Last weekend a couple of the other local short termers, Kim and Katherine, were taking some time off from their ministry location by staying at our AIM guest house. One of these ladies, Kim has quickly become a friend and she invited me to sleepover in her room and watch some movies. With no other hip happening Saturday night plans I took her up on the offer even though the guest house is 3 minutes from my house.
We decided to watch The Fault In Our Stars. It’s based on a best selling book and has gotten very positive reviews from critics (80% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty high). You know when the girl has an oxygen tube around her nose in the poster that you’re going to cry and likely pretty hard. So with that, we settled in ready to release some emotion. What we didn’t expect was how much… I have not cried like that in a really long time and especially not from a movie (and I cry pretty easily). The movie was relentless in it’s emotional tearing of your heartstrings. At one point she looked over only to see me also sobbing with an ugly cry face to match her own and said, “Oh my gosh it’s like someone actually died. I feel like I need to throw up I’m crying so hard.” We then burst in to hysterical laughter at this sad state of the two of us crying over these fake people in a fictional story.
As I sat there with Kim recovering after the movie, both of us with runny noses and puffy eyes we got to talking about various aspects of living abroad and missions and being single out here. We talked about all the different people I’d seen come through the short term office and about some of the different conversations and experiences I’d had with these people. The variety of missionaries who come out is both the most challenging and most beautiful aspect of my job. Everyone’s journey here is unique and I often find I have to remind myself of this fact to have a little more patience when trying to help everyone.
As we fell asleep Kim said, “You know its funny that a month ago I had no idea I’d be laying in this room with you having this conversation.” To which I responded, “We didn’t even know we’d be laying here together last week.” I thought to myself, how lovely and unexpected is this moment right now being emotional and vulnerable with a sister. But how sad that after we both depart Kenya we’ll probably never see each other again. I’m a fairly sentimental person and have difficulty letting go of things that have meaning to me. I like to hang on to cards and photos and some very useless items that for whatever reason. In high school, I saved a coke bottle I shared with a boy that I liked and when I had my first boyfriend saved every ticket stub for every movie we saw. So the idea that I might lose contact with someone that means something to me or who I value is hard to come to terms with.
What I’ve realized and continually so, is that on the mission field and in life in general, you are constantly in motion. People come and go. Even in my 8 months here so far, the number of goodbyes I’ve had is really quite exhausting and almost enough to make you not want to invest in people. However, to do that would be foolish and missing opportunity for some incredible relationships. A long term (20 plus years here) missionary told me that you just have to to accept and see that some relationships were only meant to be for short periods of time but that doesn’t make them any less valuable or valid. For that season in life, for whatever God’s planned, there is worth to being friends or investing in someone and something to be gleaned from that relationship. Doesn’t make saying goodbye any less difficult but I believe it makes it more bearable knowing that the relationship was worth the pain of the farewell. Even as I posted this but hadn’t shared to Facebook, I ran into another missionary here at the grocery store who gave me this nugget of wisdom, “If you’ve loved well, it hurts to say goodbye.” So I’m going to hurt a lot because I want to love well.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… a time to weep and a time to laugh.
This moment, the here and now, right in front of me is never going to happen again. I will never be in this place with these people in the same way. Sure, I might and likely will come back and see some of the same people but the experience will be different. This even extends to my return to Canada. When I get back there things will be different, friend dynamics, people getting married and having babies, moving away and keeping busy. Life is dynamic and ever changing. So I encourage you, wherever you are right now, take stock of the moment around you because before you know it, it will have passed you and you’ll never get it back.
To all the short termers both in and not in the above photos, know that you’ve had an impact on my year and helped shape me in my role here. Hopefully, I’ll see you again but if not… okay…