I've been reading about making disciples (the MOH staff are reading Chan's Multiply) and about how the Bible says we, as the church, will be known. Jesus, Paul and John say we'll be known by our love, our unity and our hope.
It's a strange time for me here. Two weeks from today I leave the mission, my friends, my surrogate family, all the Haitian Mommies and Daddies and the kids that I love so desperately.
When you leave for just a few days or weeks the news of your departure is met with a lot of "what will you be bringing back for me?" type of questions. The kids always want photographs of themselves (which in and of itself is a funny but meaningful thing as they are sorting out their stories in the strangeness of being a child of an orphanage).
But when you break the news, as I did last week, that you are finished your time living day to day in their lives - it is a different conversation that flows out of that kind of announcement.
Now, recently, our kids and staff (both Haitian and North American) have had to say some quick goodbyes. Some people have left within days of announcing their departure (for different reasons). The quick-leave causes a different kind of grief. It's like ripping a bandage off. There's that initial painful protest, but then it's over and all that is left, for better or worse, is the wound to nurse.
We have had that.
This, my leaving, is different feeling to me. It was a surprise to all, including me, that my time here would end as soon as it is. I had a couple of weeks to figure out how it would be okay for me to go and then it was decided and, soon after, made public: I would be leaving in about 3 weeks.
That's a slow rip.
The time has been calculated so that I can do my best to finish well what I have been doing within the Art Therapy setting. The rest of the hours in the day, however, have become strange.
I am working on a teaching and discipling curriculum for our Haitian staff in the orphanage. It is designed to orient them to the mission and support them in increased knowledge and parenting skills - but I will have no part in teaching them or supporting them or anything that will go with the program. Those are bittersweet hours of writing and making sense of data and concepts for them to improve their work... thinking of each of them and the children they parent and hopes I have for all - but will not bear witness to.
Then there are the hours with other North American staff. Only a very few have broached the subject of my leaving in meaningful conversation. Oh, lots of sad looks and I'll miss you's, but talking about how things really are is not easy or really part of the culture here where so much change happens so frequently - and change is another great reason we all keep relationships at a level of comfort... well, not change, we just call it that. Change happens all the time everywhere and often a lot more than here inside our bubble at the mission. I think the real name is fear. But fear in the form of self-preservation.
And then there's the business of life here and everyone's directive to "run hard" - which keeps that ever-changing team focused on their tasks and goals and timelines. And I respect that and want to give it space in this mission culture.
This processing during the leaving is heavy.
But back to the question: what do I want to be known for? I don't really care for the idea of being known for writing programs but not working them out in relation to the people they're intended for. That's just not how I'm wired.
Certainly not fear nor self-preservation. Even if it's been real in my life I don't want to be known for that.
There are other hours of the day. And these hours, spent with the kids, are teaching me what I may or may not want to know: what they know me for.
And it's hard and lovely and tentative and sad and makes me melt like chocolate in Haiti.
Because they are sad I'm leaving and are sweet and loving children and teens and Mommies who want me to be sure to remember I am loved and have been enjoyed and appreciated and will be missed. And so:
- Good things are being said to me, things that I hear with a heart of love and sorrow and things which I know are designed to clarify to me their love and their sadness at me leaving... so perhaps not how they have always thought or felt about me - but how they are thinking and feeling now & sweet music to my heart always.
- Funny and tender things which they may not have ever felt comfortable sharing before they knew I would be leaving - and so treasures with which I must be careful.
- Honest ideas and memories that, because I will leave, have cause to come to mind again in my presence... "remember when you said that thing that time?" they remind me with laughter... "I really like how you do this thing with us..." they say with a hand on my arm or fingers in my hair... "when will you visit us? and when you do will you stay in my room?"...
And I want to spend all my hours with them but I know my heart would burst. And so the hours I do have in the orphanage I am trying to use well, to honour each person's spirit, to talk with them and look them in the eye, to hug a lot, and to turn conversation to truth in Christ.
They have a lot of questions about why I'm going, how God told me to go, was it in a dream, did the mission kick me out, why can't I just stay and keep working? I love them more for asking. I love them for so many things. And I want to assure them that things will be alright - better than alright because God's plan for us is so full of His love for us that we can fully count on that ridiculous and inexplicable joy and love and peace in our spirits as we live for Him.
And that is the truth
And it is also true that life is hard. They know that, perhaps, better than I ever will. They know loss in a way that I've only been afraid of.
And I think of how I know them: for their resilience, their brilliant resourcefulness, their indomitable strength of will... their beauty.
What I want for them, and for me, is that we be known for our love, our unity and our hope. This is our calling. This, as I start to pack, steal moments with children and kisses from babies, work through terminating Art Therapy sessions with precious ones, seek the Mommy who's hand I haven't held this week, write Bible-based curriculum, socialize with dear friends and just say a slow goodbye... this is my prayer now, again:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Philippians 4:4-7 and Ephesians 3:14-21