Having served for 15 years in Colombia and Guatemala, my answer is: painfully. We miss the people. We miss being part of their activities and life events. And we miss activities and life events that simply don’t exist in the US. They are gone, probably never to return. We even miss the food. After more than 25 years, a month ago I found a small Colombian restaurant in out of the way Siloam Springs, AR that had arepas con chocolo on the menu board and Colombiana! Wow. I made a special trip to have some. Ah, the memories from Bogota.
The more you bond with people and the more you invest your life in them, the harder the parting is. And it can be doubly painful if the parting is sudden or unexpected. Yet at times, you know God is calling you to leave that setting, that ministry, that group of people and you do so. On those occasions you miss the people and the setting, but you know that you are where you should be. How did we deal with it? Slowly, month by month and then year by year.
We were able to because we were confident that God was accomplishing His purposes through all of those things. There were a couple of especially painful years due to an unexpected sudden move. At other times we knew one period of ministry and life was over and another was beginning. And seeing nationals take over and do what we did, even better than we did, was rewarding and encouraging.
Today we have another advantage – the internet. My wife regularly communicates with people in the two countries we served in. Actually we communicate with both them and their kids who are now grown and have their own families. For her, it is mostly through Facebook. But we have also skyped and called. Keeping tabs this way helps ease the sense of loss.
Answer from David in MO, who has served with One Challenge and Mission Data International in Colombia, Guatemala, US for 37 years.