Saying Goodbye

This week we say goodbye to two families that have been doing good work
here in PNG.
Both families are leaving due to health issues concerning their children.

There is an emotional connection with friends as they leave. Our kids
have to say goodbye to friends from their classes, we have to say
goodbye to neighbors and co-workers.
There is a business connection with friends as they leave. Work that
was being done, suddenly is not being done.

I have come to understand during my time on the field, that God uniquely
suits individuals to do ministry. No two ministries are identical.
It takes up to 3 years to fill an empty job position. God knows that,
and often times we've seen Him provide miraculously faster than that.
It takes this long because it takes a long while to get the word out
about a need. Then for someone to decide to fill that need, then for
them to raise the support they need. Along the way any number of things
can happen to keep them from making it to the field. (Health issues,
financial issues, etc).

It takes a tremendous effort to get someone into a new job on the
mission field. (Imagine all the work it takes to fill a role in your
place of employment.... now add Visa restrictions, take away the
salary,... do interviews over the phone from 6,000 miles away.... etc)

So when someone leaves, it's sad on many levels. And I have personally
believed that no ministry gets replaced. We are all individuals who
make new circles of friends, have different skills and influences and
interests. When you come to work here, you are not simply doing a
single job. You are pouring the entirety of yourself into multiple roles.

You have devoted yourself, your being, your life's energy, your toil to
a solitary purpose. As a result, it's much more than a job. As a
result, the impact a single person makes is immense. You work your main
job, you forge relationships, you do odd jobs on the side, you go into
villages on the weekend, you help in church ministry, you help in random
odd jobs and ministries, and before you know it, you're using up every
last ounce of yourself into ministry. And you're loving doing it.

So when someone leaves, they never get truly replaced. They almost
always leave a hole, some more gaping than others.

I did this experiment with the kids the other day:
If you take a ziplock bag and fill it with water, and poke sharp pencils
through it, the water will not seep out.
The reason for that is the plastic bag is made of long chains of
molecules called polymers. (poly=many, mers=molecules). These polymers
are what enables the bag to stretch. Pushing the sharp pencil through,
simply pushes the polymers to the side. Their flexibility allows them
to continue to form a strong seal around the pencil.

When you remove the pencils, the holes will allow water to flow out.

Our community is a lot like that. When someone leaves, a hole is made.
We can all flex and stretch to fill the immediate need and keep the
water inside the bag. Doing so, often takes us away from our primary
purpose. The pencil while plugging the hole, can't be used for
writing. The community flexes to make the life easier of whoever is
filling the hole, but because they are flexing, they are stretched. It
is not a permanent solution, because inevitably the water will come out.

We live like that. While we mourn the loss of people who leave on an
emotional level, we're stretching ourselves to fill the gap on a ...
'business' level or a practical level. It's a ripple effect, because if
I have to drop one chore, someone else has to pick it up, and so on and
so on.

I say all of this, to convey the situation in its entirety. This
happens frequently. In many ways we are like brow beaten boxers who take
it on the chin. And no punch comes so hard as when someone with a skill
set, so rarely duplicated has to leave.

This week we say goodbye to a family who came here to do Bible
translation. That's the biggest blow of them all, because that is our
main goal. They are leaving prematurely and we are sad for them, and
for us, and for our work. We know they do not wish to leave, but they must.

When I say that we have a need for people, I do not mean we have a need
for specific people with specific skillsets. All to often people think
'well I have no skill useful in the mission field'. If you think that,
you are wrong.

The single most important skill is willingness. Obedience rates a close
second. If God is putting it on your heart to do something in missions
work, then what you may not realize is that He has already equipped you
with the skills you need, and has already designs on slotting you into
the right job. Your challenge then is to find it. I can guarantee you
that if God is calling you to such work, there is someone out there
looking for someone just like you.