And so it starts. It obviously has to happen at some point but for some reason I’m always surprised by it. The period of saying goodbyes has begun, as the date of our departure from Japan draws nearer.
I’ve always hated long, drawn out, goodbyes. When I graduated from university, for example, for several weeks, I was always saying goodbyes to friends, not knowing if that was the last time I would see them. We’d have an emotional exchange, saying all those deep and meaningful things you want to say to someone as your last parting words. Then I’d bump into them a couple of days later! Do we do all the emotional speeches again? Or do we just act like we have always done before with a casual, “See ya!”? I found it an awkward dilemma.
Last night I went one last time to the futsal club at the local gym. Over the past 2 years, we’ve developed a rapport, not just with the guys who let me on their team, but also with all the primary school kids who come along and treat me like their big brother; the girls who are dreaming of playing football for Japan, the boy who had cheered me on at the sidelines shouting, “Let’s believe in Jesus!” I was surprised by how sad I felt saying goodbye to all of them. You’d think that I’d have learnt by now – I’ve had plenty of experience of goodbyes!
Recently, on the walk to church, I bumped into a mother and her boy who live nearby who I refer to as the BBQ people. A little further down the road I saw some lads from futsal. I saw Mr Kim, cross the road, the Korean restaurant owner who recently lost his older brother. I passed the post office where I’m always recognised and greeted with friendly smiles. I popped into the convenience store round the corner which I frequent, and the ladies who work there expressed their sadness at the fact that we’ll be returning to the UK. I also saw a man tidying up outside a little noodle shop – I recognised him as the man I’d seen months ago in a local park playing with his children, and had also seen driving a truck full of snow one time. Then of course there are all our neighbours, and the lady who we met at the children’s clinic round the corner who I see every morning when I take out the rubbish.
We have got to know several people just in our neighbourhood. It’s sad to think of leaving them. Yes, we will be coming back to Japan, but we won’t be coming back to this neighbourhood. It seems a shame that we’ve built up all these contacts and relationships over these 2 years and now we’re leaving them all. None of these people I’ve mentioned have come to church, despite several invitations from us. Who will tell them about Jesus?
- May God have mercy and draw these people to himself.
- May they meet other Christians after we’ve gone.
- May they go to church and hear the words of eternal life and put their trust in Christ.
- May we have good goodbyes with the rest of the people we need to, and end out time here well.