The title of this blog comes from a phrase in tok pisin (aka Melanesian pidgin – the language we most use to communicate here) which can be translated as “Going and coming” or “going back and forth”
Living in Ukarumpa, we live in a place that is both settled/permanent and transient. There are families like ours who live and work in Ukarumpa full-time. Other families, such as two who are in our Bible study, live part of their lives in the village where they are doing translation work. A final group of people are the short-term workers, who come for 1 or 2 years and then return to their passport country, sometimes they come back, sometimes they don’t. The community is constantly in flux as new people arrive in the country and others leave, either to return again or not. Those who leave on furlough sometimes, unexpectedly, end up not returning for various reasons.
A few weeks ago I got the privilege of sending off on furlough, a family that is very close to ours here in Ukarumpa. They will be gone for 10 months and then God willing, they will return to us who will in the meantime miss them very much. This is the first time their two youngest children have ever been to America. They were born in the Philippines and PNG respectively). Then the following week we said goodbye to another very close family. They will hopefully returning in about a year.
|Little ones contemplating their exciting plane ride|
|Clare is Andrew's wife and my very good friend. She is from the UK|
and Evan says he can always tell when I have been hanging out with her lots
as my pattern of speech and inflection changes to be more"British".
|Amazing to get smiles out of these guys. Andrew is a small engines mechanic and indepesible at the autoshop. He is also an awesome friend who keeps us laughing. He is an American MK raised in Peru. He has served in PNG for over 10 years.|
It is a tradition and a way of easing the pain of saying goodbye to go to the airstrip with your friends and wave them off.
It is way more fun to go there when they return. Or you are having people come visit.
|Grandparents [Liz's mom and dad] come to visit in 2014 - Liam went straight for them...Julien was more interested in trying to get a plane ride (:|
We are still learning the value of “saying goodbye well”. For us, this means when you say goodbye, you don’t know if you will ever see this person on earth again, even if plans say you will. So, you try to hold that relationship somewhat loosely, while cherishing it.
Liam still talks about a friend he made in preschool, who was from Sweden, here on a short-term mission with his family. We talk sometimes about maybe visiting one day. But the reality is that we may never see him or his family this side of heaven again. This is the case with at least a 1/3 of the friends we make on the field or in passport countries.
One of the benefits is that there is always a “new kid” at school and at work, so the children and the adults are more aware and more welcoming than our more insular passport countries can be.
There are of course the possible “downsides” that we as parents to third-culture-kids need to watch for and help guide our kids through these transitions as they come. Sometimes kids who grow up in environments such as ours can have struggles when moving between cultures in growing friendships and maintaining ties to family. Fortunately, now more than ever before there is information and people who are experienced in ministering to the parents and the kids themselves and more and more parents are cognizant of the need to shepherd their kids through concepts of grieving, transition, and all sorts of cultural/worldview mind-shifts that are becoming ever more relevant in our shrinking world. Technological advances in recent years for video calls, texting internationally, blogging and so forth have helped, but has also put pressures on missionaries and their families to keep up with everyone “back home” and keep everyone informed as well.
I suppose the main point I would like to make here is that one of the things that makes this community special and wonderful can also be a major stressor in our lives, and one that doesn’t really get easier or let up. We are constantly saying goodbye. But that means we are also frequently saying hello. Pray that we that while we can continue to say goodbye well, we can also say “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here” just as well.