Today we said sayonara to a couple of Luke 10 short-term missionaries. They have been living and working in Japan for the last nine months, learning by doing and getting a taste of missionary life. It was sad to see them go even though I had only been able to get to know them for a short two months.
I then reflected on this morning's conversation with my spouse about short-termers and their affects on people (probably initiated by the thought if their leaving).
First I thought about it from my perspective as a short term participant several different times. In the past I have landed at an airport with a small team (or on my own) and been met at the airport by the local missionaries (in several different countries). We would have a bit of orientation and then we were off to whatever is we might be doing. We generally would not see them very much during our stay and then we would get together for a debriefing. I always thought it a shame that I could not get to know them a little better, that getting to know them seemed worthwhile and that I was missing out on something.
Aukje talked about it from her perspective as a long term missionary, seeing short termers come and go. It is good to get to know short term people but a long term missionary sees many short termers go. After you have invested time into a relationship, a short termer leaves (that being the nature of a short term). As it becomes old hat to see them come and go, one does not like to have to say good bye all the time, especially when one is emotionally involved. While it is good to have short termers, it is also much easier emotionally not to get too involved.
We also talked about how the Japanese people see all these foreigners come and go. Many foreigners come to teach English in Japan and the large majority does not stay. One of the first questions a Japanese person asks is often "How long are you going to stay"? In the same vein as the long term missionary, the Japanese person who strikes up a relationship with a foreigner and invests time in it, will be disappointed as the foreigner goes back to their country. I have also found in my life that moving on to a new thing is a very different feeling than feeling left behind.
Now as Micah and Melanie return home, I wish them Godspeed on their life journey.
As we try and pick up the parts and projects that they started I hope that we can catch everything.
And I wonder how it will all work out, will we be able to fill their shoes in relationships they have started. I shall have to comfort myself with the knowledge that it is not I who am in charge of this, I just work for Him.