There was nothing easy about leaving our family and friends as we left the States to follow the call with our three children to international missions. In some ways, it was a tiny relief to finally make that break and get on with the next chapter of our lives. Looking back, I realize that I was a bit naive in thinking that the goodbyes were over until we came back to the States and had to leave again.
In the 7+ years that we have been in Zambia, we have had 27 more goodbyes to say to other missionaries as they have left Zambia for various reasons. Some came and went while we were here, some we didn't even the opportunity to say goodbye to as we were not in Zambia when they left, some were here before we ever arrived and left while we were here. Many different scenarios yet all were difficult - some more than others. I was recently at a meeting when one missionary lady stood up to show a beautiful picture of about 8 ladies. She was heartbroken. These were ladies on her team and now, she was the only one left on the field. I feel her pain.
I am an introvert. I have learned that about myself. So, honestly, I do not make friends in a flash. Right or wrong (really, it's probably wrong but I am just trying to be transparent here), I make a distinction between an acquaintance and a friend. I have also learned that I look for ladies with whom I can go deep, quickly. When that happens, I'm all in yet the heart ache is when, for whatever reason, many of those friends leave the field. More goodbyes, more heart ache, more lost friends. It's like the good byes never stop. Nothing ever stays the same in this world of missions. As missionaries, we share a unique lifestyle - with it's joys, sorrows and frustrations - and so many times, that quickly and steadfastly bonds us together. We share a life together that our blood relatives and US friends will possibly never completely understand.
This is a cost that I did not know to count. How your heart swells with a new friend and plunges when another goodbye happens. It is so wearisome on my heart as people seem to be constantly coming in and out of our lives. They take little pieces of my heart with them. Sometimes, I wonder how much more of my heart do I have to give to others but then the Lord reminds me that he is "near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit" Psalm 34:18.
Now, please don't become worried about me. I honestly am fine right now. My heart is right with the Lord and I am not currently struggling over much with this. I really just wanted you to know that there are so many of us who wrestle with this reality. Had you thought of this before when you pray for missionaries? If not, please consider adding a new dimension to your prayers for us that the Lord will be our constant friend. He is that and so much more. James 4:8 says "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
There is a cost in the call to missions. But even now, as I am discovering some new costs that I didn't previously understand, I can unequivocally say that the cost is worth it!
Jesus is worth it!
"For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory." 2 Corinthians 4:7
This is what all of our lives are to be about - no matter what...