During the last two days of training at Mission Training International (MTI), we spent a lot of time on grieving, loss, and saying goodbye well. It was an emotional two days, and not something I will claim to have enjoyed.
They encouraged us to not tell people, “I’ll see you soon” or, “I’ll see you later.” Rather,
they encouraged us to say goodbye knowing that we will eventually see them again either in this world or the next. It was difficult as we had just spent a month with 40 other missionaries and trainers, and you get close in that time. Thanks to Facebook, we can still keep up with each other, but we’ve already scattered not only across the country but across the world. We will likely all never be together again this side of heaven.
It was hard enough to say goodbye to those we’ve known for a month, but it’s been even harder to say goodbye to those I’ve known much longer.During the last week of April, I had the opportunity to say goodbye to two of my closest friends. One of them I had not seen for years, and Cassie and I got to spend two days catching up. It was awesome to spend time together again, but that made it much harder to say goodbye to someone with whom I had just rekindled a friendship.
It was also incredibly hard to say goodbye to my friend Brad and his wife and son (Diana and Tobin). I met Brad at seminary, and we eventually shared a small suite in the dorms. He was in our wedding, and he and Diana came to visit us in Wilmore, KY just a few days after getting back from our field visit in Brazil. Brad is also the person I called when I was wondering if it was a good idea to burn a toaster in the prayer garden at Asbury (he said it was). He’s been a dear friend for 8 years now, and he commented to me he didn’t know when we would see each other again. That was the moment I realized how important saying goodbye is. You may not know when, or even if, you’ll get to see someone again. Goodbye doesn’t mean you won’t have any contact with them, but it means that you may not be together again in the same room (or city, or state, or continent!).
Saying goodbye is hard, and it doesn’t get easier with practice. I’m realizing that the goodbyes over the past few weeks were just the beginning of the goodbyes we need to say. There are so many family members and friends that we will not being seeing again for years, and I pray that we have the opportunity to say goodbye well. At MTI, they told us that they hope they had loved us so well that it hurt to say goodbye. They did love us well, and it was indeed hard to say goodbye. But what a joy that we are given the opportunity to love one another so well that saying goodbye does hurt!