Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How the grown kids feel when missionary parents come "home". Life: Unmasked

I'm linking up with Joy in this Journey for her Life: Unmasked series. Join here. In her words, " I host a link-up for anyone willing to step away from the pretense that all is well, take off their mask, and write naked"

It's my lunch break. Instead of sitting in the empty office kitchen, I've planted myself and my cup of coffee in a conference room where through a window I get a bit of sunlight and a stunning view of the highway (okay, not so stunning, but the sky is!). On the wall is my very favorite Trey Hill photo of five kids in an Indian leper colony. Laughter exudes from the photo.

I'm solemn today. This week I got my parent's last newsletter. It marks the end of almost 25 years working as missionaries overseas. I wasn't even school-aged when we left the US.

There have been endings before. They left Indonesia, where I grew up, a year after I graduated from high school. We kids have never really known what's around the next bend, and how long they'll really live any place. That's still sort of true, but I still got all teary when I read the letter, just like I got all teary last Fall when I was at their last presentation to their main supporting church in Kansas. 25 years! Such investment in people and projects and ministry in Indonesia and South Asia. To me it isn't words, it's faces and stories.

And.... it's a change. My dad is looking for a job for the next stage of life, and so it turns out almost our entire family is facing transition at the same time, from various corners of the US of A.

I can't put my finger on why I get emotional about it.
I suppose when you've invested so much time and work and love into something, moving on and marking that transition is a massive, emotional thing. And I suppose that while the true transition is for my parents, I was a part of years of their work overseas.

And I suppose it's odd to receive that newsletter as I wonder if next week we'll be writing up our own, announcing our plans. Is their ending going to be our beginning?

And I suppose.... I suppose that when I think of them being here, in the US, accessible, I ache to have Judah with them, knowing and seeing them weekly, bonding as we can't when we're far away. Knowing that they're coming back just as we're leaving.... 

What will it be like to see them root deeply in the US, to spend their older years fully engaged in the American culture? These are things that my siblings and I have talked about for years already, because when you think of your family as being cross-cultural, it's hard to figure out what to think of them now that they're .... just here.

For my sisters who were just overseas with them in the last couple of years, it's the grief of seeing the ending of their world overseas. And it's keenly aching for a broken country that only needs more people to love it, as my parents and other people move away.

And for my dad, after years of doing one thing in one world, coming back to start anew in a culture whose first question is "What do you do?", there are questions of vocation and value.  

When my parents saw the emotional reaction from at least three of their girls over their newsletter, they called a family skype chat. It was beautiful. Through the skype static you could hear Judah whining in the background and random strangers in an Argo tea shop in Chicago, and the voices of the family, from Arkansas, Dallas, Chicago, and Colorado.There were a lot of shaky voices as we all talked about how we're feeling. I think we've all seen more traumatic moments in the process, but this is just another step in the journey of transitions and, for some of us, loss.

Transitions and loss.

We third-culture kids and and families do it all the time, but I don't know if we're very good at it.

I guess the very fact that we can get of skype and talk about it with shaky voices shows that we're willing to walk and talk through it together, and that is what makes it possible, though never easy.

I've written about goodbyes before. Here and here. And I wrote about transitions and how they affect us here.


josh said...

Thanks Kacie, great post. And thanks for letting us repost it at be up in a few minutes.

junglewife said...

Great post, Kacie. My parents are also in somewhat of a transition after over 25 years on the field. It's a long story, but my mom went back to the States to help my sister with the birth of her first baby. There ended up being a lot of problems both with my sister and with the baby, and long story short my parents are both now living in North Carolina with my sister and her family, on sabbatical from their mission. I know it's been difficult for them, because they only expected to be gone for a few weeks to a few months, and now they may never return to the field, depending on what happens. Lots of emotions there. And on my end, too. Thank you for your post.

Erin said...

The ending of a chapter always seems more emotional than the starting of a new one I guess. But neither is particualy easy.

Kacie said...

Sarah, unexpected change, without the chance to grieve, is incredibly hard!