Saying goodbye is never easy.
When this article posts, our family will be getting on a plane in four days. We’ll be permanently relocating to North America.
I still remember the flight on May 16th, 2006. We were flying from Port Moresby to Alotau, Papua New Guinea. I looked at my wife and 10 month old daughter and got the most horrible feeling in my stomach.
What was I getting myself into? I had hauled them both halfway around the world, and I felt scared. Scared that I wouldn’t have the wisdom necessary. Scared that culture shock would be too hard. Scared that we might encounter theft or violence.
Our first night in Alotau was a sleepless one. I heard every noise. The cries of babies. The crackle of nearby fires. The pestering of mosquitos. The beating kundu drums in the distance.
I wondered if I’d ever sleep restfully as long as we lived in Alotau.
My firstborn daughter was 10 months old when we moved here six years ago. This is the world she knows. The same is true for my other two kids who also know PNG as home.
Last furlough when we went through Australia, my daughter was excited and asked if we knew there were traffic lights in Australia. She said it like we did an injustice to her by not telling her. (There are no traffic lights in Alotau.)
When we showed up for church in Auckland, she asked why the church has walls (our church just has a roof).
We’re going to be going through a lot of changes. All of us.
What was a strange and exotic land six years ago has unsuspectingly become home.
And there will be a lot of things I miss.
What I’ll Miss
- Friends – We’ve made some good friends here – both locals and expatriates. Over the last six years, we’ve had funny experiences, painful ones, troubling encounters, and deeply meaningful ones. I’ll miss that.
- Church – When you’ve worked with a group of people for a long time as their minister, you get to know their deepest secrets. Many people feel comfortable talking to me because they know that I know what they’ve been through. I feel sad that I won’t be around to help those people any longer. I entrust that to God and to those who will continue the work of ministry here.
- The Opportunity to Grow and Learn – My faith grows while I think through questions I’ve never been asked before. Just last week, someone was telling me how they believe that fireflies are spirits of ancestors so they rebuke them in Jesus’s name. She was wondering if that was a good thing to do. I promise you that they don’t teach a response to that at graduate school.
- Tropics – Every Sunday I wear long pants (basically just out of habit). Otherwise, I always wear shorts. Sometimes when it gets down to 83 degrees, the kids will ask if they can have hot tea to warm them up.
- Generous Hearts – The people in Milne Bay (the province we live) have taught us so much about hospitality and generosity. I’ve felt bad on numerous occasions accepting gifts from people, but I do because I know they are doing it in response to God’s gift to them.
- Carefree Time Culture – As I type this article, I’m not wearing a watch. I usually do, but I also enjoy a this culture where visiting someone is more important than making it to your next meeting.
- Our Family Schedule – Stores close at 5 p.m. and by 6 p.m. most people are in their houses. Over the last six years, I’ve had almost every breakfast, lunch, and dinner sitting at the table with my family. Yes, there have been exceptions, but I’m expecting that North American life will plan more events than we’re used to. Here, we have so much time being together as a family.
- Pressure Free Clothing – When my wife and I did a trial pack, all our clothes (together) fit into one suitcase. I wear clothes with stains and rips and no one cares. All that will change soon. In Malaysia, I’m going to be preaching. The best I can come up with is a pair of running shoes, khakis, and a stained dress shirt.
- Fresh, Organic food – Since my wife buys the food at the market, I know it will be hard to get fresh tasting food like that! While we’re talking about food, I’ll miss the greens and pumpkins!
- Probably a Million Other Things – I’m sure in about 6 months this list will be a hundred times longer and the ‘what I won’t miss’ list will shrink.
We’d appreciate your prayers over the next few weeks and months as our family goes through this big transition.
Starting on Monday, we’ll be having the MH4C Writers Challenge so I’ll be ‘going dark’ for a little while. I’ll respond to comments when appropriate and oversee administrative tasks, but mostly I’m going to focus my energy on ministering to my wife and kids as we go through this transition.