I don’t like saying goodbye, however, I have yet to meet someone who likes saying goodbye. Being a missionary with a nomadic lifestyle means there are many goodbyes. The flip side is there are also many hellos. Back to the goodbye side. My coping mechanism is to avoid goodbyes – I don’t like to attend the goodbye gatherings here when people leave, I don’t like to go help others load their airport vehicle, etc… I usually say a see you later (not goodbye) a few days before someone leaves. During our annual branch meetings the membership asked us to stand in front to be appreciated for our service in Cameroon. It hit me that I can’t avoid our own goodbye and it’s going to be harder than I imagined. It’s different when you leave to go on furlough because it’s not intended as permanent, but to leave knowing there aren’t any future plans to return feels so permanent. What is it that makes it hard to say goodbye?
1. People – I’ve made some great friendships with other missionaries and they are the ones who know this life and I’ll miss them very much. I’ve made strong friendships with several Cameroonian women whom I’ll miss greatly. I’ll miss the smiles as I go to pick the boys up from school – there are many women, a man who is mentally delayed and a man who’s a carpenter that I pass to go to school whom smile and wave if I’m driving or smile and chat with me if I’m walking.
2. Buddy – Buddy’s our dog and I’ll miss him. He’s a good guard dog, very friendly with us and has expressive eyes.
3. This ministry as we know it – I believe that someone’s ministry is wherever he or she is planted, meaning wherever you live, work, recreate – that’s your ministry. Our life for the past five years has been in Cameroon working with SIL and although we plan to stay with Wycliffe as stateside missionaries, the ministry will be different.
4. Tropics – it’s always summer here (cold to us is upper 60’s), we can have fresh tropical fruit year round, you can accidentally cut way too much off your plants and they’ll always grow back, the hard rains that I’ve always been in awe of.
5. This community – when you leave your family, friends, support network, comfort zone, church, passport country, etc… and start a new life elsewhere, those people who surround you become your surrogate family. Just like family we drive each other nuts, but would drop everything in a second when someone needs urgent help.
There is so much more I could list.
I experienced those same emotions every time you visited us in Pennsylvania or we you in Missouri. My home pastor always said so long, and not goodbye. So long meant we would Ser each other again. It’s hard for sure. But I can’t wait to say hello to you all. We are praying for your transition and trusting you to our Lord.
Peace and good cheer to you, David and the boys as you’re saying good-bye to the ones who are dear to you and to the lifestyle you embraced in Cameroon. Your friends there will miss you, too.