In between the hellos and goodbyes there is a really good authentic story. In fact, there are actually two stories. The story of one’s life up to arriving in Piura and the story after Piura. The first story is one that includes family, what one does for work, the joys and sometimes sorrows of life. Then there is another story, one that may or not include more of God. Ultimately a story that includes a choice in the end.
I often ask the question “What brought you to Piura?” or “How did you find out about the trip?” What I really want to know is “what’s their story”. The answer I receive varies. Sometimes, one gives a specific reason of why they came and other times they have no idea. I know, however they just said yes to a divine appointment. An encounter with the risen Christ.
Somehow, they’ve found the courage by the grace of God to say yes, and follow just like the early disciples followed Jesus. They have no idea what is in store for them, but there’s enough curiosity to come and see in Piura.
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” said Philip. John 1:43-46
I use to wonder how it was possible for the staff to become so easily attached to the missionaries. I wondered why they shed the tears they do as missionaries slipped behind the gate at the airport. I no longer wonder now, because I am one of those people who’ve found the goodbyes tough to take. I’ve come to a new understanding of the goodbyes and the tears that flow from a place of profound gratitude.
It’s in-between the hello and the goodbye that life changes. The week is short here on mission, but so much happens. The Webster definition for attached is joined, fastened, or connected to something. The something is God, for one has encountered the risen Christ in another and now they fastened together by a divine appointment.
God uses some people to leave a permanent mark on your heart in a very short amount of time. You know the meeting was divinely coordinated by God. You know God used them to change you. They were the vessel God used to bring the music of his love, hope, faith, encouragement and so much more. The encounter often comes unexpectedly, just like the woman at well meeting Jesus in the middle of the day.
The encounter may be a series of moments and sometimes it’s just one powerful moment. A moment of immense love. The magnitude of a tsunami that shakes you and cracks your heart wide open and boom! You know God is real and He called you to this moment. Only God could work across state lines, parishes and many groups. Maneuvering all the work, school, and family schedules to bring one here to Piura to mission.
While in Piura, you experience poverty in a very personal way as you step into the home of someone with a dirt floor. It’s real, it’s profound, and it changes you and your heart. Maybe it’s in this moment you meet Jesus for the first time and maybe not, but I assure you there’s a divine appointment along the way somewhere in between the hello and goodbye.
Maybe the appointment is in the back of truck talking, laughing, and crying alongside another missionary from some other part of the country. It could be an unexpected day at the beach under the warmth of the sun discussing heartache and loss. Or a morning in a field of beans where the shadow of a farmer’s joy is so grand you know you stepped into God’s glory. Where it happens doesn’t necessarily matter. What happens after is what’s important. The question becomes “Will you follow the one who came from Nazareth?” The one you encountered, the risen Christ?
It’s been a privilege and one I do not take lightly to have met so many people from all over the states here in Piura. It’s been humbling, as well as affirming in so many ways. I have witnessed over and over again how God has used me to touch so many of them and in the process revealed more of Himself to me. It’s been through the laughter, the tears, kindness, generosity, and hospitality of many missionaries that I’ve dove deeper into the ocean of God’s love. The love He has for me and all His children. This is what makes the goodbyes tough to take. The departure leaves a sense of loss and a longing for more; more time together, more smiles, more hugs, and ultimately more of God.
It’s been such a blessing to be now a part of another’s story, but even more than that they have become a part of mine. For together, we are now woven in a tapestry of God’s love and the tapestry of His kingdom.
For we all have a story and it’s in stories in which Jesus reveals himself, we know this from all the parables in the Bible. I hope and I pray for all the missionaries who came to see Piura that they make Jesus the second part of their story. For all encounters leave us a choice, another divine invitation to more of God or not. I hope they follow the one who comes from Nazareth, the one they met in Piura.