Thursday, July 14, 2016

saying goodbye to my baby girls

i had no idea this would be so hard.
brooke and madi at their new apartment

last week, i said goodbye to my 2 baby girls.  we pulled away from their apartment with tear filled eyes and lumps in our throats, headed to the airport to fly back to our home far away.

i remember when my parents dropped me off at college.  knowing they were a 90 minute drive down I-10 made it pretty unemotional.  i could shoot home on the weekends anytime - and certainly for birthdays and holidays.

not the case this time.  we knew how far away we were going, and knew it would be a long time before we'd see them again.

our youngest, luciana (3yrs) cried and screamed the whole car ride.  "i want the girls!"...  "take me back to their house!"...  "papi, please pleeeease turn the car around!"... tears streaming down her face.

i can't even describe the hurt i was feeling in that moment!  i wanted to ball myself, but tried to be the strong one (yeah right) for my wife, luci, and jake (15) who was no doubt struggling as well.

thankfully as jesus followers, we know that growth comes from pain.  and we know that through our sacrifices, God is glorified.

i am seriously clinging to that - because right now i kinda want to bag the whole missionary thing and hunker down somewhere comfortable and just be with my family.

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ever since God rescued me from a life of empty pursuits and false hopes about 13 years ago, our family has been extremely tight.  i can't even tell you how many times we've been comforted by the fact that "at least we've got each other."  we've been through so much together.  like many families, we've been through tragedy, loss, and pain.  we've done several relocations, including to a third-world country where we didn't speak the language or have any friends.  there's nothing like THAT to bring a family together!

i'll never forget...  we had been in guatemala less than a month when brooke came home from school with a letter notifying parents that one of her classmate's dad had been kidnapped.  the letter contained important safety information and reminders, and asked families to be praying.

we realized right away we were not in suburban north florida anymore!

there's something about growing a family in another culture - especially an underdeveloped country of extreme poverty, corruption and violence - that forms a unique bond.  our kids didn't grow up with a huge social network.  not many extracurricular activities.  no fun youth group.  not even a general feel of safety or confidence to just go hang out with friends...  go to the mall, to a movie, etc. 

girls going away party with the rhinos
one product of an environment such as that, is that it meant we were always together.  and since we love being together, we didn't mind that!  school, work, ministry, weekends, activities...  all together.  in fact the girls were such an instrumental part of our ministry, when we hosted their goodbye party i had never seen so many tears!  the boys were losing not only their "tutors" in the classroom, but their sisters of whom they had grown up with.

for kerrie and i, saying goodbye to them was more than just proudly watching our kids "leave the nest"...  it was more like saying goodbye to life partners and best friends.

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my girls get nervous when they have to speak english in a formal environment.  i never knew that until recently, when they were interviewing for jobs and confessed to me how hard it was for them!  they tend to do/say things that, when speaking spanish, are perfectly appropriate in formal settings, but when speaking english just sound plain weird.  hard to explain, but trusts me...  its a real thing.

they feel awkward in groups of american kids and young adults their age.  their stories and interests just aren't the same.  they would describe it as being the third wheel that just feels awkward or out of place.

despite all of their experiences that will certainly give them a unique perspective on life, there are also some things they never really learned in light of their circumstances.  they can be around extreme poverty, pain, sickness and suffering - and feel right at home.  yet i watched them in a restaurant last week, struggling to figure out how to use the fancy soda machine - and ultimately just letting people pass them so they didn't have to wait on them.  sound silly?  maybe so... but in the moment, those little things can make you feel like a real idiot!  

more importantly though, there is a known thing about MK's and PK's (missionary and pastors kids) that is very true.  they can sometimes grow up in their parents shadow, even leaning on their parents faith and, spiritually speaking, just "go along for the ride."  while i know that is not the case with my girl's (their faith stories are very much their own), i do believe that mom & dad's absence will allow them to grow in their relationship with Jesus.   

we know that this adjustment needs to happen.  it's time to leave the nest.  to learn and experience some things they haven't figured out yet.  to depend more on God.  to round out their "experience and exposure" in helping them become the women that God would have them be.

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our talks with the girls over the last year have centered around one theme.  they are being sent to an american university as missionaries.  the purpose for this move is not to "get a degree" or simply "to go to college."  and its not just to gain the experiences that i already mentioned above.  

that would be the world's logic.  

if they graduate with college degrees in the process, that's great.  and we've encouraged them to work hard at school and do their best.  but most importantly, we send them to represent Jesus in a place where he has in large part been forgotten.  we send them to be a light in the darkness, an extension of love, truth, and grace to a classmate, neighbor, and co-worker.

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the morning after we had arrived back home in guatemala, luciana went to the girls' rooms to wake them up.  i guess she was confused or had forgotten.  when she saw their empty beds, she began to shout their names and sob uncontrollably.

it may take a while for the "new normal" to settle in.  but madi and brooke's empty rooms now serve as a reminder that God has called them to a new phase and a new challenge.  and in the moments when i want to cry and scream "this sucks!" (like right now) i will need to remind myself that growth comes through pain, and God is glorified in sacrifice. 

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yesterday i received an encouraging text from paul davis, who is in honduras with his family planting another buena vista boys academy.  it served as a reminder for me as to why we do hard things as christians.

after heading out to the property of the future boys academy of honduras, he saw that a bunch of local boys were playing soccer on their property.  touched by the moment, he sent the following message to me and a couple others, along with a short video of the boys playing:

Walked onto our beach today and saw this happening...just on its own.  This is why we do what we do.  This is why we leave family and say goodbye to our daughters; why we go thru brutal infection after brutal infection; why we cry and go to bed frustrated and wake up in the same state; why we scratch our head wondering if we heard God correctly.  It's so these boys will find the same Jesus we know and go thru the same trials and ask the same questions...all the while knowing that grace, peace and hope are a few steps away.  We have the honor of doing what Jesus loves, we have the honor of following his leading...we have the honor of being with him thru all that!  Love you guys and thankful for all the crap we go thru together as a team!

it was a beautiful and timely reminder that i needed to hear.

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i can sometimes have strong opinions about american suburban culture, how it can lead to a me-focussed life, centered around ambition, success, fun, sports, activities, and entertainment.  but you know what?  i'd be lying of i said i didn't want it!  that's the whole battle, right?  to fight against the desires of the flesh?

but God asks us to die to ourselves in order to save ourselves.  sacrifice what we want for what He wants.  i'm going after the fruit that comes from sacrifice.  the joy that comes from pain.  may God be glorified as we let go of our own desires for the sake of others, and for his glory.  may he be glorified as we say goodbye to our daughters and return to guatemala to focus on the mission he has called us to.

we must look toward our reward in heaven, instead of our "best life now."  and i am so thankful to have people in my life - my family, my church, my rhinos - to run with in that direction.

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God be with and protect my baby girls - they are more yours than mine.  thank you Jesus that they are best friends.  thank you that they love each other and are so good for each other.  i pray that their foundation of faith holds them up strong when temptation comes.  i pray for comfort over their sensitive hearts when they miss their family.  i ask that they learn to depend on you during this time.  i pray that they shine like bright lights and that people will come to know you because of their witness.  i ask you God to use them for your glory - however you want to.




1 comment:

Eric Horn said...

It's so true what you said about a 'Me-Focused' culture. Unfortunately, it thrives here in America. I know, however, that Brooke and Madi will bring a God-Focused light to everyone they talk to and interact with. It is weird to think that they will be missionaries in the United States, but it just shows us that worldly wealth does not equal spiritual wealth, so they'll be a light to all of us that have forgotten!