My sister’s last call from the airport has become an annual tradition.
It marks the end of summer for me as much as back to school sales and football season.
Tanya calls to tell me goodbye before her family travels for 36 hours to settle back into their way of life in Thailand.
I treasure that she’ll call for one more farewell, because I know she’s already been saying goodbye for a couple of weeks. Her heart is tender from the last goodbye to grandparents, extended family and dear friends who love them deeply.
But our call is like that final wave as they round the corner out of sight.
This time she called me Monday before supper. They had returned the rental car, checked in their bags and were settled at the gate of departure. We reviewed the summer with gratitude for the times we shared together. And we talked about what’s ahead in the fall for both of our families. Then we said goodbye one more time.
Later that night I went to bed arranging my pillows for comfort while she and her family adjusted plane seats and scrolled through the movie listing. First stop—Qatar. Final destination—Chiang Rai, Thailand.
I said a prayer for their travels. And I prayed for their hearts. Because it’s not easy saying goodbye. And missionaries say goodbye a lot.
Where Tanya and Troy work—CRICS International, they say goodbye to families at the end of every school year who won’t continue to work in Thailand. Their kids say goodbye to best friends who won’t be back the next year. The parents say goodbye to each other as they transition into new areas of service
They barely finish their farewells in June when they’re back in the states saying hello to family and friends. I imagine it eases the pain a little, except that it won’t be long before they say goodbye again to their stateside circles to return to their life in Thailand—where they’ll be reminded of who isn’t returning.
Back in Chiang Rai ,they muster the courage for new beginnings and new friendships while their hearts are still tender from stateside farewells. And even as they begin anew, they’re aware that farewells will be part of the near future.
Everyone’s job has unique challenges. But this week, I’m reminded that a unique challenge for missionaries, and their whole family, is the heavy lifting they do to say goodbye.
Farewells are woven frequently into the rhythm of a missionary’s life.
And often they have little time to recover from their grief as they pour their energy into the next transition.
So if you happen to say goodbye to a missionary anytime soon, remember, you are one of many of their farewells. And when you pray for their safe travels, remember to pray for their tender hearts.
This morning I received a text from Tanya at 4:04 a.m.—in case I forgot that she’s on the other side of the world now.
“Hi family! We made it safe and sound with all our luggage back to Chiang Rai. Much love.”
So Tanya and the Stuarts are back in Thailand. And whistles from football practice interrupt the quiet of my backyard. I guess it’s time for me to say farewell to summer.
In the meantime, I’ll keep praying my sister’s family whom I love and respect. They arrived safely. But I imagine their hearts are still tender.
And I’ll keep praying for all the missionaries I know. I hope you’ll join me.
May God comfort their tender hearts, and give them courage to navigate a life with frequent farewells and new beginnings.
Tanya and Troy work at an international school, CRICS, established for missionary families in the region. Check out their site here if you’re interested in teaching kids whose families serve as missionaries in the region as well as children of local Thai families who are introduced to the Christian way of life through education.