In just a couple of weeks, we will say goodbye to our colleagues Jon and Kim Spink and their eight children (Kelly, Katie, Josh, Kari, Kristi, Kylie, Joseph and Stephen.) They are about to embark upon the adventure our family recently completed, that of their first year of furlough ministry back in the USA with all the accompanying excitement, angst and stresses that imminent departure entails. Rather than waiting for the last minute to get together, we opted to use the kids' "sandwich day" off school to meet at the beach and then gather at our house for a cookout together.
I had forgotten, but soon after the Spinks first arrived in Iquique we spent a day at a different beach (in August of 2009.) Looking back at pictures it was humorous to realize that between the two families, it was four years and four children ago (and a couple of dogs, if you count those!) I was reminded again of the blessing of sharing ministry life with our colleagues and especially the gift of MK "cousins" for our kids. Despite the age difference between the Spinks' oldest children who are already teens, they have been loving and encouraging to our oldest three. And our younger two are best buds with Kylie and Kristi, since they are so close in age (I love these pictures of one of the first times they met!)
It has been bittersweet to witness their family's preparation for leaving, knowing firsthand the complexities of sheer logistics (sorting, packing, living in limbo and chaos, traveling with multiple small children, uprooting, reestablishing, only to eventually uproot again.) Their older kids being teenagers means more emotions verbalized and needing to be talked through. I've had the privilege of conversing with Katie and Kelly especially, and find myself revisiting themes of my own MK childhood. As a result, I've encountered and shared with them resources that have resonated with my experiences and those they now face.
I've shared with them the thoughts written by a Chile MK which I posted with permission to my blog half a dozen year ago (yet they still ring true!) Another article on layers of loss specific to MK's/TCK's was recently posted on a cross-cultural blog under the title "Learning to Grieve Well." And then on another blog, this post - "THE LIES MKs BELIEVE #3: Everybody Always Leaves."
Yet despite the sadness of impending departure and changes, this day in and of itself was a reminder of the blessings. It is a blessing to have missionary colleagues (in this case the ministry connection between us and the Spinks goes back over a decade, long before either family finally made it to Chile!) It is a blessing to have missionary children (who can share a bond with each other and someday will realize just how special and unique their upbringing has been.) It is a blessing to have a missionary cause (the longer we minister in Iquique, the clearer the needs and the greater the burden to reach others with the Gospel becomes.) And, it is a blessing to have a missionary calling (because when trials come and colleagues, leave the certainty remains that we are where we are supposed to be and doing what we're supposed to do for Christ.)
Of course, from a more humorous perspective and in light of all these pictures it's only fair to admit it's also a blessing to have a missionary coastline! :) I like to remind my kids that for me it was a bi-annual treat and a two-hour trip to see the ocean, while they get to enjoy its sight and sound from their house and school and church every single day.
You can't tell from this picture, but these two guys have come a long way from their early encounters with each other. The picture below might emphasize this point! :) As I've stated, it's been a special encouragement to work alongside a big family with a big heart, and we pray for big blessings upon the Spinks in the year to come. Farewell, for now!
|Josh and Owen, 2007|