It is November, which means we have less than one month before we leave for Papua New Guinea.
While there is certainly a lot of excitement and anticipation for the beginning of our mission there, we also keenly feel the pain of saying goodbye to life here. We’ve said goodbye to our home, to our cars, and to the majority of our possessions. But most of all, we’ve had to say goodbye to a large number of people we love. These goodbyes started months ago as we visited family and friends in Ohio and Kentucky back in April. But they are escalating as our departure draws closer. We said goodbye to more family during a smattering of family reunions over the summer and into the fall. This past Sunday we said goodbye to many dear friends at Camelback Bible Church as they prayerfully sent us off. On November 23, our home church, Grace Bible, will also have a send off for our team. And then on November 30, Lord-willing, we say goodbye to life here entirely for at least the next 3 and a half years (before our first furlough).
Saying goodbye to good things is hard. But it is worth it. So many before us have given up lands, family, freedoms, securities, comforts, and their very lives for the sake of making disciples who joyfully worship Jesus Christ. Many have labored and many have died. God promises there will be losses and persecutions as we follow after him. But he also promises: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). And the book of Hebrews speaks of a great cloud of witnesses who spur us on to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. And Martin Luther, who suffered much for the cause of extolling the Word of God, wrote: “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever!” And Hudson Taylor, after all the trails, sacrifices, and pains of the mission field, famously said: “I never made a sacrifice.”
While goodbyes are hard and parting is painful, in the end there really is no loss. Think of all the martyrs since Acts 7 who have long forgotten their losses and have been enjoying eternal fellowship with God for decades, centuries, and millennia. It makes me want to join Amy Carmichael (a missionary to India) in a prayer of hers that took the form of a poem:
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.
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