As you know, the life of a global worker is one of repeated comings and goings, partings and arrivals, gains and losses, unfamiliars becoming familiars. When you left home for the field there were things you chose to do. When you depart for the U.S. again for furlough or a more permanent assignment there will be another list of things “to do.” When you leave the U.S. after a furlough to return to a field assignment, either the same or different, you will have another list of “to dos.” The following represents a partial list of concerns you are likely to encounter as you leave one place for another and some possible “to do’s” for you to consider.
INTERPERSONAL CONFLICT: Did you know that one of the things people most often fail “to do” as they leave a place is to resolve interpersonal differences. In an effort to keep peace, individuals will sometimes ignore serious conflicts. This can occur in any situation but it is especially likely if we think we may be leaving behind forever a disturbing relationship. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” tempts us to think we can run away from troublesome interpersonal problems. In 1 John 1:7 we are encouraged to “walk in the light” in order that we might “have fellowship with one another.” A proper resolution of ongoing conflicts is an important kind of ‘walking in the light.” If we choose to ignore such conflicts we take a piece of the dark with us to our next assignment. Not only have we left something important unfinished, but we take this pattern of not resolving conflict with us and are likely to repeat it
GOOD-BYES: This is the rule of the 4 “P”s; people, places, possessions, and pets. An important task to accomplish as you leave one place for another is to say “good-bye.” When IRs talk about saying good-byes, they most frequently describe large get-togethers with people who were significant to them in the place they leave. Friends, co-workers, and disciples constitute the most significant loss for most IRs as they move.
It is also important to say “good-bye” to possessions, places, and pets. For some MKs the loss of favorite toys or books can be a loss that lasts. My sons have never forgiven me for selling their wooden blocks. Those blocks had crossed seas to reach us in Nairobi, Kenya from our home in San Bernardino! They were a part of our sons’ daily lives for a decade or more. How could I have been so thoughtless as to sell them without first asking Bobby, Damon, Adam, and Mark for permission to do so. This was one of those occasions when I did a poor job of helping my children say “good-bye.”
A special “good-bye” opportunity we provided for our family was to revisit important places. During our last months in Kenya, we had a final holiday at the coast. We also spent a weekend at our favorite camping place. While at Lake Naivasha we listened to hippos and just generally relaxed. We also met together as a family and talked (and cried) through how each of us was feeling about leaving our home. We also shared expectations (good and bad) about our next assignment in the U.S. This brief sharing time in a special place provided a platform for us to talk again and again after we arrived stateside.
GRIEF: It is important to acknowledge that all leavings contain elements of loss. When we lose something or someone that is valuable to us we must grieve that loss. Some will do this easily and in a brief time, perhaps with little awareness. Others will need more time for the same purpose. Even while we gain new friends and experiences as we move into a new environment, we also experience the loss of what we left behind. For some people, to lose possessions is also significant.
ALLOW FOR INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES: There is no single correct way to leave one place for another. Leaving well is a significant key to entering well. For different people, leaving well looks different. All of the points above apply to children as well as to adults. If you have children, be sure to factor their needs into your leaving plans. The older they are the more important it is for them to ponder some of these things well ahead of the actual departure date.
ENTER YOUR NEW ASSIGNMENT WHOLEHEARTEDLY: Expect God to enable you to enter well. He has called you to your new assignment He will also enable you to fulfill that call.
View the original print magazine where this article was first published.