27 October, 2015

Grief and loss

Last week I casually greeted a friend who, unbeknowns to me, had just come from her good friend's cremation celebration.

Her response to my, "How are you?" was to share where she'd been that afternoon. 

Later I went back and asked her for more details. Her response was along the lines of: "I'm feeling a little knocked over by loss. Three of my closest friend gone in just a couple of years." Two moved back to the US for various reasons and the third passed away last week. I'm grateful for her realness in sharing what was going on in the background, because I never would have guessed otherwise.

Then on Friday David and I discovered that another family from the school community is moving back to the US before Christmas. I saw them on Saturday at the cross-country meet and asked them about what seemed to be an untimely move (middle of the American school year) and they said they were moving against their will. They have two high school aged daughters, one of whom is friends of one of our sons.

The background of their move is in this story:
The Southern Baptist Convention will cut as many as 800 employees from its overseas missions agency to make up for significant shortfalls in revenue, officials announced Thursday (Aug. 27).  The International Mission Board anticipates an annual budget shortfall of $21 million this year, following several consecutive years of shortfalls. The developments are particularly painful for a denomination that was founded as a missionary-sending organization and that prides itself on making Christian converts across the globe. “Over the past six years, the organization’s expenditures have totaled $210 million more than has been given to it each year,” the board said in an announcement. ”Sure, this is not an ideal step but quite frankly there are no ideal steps at this point,” said International Mission Board President David Platt on a conference call with journalists. (From here.) 
It's a shock to hear of such a dramatic move by a mission board. It certainly will have huge impact across the world, not just that hundreds of missionaries will cease ministry in the countries they've felt called to, but those families are connected to many others. That's a lot of grief and loss!

Grief and loss is an integral part of life. People move, friendships don't survive, and people die. But the grief and loss that are part of the the missionary life (or other itinerate work like military) is greater than for those who live in the same place for most of their lives. 

I didn't understand that early on in our journey down this road. it isn't just saying goodbye to people you love in your home country, but frequently saying goodbye at this end too because our friends move often too. 

We pick ourselves up and move on, because that's what we do, but this grief and loss remains with us and becomes part of who we are. Those of us who are "left behind" continue on and try to support one another as best we can.

But in the end our comfort can only really come from knowing that our real home is in heaven: 
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan,longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling. 2 Cor 5:1–2 (NIV)
Heaven, where there will be no grief or tears. 
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:3–7 (NIV) (Emphasis mine.)

If you're interested in other times I've written about grief and the missionary life, here are a few:

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