“Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow . . .”

Sunday afternoon we said our goodbyes before heading to the airport. There were tears, both of joy and sadness. Sadness in the parting, not knowing when the next time would be that we would meet again. And yet joy as well . . . joy in the realization that our furlough had been longer than expected and more time had been spent with our loved ones than ever we had hoped or imagined.

As the farewells were being said, I was reminded once again of the pioneers and the pioneer missionaries of old. Our different it was to say goodbye in those days. With no internet, no Facebook, no cell phones, and no email. Partings in those days was almost like a death in the family. The goodbyes were expected to be permanent, with little or no hope of ever meeting again this side of heaven.

In some cases there could arise an opportunity to send an occasional correspondence by post. A letter or small parcel that could take months to reach its destination, and always the possibility that it may never be delivered at all.

How different it is in the world today! There are so many options for long distance communication now that we can say goodbye in person but never fully feel the disconnection and separation that was felt by those in the past.

Saying goodbye is never easy, but as we set out and make the transition back to Africa, this phrase just kept coming to my mind . . . “Parting is such sweet sorrow” . . . how true it is! This parting of loved ones has been “bitter sweet”. The sweetness being primarily the excitement of knowing that we are called by God to embark on this adventure. And sweet because we know that God is all powerful and omnipresent. He is as much with us in Africa as He is with our family back in the US. The same God that watches over us is watching over our loved ones half a world away. And sweet, also, because we have the blessing of being able to communicate long distance through many different means. We have the ability to stay connected even while we are apart.

Yes, and sweet, also, because we know that even if it turns out that we would never meet again in this life, we know that we have all of eternity with which to spend together, never to be parted again!

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