Once again I have had to go through some painful goodbyes. On Monday I left the Wycliffe Centre (the Head Quarters of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK), after having lived there for three months making new friends and valuing every moment with old friends. As I drove home, I felt an incredible sense of loss at the thought of never seeing some of those people again or never being able to spend the same kind of time with them that I have enjoyed until now.
This has caused me to think about the meaning of ‘sacrifice’. People often say that missionary life is one of sacrifice, but I wonder what they understand by that. Do they think of how we’ve given up the chance to have a well paid job? Do they think of how we’ve said goodbye to certain privileges such as good healthcare or reliable electricity? Do they think of not being able to enjoy the luxuries of life such as going to the cinema or nice restaurants?
It might be surprising to hear that I don’t consider any of these a sacrifice. Why? Because inherent in the word ‘sacrifice’ is pain, and missing out on the above things doesn’t really bother me that much. Yes, they make life difficult and uncertain at times, but I would rather be in Tanzania than have any of those things.
However, what does bring pain, is goodbyes. For me, the biggest sacrifice of being a missionary is the loss of stability in relationships. We are always moving around ourselves or saying goodbye to others who are moving. Saying goodbye to friends often feels so final. Even though I am thankful for Skype and email, they can never take the place of face to face contact, of living with or close to someone or of working with someone. And that is painful.
God never said that life serving Him would be easy, in fact Jesus said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). However, I find comfort in the fact that I don’t do that alone, Jesus walks beside me, He is my good shepherd who leads and guides me through both the good times and the dark times (Psalm 23). This doesn’t take the pain out of the sacrifice, but it does bring comfort, and also provides hope for the future, when one day I will live in my permanent home that Jesus is getting ready for me right now, and I’ll never have to say goodbye again!
Valuing every moment with friends