To begin, I want to reaffirm that God has called us to the life that we live, first in Bolivia and soon in Liberia. It has been good. He has been faithful in every detail of our lives. We have had struggles, questions and, dare I say it, doubts. We have also had innumerable good times, good friends, and good ministry. I say it again: God has been faithful to us in every way. But following God's call does not always mean traveling the easy road nor living without difficulties and, at times, sacrifices.
So as we come to this transition I find myself struggling a bit with what God's call requires in order for me to go faithfully ahead. I have never considered myself to be very materialistic. And while I do have a box or two of memorabilia that I have hung on to throughout the years, I have learned to hold things pretty loosely. But selling out in Bolivia, seeing all our stuff, stuff that was a part of our lives and often a part of very happy memories, being sold or given away was a bit sad for me. All my years in Bolivia coming down to a garage sale and things abandoned on the curb.
Stuff is stuff and, while it was sad to see it go, I am now past those feelings. We will collect more stuff in Liberia, I am sure. And we will have many good times and memories without the stuff that we have left behind. But there is another issue that is a bit more complicated. When we arrived in Bolivia in 1986, we had one child, Heather. When we said good-bye to my Mom and Niki's parents we were also saying good-bye to Heather's grandparents. As we added our other children, they too would be saying good-bye to Grandparents who dearly loved them.
It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but absence also helps one to adjust to life without the absent person. So grandparents' lives go on without the presence of their grandchildren. Grandchildren grow without the level of relationship that they could have had with their grandparents. While God does provide other aunts and uncles in the members of the missionary community at large (Mark and Millie Frink became grandparents to our children) it does not change the fact that the grandparent/grandchild relationship will never be what it might have been had the grandparents had more physical access to the grandchildren. One of my children made the revealing remark when my mother died that she was saddened by the loss of her grandmother especially in part that she never really got to know her.
As the parents, we were aware that we were interrupting this relationship by taking our children to another part of the world as we followed God's call. To their credit, our parents never begrudged us doing that. As my mother-in-law has expressed many times, she would rather have her children and grandchildren in another country in God's will than next door out of his will.
But now the tide is turning. We have the two most special grandkids in the world. And we are leaving them.
For the first time I am beginning to understand the sacrifice that was thrust upon our parents when we took their grandchildren a continent away. And to make matters more interesting, our grandchildren will be living in Bolivia answering God's call on their family to minister to orphans in his name. While we have already said our good-byes to them in person, I am feeling the sadness that comes from not knowing when we will see them again in person. I am grateful for internet face to face communication but it is not the same as holding them in your arms with real skin to skin intimacy. And there is a sadness that our relationship will not be all that it would be if we were all together frequently. But I find some comfort in knowing that God will give them other grandparents, aunts and uncles who will love them and contribute to their lives. And we too will find other grandchildren to love as we minister to the children that come our way in Liberia.
And so as I say good-bye to stuff and people it is with mixed emotions - a bit of sadness, a touch of depression, a small longing for what might have been. And yet there is an excitement as to what will be as God continues to call and extend his faithfulness in our lives.