Remembering

Last night, during a spiritual exercise with my “cell” (small) group, I thought about some people who had played a special role in my life. Who immediately came to mind was my dear friend John Mogabgab, who recently passed away. If you had the blessing and honour to know John, then you know how hard it is describe him, this marvelous man with a gentle spirit and a wonderful wit, a beard like a desert father, a pupil and scholar of Henri Nouwen, and the founding editor of Weavings. Yet, last night, I realised a special gift John and his wife, Marjorie, gave me and that was the gift of listening to God. The two of them, through their contemplative spirituality, showed me through practice and example how to be intentional about listening to God. Although I don’t do a very good job setting aside quiet time to just listen to God, I am grateful for this lovely and essential gift John and Marjorie gave me, and I’m trying to cultivate in my life a pattern of listening.

On another and a very surprising note, I also thought about the math teachers I had in high school and at university. While listening to a friend share about her child’s struggle with math and with the school’s frequent change of math teachers, I realised for the first time in my life how blessed I was to have the math teachers I had. No doubt, my high school and university friends can’t believe what they are reading, as I struggled so much and complained endlessly about math. However, with one exception, all the math teachers I had were good at teaching their subjects and were so patient with me, going beyond the call of duty to offer me special help. Geometry gave me the hardest time, but my teacher regularly tutored

geometryme after school. I don’t even remember his name; it has been that long ago, but I remember his face and his kindness. Honestly, if I didn’t have helpful math teachers, my academic life could have noise-dived; and I could have become so discouraged. Who would have known that twenty-plus years later, I would give thanks for the math teachers in my life?

I continue to live into my life of Ubuntu, as I continue to realise that my “humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in yours”—my dear friend John and my math teachers.

 

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Hello’s and Good-bye’s

One of the hardest things for me in my new life and ministry is dealing with all the hello’s and good-bye’s. The hello’s are great. The good-bye’s are hard.

Picking up my mom and sister at the airport= wonderful, exciting, beautiful, priceless
     Taking them back to the airport= tearful, sad, a feeling of loss

Running the Youth Alpha course at a local high school= connection, bonding, joy, relationship
     End of the Alpha course=sadness, loss, wondering if I would see most of the students again

Conducting a Rooted in Jesus Junior training=connection, excitement, new friendships
     End of the training=sadness, loss
Kissing MommieMy happiest hello’s are when I see family members again—either on this side of the world or in the States. I’m so grateful for the two weeks that my mom and sister got to spend with me in Cape Town. I loved every minute of our time together, showing them around and giving them a taste of my world, especially since it was my sister’s first trip here.

I love meeting people through the trainings and programmes with which I am involved. It’s amazing how a sense of community can form within three days or six weeks, but these projects are always short-term; and we have to move on. And so we do, waiting for the next hello.

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.

Grateful

Sisters
Hanging with Little Sis in North Carolina

The past seven days have been full of change—a tearful goodbye to a guy who had become very special to me this past year, a bittersweet farewell to my work family, a sorrowful goodbye to my wonderful neighbors. I moved out of my condo and left the city that had been my home for thirteen years. I’m back in my hometown; and all of my worldly goods, which aren’t much after the moving sale, are spread among three places. I’m feeling a bit displaced, but it feels good to be back home, to be back in my old bedroom.

The year has flown by quickly, and I can’t believe that in two months I’ll be on the plane to Cape Town. On Monday, I leave for three weeks of training in Colorado. I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m looking forward to it. I just hope I don’t get snowed in.

All year, I have been trying to cultivate a practice of expressing gratitude; and since today is Thanksgiving, I think it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on and to list the people, places, and things that played a significant role in my life this year, for which I am most grateful.

  • My sending committee
  • My work family at The Upper Room for the past 13 years
  • Trevor, Estelle, Michael—my new work family at Growing the Church

    Joey
    Joey Gets a Sweater
  • Joey, my puppy nephew
  • Family holiday in North Carolina
  • My dad, brothers, and Ray, my neighbor, who moved me out on Monday
  • My friend Gina who served as a calm presence and voice of reason
  • My BFF, Anna, who was there for me doing some very tough times
  • St. George’s, my church family
  • My sister Brittany, my constant companion
  • Mom, who spent several days with me, helping me to sort, pack, and clean
  • God, who has provided beyond measure for me
  • The people who hosted support raising events for me
  • My donors and prayer partners
  • The churches that invited me to speak and to share my story
  • My friends who reminded me to laugh and play
  • My friends Cathy, Ralph, and Aileen who brought a bit of Cape Town to Nashville

This is not a complete list, and I have probably left out some important people and things; but I hope you’ll appreciate the spirit of my attempt to express gratitude.

At this point in my journey, I’m reminded of this Dag Hammarskjöld quote: “For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.”