Missionary kids and the long goodbyes


I grew up in Quito, Ecuador. My mom and dad served as dorm parents for 18 years at the Alliance Academy. I specifically remember first grade. There were eight boys in the dorm—a kid’s paradise. My roommate’s mom spent a week in Quito getting her six-year-old ready to live in the dorm. The day she dreaded arrived, however. As she hugged her son at the airport and put on her bravest face, he said, “Mom, this is the happiest day of my life.”

We all laugh about the story now, because all my roommate could imagine was the fun and games eight first-grade boys could have living together. He had no idea the pain his mom was going through. Now that my wife, Elisa, and I are parents, we can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for our parents to put all their faith in God’s calling and separate themselves from their young kids. My six-year-old daughter just started first grade, and it is hard to leave her at the door of her classroom for seven hours!

A Different Outlook

Recently, Elisa and I attended our 20-year class reunion. Seven of us dorm guys were there. The reunion was the best I’d ever attended. There was an immediate connection of love and camaraderie. Everyone was genuinely interested in each other.

We laughed and cried, shared our struggles and talked proudly about our families, our work and our lives. We passionately talked about influencing others for the better. All of us are in very different fields of work; it was interesting to me that we all were very much concerned with global issues. Without exception, each of us is involved in serving others and in making a difference in this world. We remember our years overseas as a privilege—the golden years. We stayed up late into the night laughing and expressing how lucky we were to have grown up the way we did.

If you had stepped into our reunion, you wouldn’t have been impressed by any one of us and what our lives are like. You would have considered us all average. I want to clarify that we didn’t have “everything-is-coming-up-roses” childhoods. We experienced hurts, just the same as any other class of 1986. Some of us at the reunion had a hard time at the academy; a few were even asked not to return! Life as an MK (missionary kid) wasn’t easy; many would say it was hard. But everyone at the reunion would agree that we have a unique perspective on life, family, the world and God as MKs. All of us would agree that we were privileged—no matter how great or how awful our experiences were.

New Friends

Now I’m a dad of four MKs. As a kid, I hated the airport, but as a father it is worse. Doubts always cross my mind when I see my kids hugging their cousins goodbye, tears streaming down their faces. All the pain of childhood goodbyes flood back tenfold as I feel the weight of my responsibility to take care of my children and protect them from pain. But just as quickly as the doubts enter my mind, the benefits of living in several cultures arise. My kids are learning too.

When my daughter Michaela was nine, we left Peru, the country in which she was born. We knew we wouldn’t return there to live. After a long, emotional and teary goodbye at the bus station in Trujillo, our family boarded the bus and cried in each other’s arms. Alexa, who was about to turn four, said, “Why are we crying again?”
Michaela slipped her arm through mine and said, “Dad, I feel sad, but I also feel happy.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, Dad,” she said, “even though it is awful to say goodbye to all my friends, I wouldn’t have had these friends if you guys hadn’t come to Peru. So, for sure, God has some great friends waiting for me in Ecuador. I can’t wait to meet them.”
My daughter, like Job, was saying, “He gives and takes away…blessed be the name of the Lord.” She knows about God’s faithfulness, and He has been faithful.

Blessed Be the Name

At our reunion, we met together on Sunday and happened to sing “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.” I loosely use the term “singing” because we were all crying—we knew exactly what we were singing. We have been given things, and we have had things taken away. Our hearts that morning chose to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” It is our testimony.

Our time in Ecuador probably won’t be forever. Missions have changed that way. My wife’s parents stayed in Argentina more than 40 years. My parents have been in Ecuador for 45 years. When we signed up to become missionaries, we knew this would probably not be the case for us. That means more goodbyes for our family. This makes us sad and happy. It’s sad because it is hard to be separated from those you come to know and love. We’re happy because we have seen how God has blessed us with new and wonderful relationships, and we trust Him to meet those needs for us as a family. And we’re happy our kids can say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

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