Goodbyes & New Beginnings
“Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.”
D i e t r i c h B o n h o e f f e r
My voice echoes through our empty home, both startling me and making the baby laugh as he tries out his own newfound babbling talents. Carpets on the floor and thoughtfully placed decorations on the wall once padded this now empty box, turning the cold into cozy. The new bare starkly contrasts the once colorfully decorated row house on the end that we have called home for a year and a half.
It’s our 4th time to move in 3 years. Not just move, but move countries and once again say goodbye to all earthly possessions that won’t fit in our suitcases.
Following Jesus requires obedience. And I believe that as our family has let go of earthly possessions, watching memories of that which we deemed so special simply fade away, the preciousness of Jesus as our all-satisfying treasure, has been gained.
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ”
P h i l i p p i a n s 3 : 8
But this initial saying goodbye to this home has proved a little bit harder than I expected…
At first everything within these walls felt foreign. From not having a kitchen for 6 weeks to the icy cold floors that accompanied the European winters. Coming from Central Asia made this European home feel even more confusing at first. Hospitable Central Asian neighbors of the past made the private European neighbors of the present seem cold and unfriendly. But as the movers arrived and disassembled the kitchen that was used to love my family and those the Lord brought to our front door, I felt a sudden rush of sadness wash over me. I wanted them to stop and put it all back together so I could bake with my kids just one more time. So that I could give my baby one more sink bath. So that I could prepare one more cup of tea for a guest.
Where a large dining room table once fed Syrian refugees as they heard of Christ there now sits a few stray pieces of trash waiting to be thrown away. The grey couch that once lined the wall, cradling my three older children as they met their baby brother for the first time, left weeks ago. Now all that remains is a mother who glances where the grey couch once stood and treasures the memory in her heart. The walls that heard Central Asians worshipping within them now lay bare with a few scuffs still needing to be cleaned. Yes, somewhere along the way, this house became home and it’s with joyful sorrow that we say goodbye. Goodbye to the home where joy was fought for, and through Christ, won. Goodbye to the place where the baby started crawling, and where childhood birthday parties were held. Goodbye to where a marriage was strengthened through adversity and where the gospel was shared with those who had never heard. Goodbye to the home where friends visited from America, even bringing me a “baby shower in a suitcase,” Christmas gifts were unwrapped, news of death was received, pregnancy discovered, desperate prayers whispered, and where no matter what went on within the walls of number 68, God’s grace was always enough.
During intense cultural shock days I wouldn’t have believed you that roots were growing deep in the soil of our lives. But they were and grow deep they did. Our children reached a fluency in language I can only dream of attaining and made friendships that are now, with tears, ending. It’s with joy that we move forward, following the Lord in obedience but it’s with sorrow that we clean and pack up and leave behind that which has become beloved.
It’s been 3 years since we left America. These 3 years have contained more happiness than I can express from the way we saw God move, showing us His wonders along the way, to the welcoming of our precious 4th child. These years have included great adventure full of new foods, language learning, exploring ancient Biblical sites, and traveling throughout countless countries. These years have included great spiritual growth as we have learned the necessity of living in complete dependence on God, as well as just how powerful and steadying true hope is. These years have also had funny moments like trying to figure out how to use unusual bathrooms or embarrassing myself by uncontrollably gagging on a bowl of warm intestine soup. But these years have also included brokenness as we’ve grieved deaths back in America outside of community, felt the sting of rejection, seen unimaginable sinfulness, fought intense spiritual warfare, and experienced gut-wrenching loneliness that I wouldn’t wish upon even an enemy.
Looking back to the person I was before we moved…in someways she is unrecognizable today. I was pushed to live outside of my comfort zone, resulting in being stretched, molded, and refined to be more like Christ. And although the process included pain, I could not be more thankful. The cost of discipleship meant following my husband as He followed Jesus to a country I did not initially want to go to. I traded my dream of being a full time stay-at-home mom for being a full time language student as my toddler stayed with a Muslim nanny that I could not even communicate with for months. I endured lonely days and nights and longing for sisterhood and a women’s Bible study with childcare and breakfast, complete with lady retreats. I missed American conveniences like drive-thrus and Walmart and I saw what my faith was truly made of when my kids were flying around in the back of a seatbeltless taxi as he reversed in the dark around a round-about.
That being said, I wouldn’t trade these last 3 years for the world. I am so thankful God sustained us and gave us strength to finish and not give up – because there were days I begged my husband to let us go home. I praise the Lord for showing me that His Word is full of power, still changing lives today. I am grateful for the believers back in America who have faithfully prayed for us and sent us encouragement when we came to mind. I will never forget those of you who flew to see us and sent us care packages. We are all in this together and the way you have cared for us, even from the other side of the world, has meant more to us than you know.
So it’s with great joy that we finish our first term on the mission field. We will fight the urge to look back and continue forward in this race, with eyes on Jesus and expectant hearts for the way He will continue to lead us. We ask for your prayers as we transition back into life in America, all the while preparing for an upcoming move back to Central Asia for our second term. Please pray that our children will see parents who follow Jesus no matter the cost, and for the Lord to be near their grieving hearts. Also, please lift up those that we leave behind – trust with us that the Lord is sovereign and that He will continue to work in the hearts of those who have now heard the gospel and who now have Bibles in their possession.
We love you all and pray that wherever you are, that you will love God with all your heart, and that you will love your neighbor as yourself.
“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
A c t s 20 : 24
Jesus has been everything we have needed.
He has been & is worth it all.