For the past four years the majority of my free time has been spent in the company of Jared Weichert and Noe Martinez. Half a year ago – upon the completion of our NTM missionary training – Jared and his family packed up and left for the green pastures of California to begin the next phase of their lives. With the NTM Linguistics training nearly in the rear-view mirror, today was Noe’s turn to overload an SUV and move his family one step closer to church planting among an unreached people group a world away.
I’m not nearly as outgoing as I appear at times (or maybe as I imagine I appear). My friendships tend to be few and deep, with most other relationships relegated to the friendly, shallow depths of casual acquaintance. I dealt with Jared’s move by attaching all the more deeply to my friendship with Noe. With Noe gone, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.
It occurred to me this afternoon that having to say goodbye to best friends may be a part of life for most people, but for missionaries it’s a regular consequence of obedience. I find myself wondering if Paul might have added to his list in 1 Corinthians 9, “Do I not have the right to the proximity of close friends?” Any other career would allow for this. But already I have left friends and family behind, only to make new friends and leave them behind as well. The future promises more of the same as my family descends further from home into one of the most remote regions in the world.
Of course, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Apostle Paul for reminding me that there is a bigger story being told. I have been set free. Because Jesus Christ died for me, I am free to live for him even when it is not convenient. I am free to say goodbye to dear brothers because I am loved by the One who gave me a nature that is relational at its core.
It may never get easy to say goodbye, but brothers, it is worth it. I’ll see you on the other side…