Training: Week Three—Grief and Loss and Good-byes

I returned from training a few days ago, and I’m still processing all I learned. It was truly an amazing three weeks, and I already miss my community of new friends.

We spent the last week of training talking about grief and loss, hellos and good-byes. The life of a missionary is full of hellos and good-byes, and grief and loss are a true reality as missionaries prepare to leave for the field. I know that I have been grieving since the summer, mourning the loss of so many things I love about my life—moving from my city and condo, leaving my job, saying good-bye to my favorite cafes, hangouts, and dear friends. In a few weeks, I’ll be saying good-bye to my beloved family and my closest friends. Sometimes thinking about it is unbearable, but I’m determined to embrace the good-byes and to live into them. It is a part of being a missionary. It is a part of life.

By loving, we take risks. If we didn’t love, good-byes wouldn’t hurt so much. But life is full of risks, and choosing to love others is always worth the risk. When it came to hellos and good-byes, I used to feel like Charlie Brown, who in his typical depressed and despairing state, sang woefully about why life couldn’t be filled with more hellos and less good-byes. 

Earlier this year, I began to change my perspective.  A sermon my rector, Father Leigh Spruill, preached has challenged me to live into the good-byes, to see saying good-bye as ministry. (I invite you to download and listen to the sermon, “Saying Goodbye Is a Ministry.”) Without his sermon, I think I would have been tempted to gloss over the many good-byes in my life with words, such as, “I’ll see you soon. We’ll be in touch. The time will fly by.” They are well-meaning words, but they dull the reality of the loss by not truly acknowledging it. Instead, I’m trying my best to acknowledge the loss, to name what I will miss about the person, and to voice my blessings and well-wishes for him or her in the future. It is a hard discipline, and I often want to cower; but with God’s help, I’m determined to say my good-byes well. Please pray that my last few weeks at home will be full of beautiful good-byes.

Advertisements

Training: Week Two—Stress and Rest

When I first came to training, I didn’t know what to expect. I have been pleasantly surprised. Each day gets better and better. I’m being stretched and challenged to grow both spiritually and emotionally. But more than anything, I love the amazing sense of community among my fellow missionaries. Although we have known one another only for a couple of weeks, there is camaraderie, fellowship, and loads of fun. It’s a joy to talk with people who are experiencing the same things that I am. My new friendships are a gift.

Playing with new friends at the Olympic Training Park
Playing with new friends at the Olympic Training Park

We spent most of last week talking about stress and rest. We were challenged to look deeply into how we handle stress and were encouraged to cultivate healthy ways to cope with stress. The life of a missionary (especially at first) is one of elevated stress. In my new life everything will be new; and although that is exciting, it is also stressful. For example, I will have to learn how to grocery shop, bank, and drive on the left side of the road. Grocery shopping, banking, and driving are things I can do in my sleep back home (well, maybe not drive)), but even the most mundane tasks will become stressors in my life as I have to relearn them. I need to be prepared, and awareness is the first step.

We also spent significant time on the need to practice Sabbath rest. I was reminded of what we talked about in my huddle group (small group) at church—scripture teaches us to work out of our rest. Ironically, before I said “yes” to God’s call to serve in South Africa, I used to have a healthy rhythm of work, rest, and play. But the past two years have been filled with preparations, and I fell out of that rhythm. I am determined to create a new rhythm of work, play, and rest that will fit my new cultural setting. Living a balanced lifestyle will make me a better team member, a more in-tuned daughter, sister, and friend, and a healthier child of God.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”Rest by the Lake

–Matthew 11:28-29, The Message