I had best friends growing up. They changed as life changed, but there were always those with whom I was closer. I would talk on the phone for hours, even when it meant paying an exorbitant amount of money on the long distance phone bill (remember when you had to pay per minute for "long distance" calls?).
One thing that happened in my decision to go to school in Springfield, MO was that it forced me to say goodbye to my former friends and essentially begin a new life socially. Obviously I maintained friendships to some extent, but that was before social media and technology became what it is today. I didn't even have a cell phone.
After I graduated from college I moved back to Massachusetts, but an hour west of the city and no longer near my friends from before college. And in the process I left my college friends too. Once again I was forced to essentially reset life on a social level. After marrying Polly, we developed close friendships with others once again. Our closest friends moved away but we still managed to have close, meaningful relationships with others.
In 2014, when we moved to Costa Rica, we yet again found ourselves hitting the reset button socially. We developed good friendships with other American missionaries as well as Costa Rican nationals. Then we left, went back to the U.S. and prepared to become missionaries to Bolivia. More changes. More social resets.
Here we are, less than a year into our time in Bolivia. We are building new friendships, once again with other American missionaries and with Bolivian nationals.
While we don't get rid of our previous relationships, as relational beings we desire community in a physical sense. We want to spend time with people in-person, not simply via technology. We want people at our house. We want to spend time at theirs.
There's a challenge that comes with constantly resetting your life socially. You constantly find yourself entering situations where people have often already developed their long-lasting friendships long before your arrival. So while you develop friendships, it's hard to find best friends.
And that leaves you looking for others who are not deeply established in their existing friendships. These are typically internationals. And like you, they generally live a transient life. So it's hard to connect to deeply knowing that you or they will soon be gone.
Genevieve, our 7 year old daughter, is dealing with this problem right now. Her best friend is Italian. And we just found out that they are moving back to Italy next month. Reset.
The biggest challenge.
Sometimes people ask what the biggest challenge is as a missionary. Some suggest that we give up so much, our livelihoods and homes and such when we leave. But the truth is that I don't care about stuff. I miss people. I miss being established. I miss my life when goodbye wasn't such a common word and hello wasn't said with such reserve knowing how this too will end.
I don't normally share about these kinds of things, but after sharing a short post on Facebook this week, I decided to open up more and explain further to give you a better idea of our biggest challenge.
We're not unhappy or depressed or down in the dumps. It is a reality we have accepted to be real. It's just a reality that sometimes stinks. Especially for our kids.
This is an area where we would appreciate your prayers.