Over the last 3 months we have been in a state of perpetual goodbyes. It is only a little more than a year ago that the internship really kicked off, as community members moved onsite. This last week we have had to say our farewells, not knowing when or where we might see each other again. What a year it was!
As you might know, after we resigned from our role the internship/community was over no less than 6 months it had began. These months were some of the most interesting, intense, stressful and infuriating months of our life. While we were building community and running a Christian retreat centre, it felt like the rug was pulled from under us following a decision from the property owners made it impossible for us to continue with full energy. We were establishing community by maintaining rhythms of prayer and sharing life, by renovating together and working at increasing the bookings of the conference centre on the property; we hosted guests from all walks of life, all the while continually weaving our own family life (the other family was expecting their 3rd child in the midst of it). A rollercoaster story unfolded as we spiralled down into a place of powerlessness and bewilderment. Yet, because of our commitment to love each other, the community rhythms and the space to speak truth in the midst of a chaos of emotions, our hearts remained open.
These hardships that could have torn us apart actually bonded us deeply. Many moments during the week we would share our experiences with each other; also with a group of mature Christians that was forming around us. The whole ordeal meant we were constantly bouncing issues of theology, psychology, and mission off each other as we processed what was happening to us. A weekly meal with a retired couple that committed to mentor us as a group created the necessary space where all 6, and later 7 of us could vent, be weak and be rebuked if necessary.
Looking back I realise this was one of those chapters where I have felt very spiritually alive and connected to the story of the Bible. It was intense but I would not have wanted to miss it. The relationships that formed over this time are strong, honest and deep. Like family.
The following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” puts words to what could have been a disillusioning experience.
“…We must confess he builds. We must proclaim, he builds. We must pray to him, and he will build. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are the times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. … It is a great comfort which Jesus gives to his church. You confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is not your providence. Do what is given to you, and do it well, and you will have done enough…. Live together in the forgiveness of your sins. Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.”
After we moved out of the place that we have called home, workplace and calling over the last 3 years, we found ourselves at crossroads. We are making the big move to the Netherlands to be closer to Hannah’s family. All credit to Tonn for being willing to put his strong shoulders under it. Having sold, given away and/or shipped most of our earthly possessions we now live out of our suitcase/car. For 3 months we have travelled along the Australian south-east coast and Tasmania, encouraging other intentional Christian communities, whilst also being blessed and rejuvenated by Australia’s beautiful bush and beaches, by other people’s hospitality and the opportunities to house sit.
This long stretched goodbye is now ending and we still don’t know what awaits us on the other side of the world. At the end of this month we fly to Amsterdam. Our intern Kanan will return to the US even sooner. The goodbyes have been beautiful and painful, and there are still more to follow as we spend some last weeks with Tonn’s family. People who have become friends for life have entered this soon-to-be-past chapter as we travel onwards to our new home. And that hurts. The words “farewell” come with a lump in our throat and tears in our eyes. Christ is and has been at the heart of this journey, and through Him we will always stay connected to His followers. Together with so many Christians worldwide we are part of His kingdom, a family of families where truth telling and loving each other deeply triumphs over deception, disillusionment and strife. We are privileged to have had the opportunity to do life and mission with some like-minded people and we will miss them all dearly. This hurt can only mean we have loved and were loved so well. A beautiful pain to have.