Leaving people I love has never been one of my favorite things. I’ve had lots of practice, and it doesn’t get any better. Sunday was a wonderful last time of fellowship with my church family. I had the opportunity to share with them from my heart, thanking them for their encouragement and support over the last six months, express my excitement about this new adventure, and show some new pictures from the village. The special prayer time was unforgettable. Person after person, including my dad, pastor, and many friends prayed for me, my fellow missionaries, and the people in the village where we’ll be working. They prayed for my health and safety, our ability to learn the language quickly and communicate the Gospel, for the light of Jesus to shine forth brightly in the darkness, and for the people to believe the Good News and become pastors and teachers and evangelists. My heart cried out “Yes!” over and over, hearing how my family understands so well the needs and the reality, and knowing that they will be holding the ropes in prayer – intentional, well-informed, effective prayers of faith. And although they were gathered close around me in prayer that day, their prayers from thousands of miles away will be just as powerful, and will be answered by our great God.Then they took up a love offering for me and we had a delicious fellowship meal after the service. That was followed by hugs, tears, goodbyes, more hugs, and dozens of pictures. The rest of the afternoon, exhaustion overcame me, along with a desire to cry. I am so excited to walk through the door God has opened for me, but I am sad to leave behind this amazing church family, these wonderful friends He has given me in Lewis County. But Wednesday, when I actually left, was the hardest goodbye of my life so far. Waiting in the security line, zig-zagging between the lines of tape, took me farther and farther away from my dear parents, beloved sister-in-law and brother, and adorable nieces and nephews. Glancing back, I could see tear-stained cheeks and solemn faces which matched my own. The sorrow of realizing that I will not see them again for three years ripped my heart into shreds. And the knowledge that my departure causes intense pain to these I love deeply hurt more than words could express. My departure isn’t hard just for the eight people standing there, but to the rest of our family, and many others in my life. For the first time, I contemplated the idea of turning back, before even setting out. I thought of how easy it would be to turn around, walk back to my family, and return to Martinsburg with them. People would most likely understand such a decision. Probably very few would blame me.So what kept my feet moving through the security checkpoint as the tears fell fast and my heart screamed, “Turn around!” ?
- I love Jesus best of all.
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:37-39
2. God wants everyone to be part of His family.
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:16
If it saddens my heart to be faraway from my family, how sad must God’s heart be? He knows billions of individuals by name who are faraway from Him, who longs to be their Heavenly Father. There are still over 1800 languages without even one verse of the Bible. How many people is that who have never even heard of Jesus? There are so many who still don’t know. And God longs for each one of them to hear the Good News about Jesus, in their own language. He wants each one of them to receive Jesus Christ, to believe in His name, and to become children of God.
And the opportunity for my family and church family and friends and I to be part of this, while it may be hard, is an honor, because it is for Jesus, whom we love best of all. And it is a comfort to know that while this goodbye may be a rather long one, it is not forever. We will see each other again. And on that day there will be lots of hugs and smiles, wonderful rejoicing, stories of God’s goodness and answered prayers.