Good Goodbyes

We have arrived back in beautiful British Columbia after completing our last week of training at MTI (Mission Training International). It was a bittersweet goodbye. Bitter because we said goodbye to many people we came to love and cherish over the last month, but also sweet because we have gained new friends and because we are now one step closer to moving to México.

A few of the topics covered last week at MTI were: Third Culture Kids (TCK), values awareness, stress management, entry posture, grief & loss, and goodbyes & hellos.

A TCK is a child who grows up in two different cultures but does not have a sense of belonging to either of them. They are a mixture of the two (or more) cultures and there are unique blessings and challenges that come with this. On staff at MTI are a father-son pair who led this portion of the training and were able to provide insight on TCKs from each of their perspectives.

On Monday we also explored how to identify values (in ourselves and in culture) and to be aware of how our values might be stepped on in our new context. If you have the book Foreign to Familiar or something similar you will have been exposed to the differing values present in cultures. The most well-known value difference concerns time. In most parts of the Western world, we value punctuality and scheduling. We are time oriented. In the Majority world, they value the event itself and the people present there. They are event oriented. If you know the term “island time” this is where it comes from. When these two values clash (e.g. Sunday worship services) it can potentially cause conflict. Or it may be an opportunity for growth. How we address these value differences will also affect our “entry posture” as we arrive into our new cultural context. If we jump to judgments too quickly we risk offense or, worse yet, rejection.

Tuesday was a stressful day. The morning was spent identifying the many stressors of cross-cultural ministry, the symptoms of stress, and ways to relieve stress. We were taught to pay attention to our stress gauges (the symptoms) and to take stress-relieving-action before things blow-up or burn-out. Jesus had multiple stressors in his earthly ministry (e.g. social rejection, no home of his own) and it is instructive to pay attention to how he managed them (e.g. prayer, retreat, close friends).

On Thursday we were given time to reflect on and grieve the “losses” we will experience going to the mission field. These include loss of the familiar, loss of safety, loss of competence, loss of support system, and others. Of course, there are many “gains” as well, but being prepared for the losses and properly grieving them makes room to appreciate the gains all the more.

Friday was our last day of training and appropriately we learned about healthy hellos and goodbyes. Good goodbyes should bless and celebrate the other person and they set you up for healthy hellos as you meet new people. As part of our goodbyes, we spent the afternoon praying for each other and for the people we will be ministering to.

We put our goodbye-training into practice on Saturday as we all departed from MTI. After living, eating, training, and praying together for four weeks it was an emotional good-bye. It hurt to know that many of us would never see each other again. We were reminded of Paul’s goodbye to the Ephesian elders wherein many tears were shed and prayers lifted up. Paul commits the elders to God and to his word of grace and encourages them with the words of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Indeed, it makes a world of difference to be able to say goodbye when we know God is with them and we can look forward to seeing them in the New Creation.


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