The photos in this post are nothing special—in fact, the only distinguishing characteristic many might be able to discern is how incredibly unremarkable they are. But for me, they represent the parting shots of two cities which have played a significant role in my life in the last four years.
As you read this post, I’ll be arriving in Houston from Luanda, Angola. Right now, as I write, I’m sitting in the Taag Airlines lounge listening to a deafeningly loud chime announce the departure of yet another flight. I’m tired and I miss my family, as I’ve not seen them for nearly two weeks. But I’m also a bit sad to be leaving.
In my current job (the one I’m leaving in about a month), I have had the pleasure of traveling to both Soyo and Luanda, Angola for two weeks at a time, on about 9-10 occasions since 2011. If you add this up, it makes about 5 months in 4 years. I’ve seen Soyo roads turn from rutted, muddy puddles into multifunctional asphalt-paved marvels. I’ve seen buildings and parks rise up out of nothingness in Lunada. I’ve even witnessed the passing of an age, as Soyo dismantled their old airport terminal (complete with guard chickens on the tarmac and a grain scale for the luggage) and replaced it with a shiny, new, air-conditioned glass-and-steel marvel. And this trip is/was my last.
Through these trips and the training and exercises that I’ve conducted here, I’ve made many friends—people for whom my heart genuinely warms when I see their faces. There are the fire chiefs at the plant, who are both good-old-boys—one from the deep South of the US, and the other from England; the rotating employees who live nomadic lifestyles, traveling the world on their 28 days off; the expat residents who have hosted me in their homes, fed me home-cooked meals, and washed my laundry out of the overwhelming kindness in their hearts. And then, there are the Angolans—fire fighters, emergency response specialists and managers who are also mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and children.
All of these friends have allowed me to experience their company again and again; they embrace me with a huge smile and a warm hug when I arrive, and see me off with wistful handshakes, wishing me well as I make the nearly twenty-four-hour trip home. I can truly say that I love these people. And I’ll never see most of them again. This is the sadness which weighs heavily on my heart—the sadness of the realization that in saying hello to the calling God has for our family, we must, inevitably, also say goodbye to those who are currently in our lives.
This was one of my hardest trips recently, as I bid farewell to my friends, and to these places. I know, however, that this experience—the goodbye in the hello, if you will—is far from over. Every member of our family will experience this sadness-bound-in-excitement over and over and over again as we prepare to leave what we know and follow the path God has for us. We know He has a cool plan for us. We know He’s got things figured out. We know He understands the sorrow we are feeling. But it can still be challenging sometimes.
And this trip was, for me, the first of the lasts to come—the last trip to Angola, the last time I’ll see these friends, the last work Christmas party, the last day of homeschool, the last time we have dinner with our beloved friends, the last time we attend our home church, the last time we see our grandparents, the last time we close the front door of our current home.
Fortunately, all of these lasts are countered by new firsts—the first story-gathering trip with Wycliffe, the first time I meet new friends in new countries, the first team meetings, the first day of school at our new missionary-kid school, the first time we share a meal with our new neighbors, the first time we attend the church God leads us to, the first time we open the door to our new home in Germany.
So, as we enter this new season of lasts and firsts, please pray for our family—we’re going to need it. Pray that we are able to enjoy and cherish this season of lasts. Pray that our children are able to have the time with friends and family members that they need to have. Pray that we will be receptive to how God will lead us in using the time we have left in our current situation. And pray for the new beginnings, too—that God will continue to make the way for us in our new host country and that we will be able to enjoy and cherish these times, too.
Thank you, so much, for your continued love and support. We feel it and appreciate it.