Goodbyes are not easy, and hopefully not forever…
Or so goes a familiar, oft used cliché. However, for those who have come back from mission’s trips before, I believe this saying means just a little bit more. How do you say goodbye to those who have become like family to you? How do you let go of children and young people who you’ve only known one week and yet seem to have known your whole life? How do you say goodbye to family and friends whom you haven’t seen in almost a year and their time with you seems like a flash in the night sky? These were a few of the questions Loriann and I faced for the first time here in Ukraine. Today’s goodbyes will not be easy.
Saturday morning began early for our team. We awoke to a loud knock on our train compartment door at 4:55am. Time to get up and prepare for our 5:55am arrival in Kiev! (Who booked this train anyways!?) Praise the Lord, most everyone was up in time to use the bathrooms on our car before they were locked, those who weren’t soon crossed their legs and prayed McDonalds would be open when we arrived at the station. I assure you, traveling by train is an adventure every time!
Once again the Lord gave great unity as we off loaded and moved 25 pieces of luggage (some heavier than others…Girls!) plus backpacks, purses and computer bags from our train car, down two flights of stairs, up an escalator, back down two more flights of stairs and into a luggage storage room. Thirty minutes later we were feeling light and ready to eat. Golden Arches here we come!
After being refreshed by Double Sausage McMuffins, we were off to spend our last few hours in Ukraine.
A local supermarket was soon invaded; where the team bought last minute chocolates, strange local drinks and other gastronomic oddities to take back home to unsuspecting loved ones. We also hit up a local outdoor market looking for just the right set of teacups, belts with big buckles and tee shirts that you would never buy while your wife is with you… Pastor Luke! Yes our team had a lot of fun.
By now the countdown was seriously on and so we headed back over to McD’s (yes, twice in one day) for some more cold beverages and something to hold us over for the next couple of long hours.
It is now one o’clock and we are once again surrounded by all of our luggage. As our ride to the airport pulls up, tears begin to fall as most of the team says goodbye to our wonderful interpreters, Arseni and Misha. What a blessing they have been on this trip. We literally could not have done what we did, said what we said, touched the hearts of those we touched without Liuba and these two guys. God, in His wisdom, gave us three young people who love Him and were willing to do whatever needed done. They went WAY beyond expectations. As goodbyes are said, it is clearly seen how much God had used these three to bless us as well.
And now we are at the airport waiting to check in. We have a little time to stand still, to breathe a bit. After 12 days of running (or walking) none stop… literally, it feels good to stand still. Yet as I stand there in line, I find my mind cannot rest. In one way I can’t believe this trip is over, in another way, I know the work God started has only just begun. And so I am hit by remembrances of how each one of these dear friends has blessed me these past two weeks. I remember the way Pastor Luke challenged us each morning and the way he loved the children each afternoon. I remember Sarah’s laughter, the joy she exudes and the many smiles she captured in photos. I remember Tiffani’s heart for our two Russian boys and her quick smile, even when she was hot and tired. I can’t help but smile as I remember Rebecca’s energy and enthusiasm each and every game time, as well as her love for the girls on her team. How will I ever forget the picture of John as he swings a sledgehammer and pushes over a wall or carries a sack of potatoes up from the basement for a Babushka? Or Ben as he is surrounded by children who just want to be near him, or carries a soup pot for the ladies in the kitchen. Then there is Stephanie, quiet and yet always willing to help or hug a child. I will remember Elyssa for playing the Boomerang Song faster than I could sing, and always having little girls in her arms. I remember Seth coming in from game time, sweat pouring off his face, but only pausing for a quick drink of water before going down stairs to teach a Bible lesson. And how can anyone forget Jay!? From the amazing monkey he played, to the boys who were always following him, to the laughter he gave to all near him, Jay in Ukraine will be remembered forever. And last but not least, I remember the quiver in Ruth’s voice Sunday night as she gave testimony to God’s greatness. I remember her tears as she said goodbye to the girls she had grown to love and I was reminded of my first missions trip as I watched her experience hers. These and so many more will stick with me for a long time to come.
And now it is time to let go and say goodbye. I’ve never been very good at saying goodbyes. Maybe it’s denial, or maybe it’s faith that I’ll see you once again. Whatever it is, I always walk away, knowing there was so much more I could have/should have said. So those of us staying wave as we loose sight of those leaving, while I say a quick prayer asking God to not let this be the last goodbye.
And here’s what I’m thinking. You’ll just have to come back to Ukraine… so we can say goodbye one more time.