for goodbyes...for parting. We were designed for relationship and connection, made in God's image to be in community with one another. But we are forced, throughout our life, to be painfully separated from others through distance, conflict, death, and a variety of other changes in circumstances. It doesn't feel right - it feels unnatural. And saying lots of goodbyes makes me yearn for Heaven, when we won't have to do this anymore.

It was especially hard to say goodbye to our church community this morning because when we return in June, life will be different. We are preparing for church planting and will eventually move on to start a new church in a different area of Vienna. Just as we have really hit our stride in ministry and community in our church, we must uproot ourselves again to start over. And this, after doing the same thing by leaving our home country, family and friends 3 years ago. It hurts.

And right now, we are preparing to travel back to the States, where we will say many hellos but also many goodbyes. In every place, we will connect with people and then leave them again. As you might expect, we approach this home assignment with many mixed feelings. We are excited to see everyone and be back in our home culture, but we know it will be an emotionally challenging time of many transitions and goodbyes. And all the while we will be missing our home in Austria and everyone there.

All of this is very tiring and challenging. But what has brought me comfort in the last few weeks are the words of a blog post I read recently about this home assignment phenomenon, called "The Far Side of Somewhere". Please read this - it will really help you understand the thoughts and feelings we are missionaries experience in a circumstance like this. This article really preached truth to me when it reminded me that God is present everywhere we go - in Austria, in every location where we will visit in the States, and everywhere else. He goes with us and before us. Amidst transition, that brings me a lot of comfort.

I invite you to meditate on Psalm 139 with me and remember, too, that no matter what transition you are going through right now, God is already there. You cannot escape his presence. Praise the Lord!

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.