Hard to believe, but when we look back on these months, we are amazed at God’s hand and provision in our daily lives. We know we have been uplifted and held up through prayer by many of our dearest friends and family. It is by God’s grace alone that the transition for our family has been relatively smooth and seamless thus far.
When we first arrived, we were ushered into the Alliance Academy International fold with a handful of “newbies”. From the start, we were surrounded by a group of people that had that same “deer in the headlights” look as we plowed through finding bottled water, looking for small change as no one can break a $20 bill, navigating taxis without Spanish to get some basic foods from the grocery store, learning how to sleep through all the barking dogs, waking up to what we thought was the Muslim call to prayer but was really just a vendor driving through the city streets announcing via his megaphone that he was selling papas fritas, or fruit, or gathering metal scraps- yeah, that was the first day or so.
But, these first days, though stressful but exciting, bonded a group of people together in an amazing way. These are the people that simply have to embrace the adventure and figure it out…and that is a quick way to jump start a friendship. The term “we’re all in this together” has a whole new meaning when you’re starting over in a new country.
So, as we are blindly moving forward, day by day, embracing the culture with a kiss on the cheek for and from more people than we will ever remember, you begin to notice how some people choose to instantly embrace the opportunity of relationships with the newcomer, while others stand more at a distance, prepared to guard their heart and reserve relationship until the time commitment has been established. In short, if you were not sticking around for an extended length of time, you weren’t worth the time investment to forge friendships because you would just be leaving anyway.
Truth be told, my first reaction to this guardedness was a bit judgmental. I mean, really, people said it to my face – if you weren’t sticking around, you weren’t worth the effort to invest. Well, they didn’t exactly say it that way, but the filter I had up made it sound that way. I quickly skipped ahead to thinking how “un-missionary” like this was – to not invest in the people around you simply because they weren’t necessarily going to be here for years on end.
But, then I realized how hello means goodbye.
By simply welcoming someone in the mission field into your life, you are, in a sense, committed to saying goodbye sooner versus later. We began to see this in action. In a short amount of time, we grew to love student teacher Mariah, and then said goodbye.
Caitlin, Mariah, Laura
And Steve, Kari, Marcos, Christi, Loren, Janelle, Dr. Olson, Bev, Ken, Ann, Keith…and on and on the list goes.
I was in Shell, Ecuador, a couple of weeks ago to visit a K-8 missionary school. Eighteen kids moved at the end of last year. The school averages 35 to 40 kids. That’s a huge hit of enrollment, but, more importantly, that affects relationships. It affects friendships.
But, is this really limited to the mission field? This hello means goodbye phenomenon? Unless the Lord comes in our lifetime, everyone we say hello to will leave in some way – friendships are broken, people move, people die.
We still need to invest.
Iron sharpens iron. Strength for the downtrodden. Hope for the weary. Rest for the restless. A body of believers.
Everyone can bring something to the table…ideas and thoughts that we can share, discuss, build upon, hope for, desire…and, through relationship, we can expand the kingdom. Mentorship, multiplication – call it what you want. But by growing and loving each other, we can shape, mold, correct, rebuke, and share…share God’s Word and truth. Marriages can be strengthened, family dynamics positively restored. Children can learn how they are loved and belong to a family with a Father who loves them unconditionally. By building relationships intentionally, we pray that Christ will be seen through us and shine bright for all to see.
So, when hello means goodbye, and whether I know you for an hour, a day, a year or longer, I pray that the time we spend together will be firmly rooted in the love of Christ. I choose being intentional, however difficult it may be.
Invest today…you never know how the Holy Spirit will work in the lives of those you touch.