One thing we learned early on as long-term missionaries—you say a lot of goodbyes. So do the nationals with whom you build relationships. It's not something you get used to, but it comes with the territory of being a long-term missionary (for at least a year or more on the field).
You say goodbye to family and friends when you first go to the field. This is tough, but it's tempered by the excitement of "going" and ignorance of the separation you'll realize later.
Once you've settled into building relationships with the people you live and serve among, you have more goodbyes. When family, friends, missions teams, and other visitors come to see you, you'll have another slew of goodbyes—some tougher than others.
Family, friends, and furloughs
Then there's furlough time. The more traditional mission agencies require long terms on the field (3-4 years) before going back on furlough. FYI, furloughs are not vacations! They're often stressful and overloaded with meetings.
When you leave to go on furlough, you say goodbye to your friends on the field, both national and ex-pat. When you leave what used to be home to go back to the field, you say a bunch more goodbyes.
I'd like to tell you it gets easier the longer you're on the field, but that wouldn't be accurate. Well, at least not for us, and we aren't so different from most other missionaries.
There's a saying that goes, "The only time a missionary feels at home is on the plane (or boat) going to or from the field."
When are you leaving?
One of the first questions we get asked after arriving on the field is, "When are you leaving?"
At first, it may sound like they can't wait to see you go, but it's deeper than that. Nationals (of any country) who have known and worked alongside western and near-culture missionaries have their own experience with goodbyes.
This is easy to overlook by us western missionary-types, but it's a mistake to do so.
In the cultures of MOTROW, friendships are forever. It's not easy building long-term relationships knowing that one day you'll have to say goodbye.
It's not easy building long-term relationships knowing that one day you'll have to say goodbye.
Our reunion was a Despedida for Rainbow's ministry. Today was the last official work day for the staff, and the giving of their last paychecks (sueldo). It was a tearful time, but of course, a time for pictures, and some laughter!
I told them no tears on Friday! Well... we'll see. At least we're going to a fresh water pool in the mountains, so tears won't be so obvious!
Then Sunday, we turn over the keys to Rainbow's compound to the director of the foundation who blessed us with the property. The next day we close the gate for the last time, as we head to the airport.
I try not to think about that now.