24 June, 2012

A time to say hello, a time to say goodbye

It is that season again. In our lives around the middle of every year we say goodbyes and hellos. A few of the goodbyes are usually "we don't know if we'll see you this side of heaven" type goodbyes. Even if we ourselves aren't going anywhere, there are always others who are, in this international community. I wrote a bit about it here last year. 

A friend who is relatively new to this type of international living said to me the other day, "You'll surely miss K...!" (A missionary going on home assignment for 12 months.) I think I surprised her by not producing the appropriate emotion. 

I've not grown cold to my friends who say goodbye for a time, but I do put those friendships aside for a while. Or as one person observed about the CAJ student body, we keep a special place for that person, ready for them if or when they return. 

Not holding onto my friendships too tightly allows me to make it through these goodbyes without being too emotionally traumatised each time, but it also leaves room for new friendships. For there will always be new people who come along needing a friend. The new friends don't replace the old, but rather each friendship weaves their own special pattern into my life's story. My life would be poorer without them. 

And yes, I know that the time will come to say goodbye to these new friends too, but I'd become a very lonely person if I let that stop me making new friends. It probably makes me (and many others who live a similar lifestyle) more intense and intentional in our friendships. I know that I can't waste much time. Waiting around with months of shallow conversation won't do the trick (I wrote a bit about this back here).

So back to today. 

At church this morning we sat behind a young friend from India who we've only known since late last year. We've had, as she puts it, "random conversations after church," including, of course, cricket! She told me today two specific things that meeting us has meant to her: that there ARE Australian missionaries (not just sports fans in Australia, as is the image in India) and that as she sat behind us on many Sundays she saw "a beautiful aspect of Christian life — the love of a family." Who could have thought that such things would be an encouragement?

Also at church this morning is a family I said goodbye to 12 months ago. The mum (who has three boys) is particularly dear to me as we studied the Bible together in a small group for several months over the months surrounding the tsunami disaster last year. So good to see them back in Japan after their home assignment in Canada. A spot has been reserved in my heart and my story for her.

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