Dr. Fred Smith complained to us once about the way that information travels at the speed of light these days. When his mother and father-in-law went to present day Cambodia as missionaries, their possessions were shipped in crates designed to be used as their coffins. He and his wife took six weeks to get to their first place of assignment and there was a monthly telegram drop.
I'm never more than 24 hours from anywhere it seems. I'm always a phone call away. And this changes things. This complicates things.
The saddest part about serving overseas is death. It hurts to be so connected and yet so removed when someone dies. I think Facebook will one day catch up with this - it will handle the death of a loved one cautiously. Perhaps in the future you will have an approved list of people from whom you would like to hear bad news and only those posts will come up first.
When Jonathan died, I found out from the post of a person I just really didn't like. He wrote, "I never knew you Jonathan Pound, but you seemed like a cool dude. Sorry you died." I'll never forget those words, or how deeply they cut when I first read them. I had called Jonathan the evening before and was angry that he didn't pick up.
I knew that Bob was in his final hours, and I'm grateful that I learned of his passing from a friend. It makes everything easier and more pleasant.
This is one of those small things that people don't think about when they talk about mission. Missionaries miss all of these milestones. Nowhere ever feels fully like home. Family gets a new meaning. Goodbyes mean everything and nothing all at the same time.
I confided in Bob once that Ukrainians hate it when people call their country THE Ukraine, but that according to the rules of English grammar the article should be used. From that point forward every conversation centered around THE Ukraine where I served. Bob hated mandatory adjectives. He hated the way he felt compelled to say "... and his LOVELY wife." If he just referenced her as so-and-so's wife it would be rude - and he wanted just once to say, "... and his TRAINWRECK of a wife."
I had planned to fly from Illinois to Washington DC before flying out of Dulles this last time in the states. But for whatever reason I didn't buy my plane ticket in time. I rented a car and drove instead. I had time for a lovely stop in California, PA to eat at a greasy diner with Bob and Ruth. Our previous meal had been a vegetable medley over a mound of quinoia. We ate a meat lover's pizza and drank giant sodas. Ruth got fries drenched in all kinds of creamy sauces. It was a perfect meal.
On my drive, one thought kept crossing my mind over and over again. "If you fill your life with remarkable people, your life will be remarkably full."
I live such a full and rewarding life - and this is precisely because I have filled it with people of character and integrity.
Going the Distance. In His Grip. For the Win.