When we first became missionaries, sent by the Lord through our churches, we experienced the pain of leaving all that is most dear to us behind; friends and family. I, Jesse, did it when I left the USA and Jeryvee did it when she left her church family in Reggio Calabria (South Italy) in order to partner with me in the Lord's work of reaching Italians and planting churches. Truly one of the hardest things about being a missionary is the saying of goodbyes. It is hard.
In a certain sense it gets easier because you get used to doing it all the time - it's simply part of what it means to be a missionary of Jesus Christ. But at the same time it's not easier. As people created in God's image we are made for community and meaningful relationships, yet for as long as we are on earth our relationships are not as they ought to be - they are broken and at most lacking true sacrificial love, the kind that only Christ can give. Having to say goodbyes as missionaries (even when it is for good motives like getting another church started) who are moving on is a reminder that things are not yet as they ought to be. Sin and separation still plague this world, even for those of us who are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. We long for Christ's return when painful goodbyes will no longer be necessary. At the same time, this pain we feel as we move on is helpful because it reminds us of the importance of the preaching of the gospel, without which no man can be saved. Only the gospel can unite people to the Creator and only in the gospel is true unity possible.
For the past 8.5 years we have been serving Jesus as His missionaries with our friends and family at S.E.E. Now we are, guided by the Lord, making preparations for another church plant in another city, though not with S.E.E. Saying goodbye this time is equally as hard as it was when we first began. We step out by faith, just as we did at the beginning, knowing not exactly what the future holds, but knowing well Who holds the future in His hands. We are sad, yet joyful. We are sorrowful, yet excited and eager to begin the new chapter the Lord has for us.
As we ponder these past 8.5 years we see how the Lord has been at work to shape us and to mold us. We thank the Lord for the many experiences (good and bad) that we shared with our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ at S.E.E. They will forever be in our hearts. We also thank the Lord that where He is taking us is not too far away and we will still see eachother from time to time. This also is a blessing and it reminds us of the truth that we will all one day be united with Christ in the heavens. In that moment we will know with a doubt that all the pain and sacrifice we endured for Jesus was worth it. We also thank the Lord for the thriving church body in Pordenone and for how Jesus let us play a part in making it become the living reality that it is today.
To God alone be the glory. Amen.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.