|Oh, how we will all miss story time with Donna ayi.|
"If anyone knows how to say goodbye to people, it's you."
That may not actually be a direct quote, but something to that effect was said to me by a good friend a few days ago. Left by itself, divorced from context, such a statement could have a very vibrant life of its own, not necessarily a positive one.
But I understood what my friend was communicating: Over 10 years, saying goodbye to family and friends in the US, saying goodbye to the parade of expats coming and going from Changsha, goodbye has become as normal as a birthday. It's almost a rite of summer. You get used to it.
That doesn't mean it's easy.
And I hate being the one to leave.
Though not so extreme as going from China to the US, we're slowly getting ready for another big move: from Texas to Arkansas. This time, rather than the huge cultural change were readying for a lifestyle change, one of trading the safe harbor of my fathers'' home for the uncertain currents of independent life.
But as with China, we don't just leave a place; we leave a people.
We haven't put down roots in Texas, so to speak, but neither have we been rootless. Liao Sha's been involved with a mother's group. I've been involved with two morning mens' groups. Our family has been meeting with a city group hosted by one of my old Des Moines roommates. We've enjoyed our time with my fathers' church in Weatherford. We've felt at home with the Chinese church in Fort Worth and have grown close to a Korean family in that body.
These are people we've prayed with and for. These are people who have prayed for us. These are people with whom we've shared concerns and meals. These are people who've extended open hands of friendship and open hearts. These are people who've surprised us time and time again with clothing and toys for the boys, food products, invitations, and even money. There are people we don't even know who are right now contributing to a project initiated by my wife's friends to gather up household goods we may need in Fayetteville: dishes, blankets, etc.
And soon we will leave them. For the second time in less than eight months, we will uproot for a new horizon, and new people, and a new way of life. It never gets easier. At least it doesn't for me. And I would always prefer for people to leave me than I them. Yet, off we will go.
Something that just hit me yesterday is that this will be the second time since November that Barnabas will have his social world turned upside-down. (Perhaps annihilated?) He still occasionally mentions old friends in Changsha, most commonly Mai-mai, Chu-chu, and Enosh (in that order of frequency). Now he'll say goodbye to his seven-year-old cousin (whom he adores), Marley jiejie, Dong-dong meimei, Stephen gege, and Naomi meimei among others. He'll lose story time with Donna ayi and playtime with relatives. When I thought of this yesterday, it nearly caused me to cry.
This post is for our friends and family in China, whom we still miss on a daily basis.
This post is for my friends and family scattered across the US, whom we hope to see.
This post is for our friends and family in Texas, whom we will miss and already grieve leaving.
Thank you for being part of our lives.