Before moving to Zambia I’d heard some semblance of this phrase from many people: “As soon as you step onto the foreign mission field, ‘goodbye’ becomes a much more prevalent part of your life.”
I never doubted the people who told me this per-say…but I willed myself not to believe them; or at least not accept what they were saying. See, goodbyes are ESPECIALLY hard for me. I guess they’re hard for everyone…not just me. I just feel like they are exceptionally hard for me.
I don’t adapt well to big change. Rearrange my room? Awesome. Begin a new schedule? Brilliant. But move across the ocean? Leave friends or have friends who leave? Well, moving across the ocean to Zambia has been AWESOME, but it was very difficult at first; as for the latter mentioned: NEVER brilliant or awesome to me…I love making new friends, but I hate leaving old ones. If someone’s my friend I’m incredibly loyal to that person. I don’t like being separated from those friends because I care about and love them.
Since moving to Zambia, I have had to come to grips with the reality of the statement above. SO many goodbyes have taken place since we’ve lived here; and it’s only been 7 ½ months! We’ve had to say goodbye to a friend who worked with us at Wiphan. We’ve had missionary friends who have gone on leave for different amounts of time. We were playing with our neighbor friends one day and learned that one of our dearest friends had shifted (moved) suddenly. We had to say goodbye to my mom for a month (a sudden trip to the states). And most recently (though while mom was away) I had to say goodbye to nearly all my dearest Zambian friends for 3 months…
Anyone who has followed my blog long knows about my “hospitality friends”, but I’ll quickly recap. There is a class at Wiphan dedicated to teaching skills in hospitality such as how to run a lodge, cook, be a waiter/waitress, etc. In this year’s class (class 10), there are about 10 people with whom I became VERY close friends! Of course, with that large a group, I was closer to some than others, but still…we were a GROUP that stuck together and had fun together!
I’ve spent so much time with these friends over the last seven months in their classroom, visiting with them before class starts, going to lunch with a couple of them, and having them over to my house. I’ve spent so much time in their classroom in fact, people refer to me as a part of the class! I even had a specific seat I sat in. 😉
The truth is, I finally had “best friends” here in Zambia. My desire was to get to know Zambian teens/young adults and become best friends with them. And I did. In no way did they replace my friends in the U.S. (I still talk to some of them almost daily via email, FB, phone, etc.). And in no way could they take the place of the other missionary friends I’ve made here (who can relate to me on levels no one else can); but they made the transition from the states to Zambia so much easier for me just by being friends and by helping me learn and adapt to the culture here.
They made me feel like one of them. When I was with them, I felt Zambian! My white skin didn’t feel so conspicuous after a while. They didn’t provide me with translation of Bemba anymore because they expected me to learn and understand. We talked and laughed about so many things and I truly felt like I fit in!
I know, I’m writing this whole spiel when they’re only going to be gone for three months, but when I was seeing them 2-3 times a week, it feels like a long time! Not to mention, staying in touch with some of them is a bit complicated. And even when they come back, they won’t be in Wiphan’s classroom every day singing and dancing, praying and studying…They’ll graduate and then be done at Wiphan. So in reality, we won’t have experiences and times like we had ever again.
On their last day of school (which just so happened to fall on my 17th birthday =P), I went to Wiphan to spend the day with them. It was such a fun day! But in heart, everyone was sad…It was like our family was breaking apart…The class, Madam Getrude (the teacher), we were a family and now everyone was scattering.
That day was probably the hardest day I’ve had since being here in Zambia. I came home feeling really lonely. My friends in the states who I always talked to were busy that day and besides, they weren’t actually here for me to hug. I missed them….My friends in the hospitality class just left for 3 months. I missed them too…My mom was in the states and I couldn’t vent to her. I missed her…My dad and my brothers were here and I told Dad what a hard time I was having; but even still, I missed everyone.
I struggled with knowing that life is never going to truly be “normal”. Changes will come. Goodbyes will be present. A “groove” may last for a while, but it won’t always be there. This was a hard thing to accept and come to grips with. And I don’t feel like I’ve fully done either of those things (accepted or come to grips); but I’m getting there.
Through these hard times, I know it’s okay to grieve. It’s natural for goodbyes and change to be hard. I know that. (Before I moved to Zambia, a man from our church wisely said to me, “I think there would be something wrong with you if this wasn’t at least a little hard for you.” lol) But on the other hand, I’m coming to realize Christ is enough for me! I don’t mean I don’t need friends or now value my friends any less. Heck no! What I’m saying is I’m valuing Christ more. I’m seeing the beauty of an intimate relationship with Him. He binds up the brokenhearted as he has proven to me over and over when different changes have come in my life and I have been that “brokenhearted” person.
Do I still miss my friends in the states? Y.E.S.!!! Do I miss my hospitality friends! YESS! Did I miss my mom that night when I was really sad? You know it! But in that moment, as in many others, I found my comfort in Christ. I found comfort and contentment in my Savior who truly is enough for me…!! I’m thankful the Lord is my friend whom I can call upon at any time…I don’t truly know what I would do without Him in my life!