Tuesday Topic: Revolving Door of Relationships

From Angie in Bolivia: My question has to do with the revolving door that has hit us all on the tooshie at least once in our missionary career. What with all the technical advances we are able to stay pretty much in touch with people whether they are close or are millions of miles away. That is all fine and good. Hurray for Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Skype and all the other do-dads. Still, I am a firm believer in face-to-face, within hugs reach, close friendships. In the life of a missionary the physical closeness comes and goes. We have to be open to making bonds with the people that God puts in our lives. (Yes, I am getting to my point.) Here it comes: During the transition times when some are leaving and others are coming what are your coping mechanisms? To ward against hermit tendencies to avoid the hurt what do you do? To avoid becoming too loose with your standards for who you invite into that inner circle of influencers in your life what do you do?

Have a Tuesday Topic question? Email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com! Include your blog address if you’d like to be linked back to!


14 Responses to “Tuesday Topic: Revolving Door of Relationships”

  1. 1 Junglewife September 28, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    This is something that I have definitely struggled with over the years and it is really hitting home to me right now. As an MK, I had lots of friends come and go, but I was also very blessed to have several friends that were with me throughout my entire growing-up years. How often does that happen on the mission field?!

    Now I am facing it again as an adult missionary. We are about to return to our base for our second term, and a lot has changed since we first arrived in country 4 years ago. In fact, a lot has changed even since we left for our furlough 7 months ago! Out of the 7 or so families that were there when we left for furlough, almost all of them have left since we have been gone on furlough. Only three of the families that were there when we left will still be there when we get back, and in fact one of those had only been living on the base for a little over a month when we left for furlough! So we are struggling with lots of transition right now, feeling like we are actually moving to a completely different base than we left from!

    So, I don’t have any answers. Only questions of my own. I want to be open to relationships – I NEED them! But it is so hard in this transitional missionary world!

  2. 2 Liz K September 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    What a good question! Can’t wait to hear some of the answers!

  3. 3 moweezle September 28, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    urgh… such a difficult issue and even after 10 years on the mission field, I still don’t have a good answer!!! Unfortunately, I tend to ‘hermitize’ myself during transition time more than anything else…

    As far as becoming close with others while on the field, especially short-termers, that is also difficult for me. Its definitely a balancing game of protecting your heart but also letting people in to love you and for you to love. I must admit I’ve been hurt, but I’ve also been loved so much!

    Thank God for skype, facebook, and twitter though…. whew!

  4. 4 @ngie September 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    So fun to see my friends answering here. šŸ™‚ Friends who I have yet to meet face to face but who I love all the same.

    We are coming up on our 9th year anniversary on the field and have had our fair share of rewarding relationships as well as the devastating ones. To hear from veteran missionary women that this is still a tender spot in their lives affirms what I am feeling as not so weird.

    I am looking forward to reading the other responses.

    Thanks everyone!

  5. 5 Marti Smith September 28, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    This isn’t only tough of you moms, but your kids, too, right? It was the last straw for a friend of mine. They were living in a politically unstable country and every Sunday her kids were saying goodbye to more and more friends whose families were pulling out. Finally they left too, coming to the States where they thought they’d find some relational stability.

  6. 6 richelle September 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    it does hurt… so many goodbyes… and they are always happening. i think the tendency is to “hermitize” to protect our hearts. however, that is now how i want my kids to respond, so i believe it is up to me to set a different example, and not one with which i am comfortable.

    what i try to picture is holding those around me/dear to me close to my heart but with an open hand – and being willing to allow many and others to step into that close position, even if it is only for a brief time. when i keep my focus on gratitude for some of the amazing people God has brought into my life, my heart bubbles over with thankfulness for the incredible opportunity of counting these people among my friends. the ache of the goodbye corresponds to wonderfulness of the relationship… and I will never believe that the pain isn’t more than worth it (kind of like having a baby šŸ™‚

    i also try to look at the example of Jesus – who continued investing and thinking of others and their needs first – even when he knew how they would hurt him (intentionally or unintentionally), even when he knew he was only with them physically for 3 short years… or less. when i look at others focusing on how to serve and love instead of focusing on what i’m receiving, i find that also helps. crazy part is i find i can’t outgive God as He gives to me through those friends.

    so… those are my two strategies… gratitude and focusing on giving in relationships.

  7. 7 Becka September 28, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    I don’t have much “wisdom of experience” on the mission field from whence to pull advice. I have only be here for 8 months.
    However, in those 8 months, I have had to say goodbye to so many friends so I feel as if I have some small nugget to offer.

    1. Short-termers. I remember camp when I was a teenager. Oh man did I love those girlfriends of the moment. I shared with them ALL my secrets, we ran around getting in trouble together, we bad-mouthed our moms, we stuck frogs in the cabin of our counselors… Meaning. We were friends. Good ones. Just short-term ones. I do not discount those relationships for a moment. They were viable, and just right for the moment that we had.

    I view short-termers the same way. I can give them my all, and it will hurt (just like camp), but I need them for the moment they are here. I can throw my heart willy nilly knowing that my heart REALLY doesn’t belong to me.

    At the same time, I recognize that my childhood (a life of moving) has helped to prepare me for this. But, if any of you have those camp experiences, draw from them.

    When a short termer gets ready to leave… hold hands around a bonfire and weep while you sing, “Friends are friends forever.”

    2. Long-termers. Harder. I hermit myself. Even if the friendship doesn’t end, it has changed in such a way that it needs to be aknowledged. It is a little like a death. The relationship is not over, but its physical presence is, and that is hard. And grieving needs to be done.

    3. I try to make a permanent friend wherever I am. I try to befriend someone that will be where I am throughout my time there. Of course there are no guarantees, but I do try to make a friend of someone who has a good chance of being a bit more permanent. This is a skill I learned from my childhood. I call it, “Leave someone behind”. At this stage in my life, it means throwing myself into a friendship with a native Ecuadorian.

    I hope this helps someone.

  8. 8 Jill Houtz September 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I am not a missionary, I am a missionary’s mom. So I guess I will put in my two cents.
    These kinds of relationships happen to all of us now and then. Just maybe not quite so often. Whenever it happens, it is hard, and it hurts, sometimes for a long time. And finding a way to cope is essential, because … life goes on.
    I would like to offer a substitute for the word “hermitizing” and maybe call it “cocooning”. Perhaps that would be a better way of honoring what has happened in a good friend’s departure. Curl up with yourself, process all that the relationship meant you, and come out of it a stronger, better self than before.
    Just a thought…

  9. 9 Julie September 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    I do feel like it’s a big challenge as a missionary to have intimate relationships when our environments are ever-changing, but important nonetheless to continue reaching out. Prayer keeps me from hermitizing too much. I put definite prayer into who I need to be investing my time with outside of my family and I pray consistently for those deeper friendships that we all long for.

  10. 10 Gina September 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I have been doing this for 11 years, and have said more than my share of goodbyes (I’ve also been the one leaving!). One of the most helpful resources for me in doing transition well has been the book “Strong Women, Soft Hearts” by Paula Reinhart. It reminds me that there is no life in protecting my heart. I am learning in transition to make the most of the time I have with people, to say what they really have meant to me and the impact they have had. Yes, it makes it more painful, but it also opens my heart to love at a greater capacity and deepens my friendships.

    That said, I am also learning that I have limited relational energy, and I need to invest it wisely. I confess that if I know someone isn’t going to be long in my location, I don’t often pour myself into that relationship unless we really click from the beginning. I want to love well and deeply so that when it comes to say goodbye, I have made the most of those relationships.

    This summer we said goodbye to our best friends who came with us to Asia 11 years ago. It was the hardest goodbye we’ve ever had to do, especially for our kids. It was a good opportunity to dialogue with the kids about their emotions, and let them see our emotions too. Not easy, but good.

  11. 11 @ngie September 29, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    So good to read what others are saying.

    I like what my dear mom (Jill) had to say in that we are not becoming hermits, rather we are cocooning and will come out a new and different person after that pulling away period.

    Julie is 100% right that prayer makes a big difference. Good reminder.

    What Marti said about the political climate causing a shift in the relationships is something I have felt here in Bolivia during presidential elections and the expulsion of the DEA.

    The book Gina recommended sounds like one I need to get my hands on. šŸ™‚ The phrase “there is no life in protecting my heart” really caught me up. I can only imagine the emotions involved in the transition after a close working relationship of 11 years.

  12. 12 Alicia September 29, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I am in whole hearted agreement with the other comments. The only other thing I keep in mind is, every earthly relationship is going to end in a good bye at some point. We are never guaranteed of anyone’s presence in our life for our entire lives. Because I never know how long God will allow a person in my life, family member or outside, I seek to love the fullest way possible. It’s ok to grieve the good bye when it comes, it causes spiritual growth and makes you long for heaven when there will be no more good byes. Though the relationships are closer with believing friends, I find it most difficult to say good bye to my unbelieving friends because I’m not assured of ever seeing them again. At least with fellow believers, I know I will be spending eternity with them.
    We are getting ready to head back to our first missionary field at the end of next month. We served there full time for 4.5 years and shed many tears when leaving. I know many don’t get a chance to go back, so I am rejoicing that I will be able to hug friends and have some face to face time.

  13. 13 Ellie September 30, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I’m still struggling with this one, and I grew up in it. I grew up as a MK, and now have been on the field as an adult for eight years.

    We were so delighted to be going out since we were going to a place we knew and where many people would be. Between when we began and when we left, there was a traumatic event and most people evacuated the country. So we went in as the only family there among singles. More goodbyes – before the hellos were even said.

    We settled and made friends, only to have them move and have us be uprooted and moved to a third country. People still come and go in and out of our lives. We come and go in and out of the lives of our home church, which we realize after each home leave “knows” us less and less. They are still committed to us a missionaries, but they don’t know us and we don’t know them. Not like when we lived there and raised our babies together.

    I long to have a deep friendship, but I don’t know that I really want to anymore because it will mean another painful goodbye.

    Now, today, it is possible to keep in some contact with friends and that is different than when I grew up, but security means that even with the ways to talk, you can’t always talk about everything. And even skyping and chatting does not make up for distance. It is a gift, but not the same.

    I have, after years and years of goodbyes, learned to love and accept people, even when I know they will leave. I recognize this longing in my heart for one or two who might stick with me and with whom I can share, but I also recognize that I may not get to have that longing filled. I try to enjoy what I have when I get it, and let go with grace. I have my “routines” of goodbyes down well, and know how to prepare myself and give myself space in the days after a goodbye.

    What gives me comfort is looking forward to heaven. This life, this one in which I have chosen to live a lifestyle filled with saying goodbye to people I love dearly, is temporary. One day, we will be together, all in one place – with no language, culture, boundary, distance, or sin barriers between us. I look forward to that day and rejoice in the fact that it lasts until eternity. So when my eyes fill with tears, I remember that we will have forever to catch up and just be together.

    But it is a hurt I struggle with and learn to live with daily. Accepting that it will likely never go away. Would I want to be a person who did not miss friends? Love is still worth it – even when painful.

  1. 1 All Over the Internet Today Trackback on September 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm

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