Wednesday, March 08, 2006


In this marvelous two-year super condensed course on life, you learn many principles. One of them is how to say goodbye.

When you first leave your family at the Missionary Training Center it's typically a very emotional parting. I remember being in shock mode that my departure date had actually arrived. Even before I had said goodbye to my family I had to say goodbye to many friends, who I would not being seeing for at least two years. Sometimes it's hard to fathom why one would voluntarily disappear for two years.

Once I felt situated in the MTC we spent 12 grueling weeks studying Russian and scripture. I made many friends in the MTC and we all suffered through it together. Then came Sept 20 and we had to say goodbye again. Many went to St. Petersburg, many to Siberia, others to Samara. The people who had been a permanent fixture in my surroundings suddenly vanished and I was in a very new environment.

Culture shock was more subtle than I thought. At first everything was so new and exciting that I felt like I was on a vacation. Then the cold reality set in that I would be living in this country for a good 22 months, and I started to feel the pangs of homesickness.

Luckily here in Mariupol I've been surrounded by amazing people. After living here for 5 and a half months I feel quite at home, and I have many friends and acquaintances. Then came the phone call from headquarters that I was shipping out to a new city. This meant countless goodbyes.

I've spent the last week saying farewell to people. But in this instance it's very different from when I said goodbye to people back home. Here it's an indefinite goodbye. In most of these situations, I will never see these people again. Of course the other missionaries I served with will pop in and out of my future. But as far as the Ukrainian people here, with whom I have developed great friendships and grown to love, it's unlikely that I will ever have a chance to see them after I leave this week. It's kind of one of those, see you on the other side, type of feelings.

Oh the many facets of farewell. Not only am I saying goodbye to people, but I'm saying goodbye to lifestyles, inside jokes, ritual activities and my comfort zone. Soon I'll be in a completely new set of surroundings, in which I'll spend a good month or two getting familiarized and acclimated. Then I'll begin to develop wonderful friendships with wonderful people, with the foreknowledge that within months I will have to say farewell again. It just seems so inescapably inevitable. Hi is so much better than goodbye.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

In Love

I had a friend across the ocean pose a very un-missionary-like question last Wednesday - "How do you know when you're in love?" I imagine this question sprung from a current relationship that is approaching a crossroads. This is my response to her question:

It's a very good question, one that can be answered from many different angles and perspectives. Of course there are different degrees of love in every relationship. But actually being in love with someone . . . well that's quite involuntary isn't it? I've been smitten with many girls in my short career and it was always the same story. Suddenly all the free space in your mind is filled with daydreams and imagined conversations and ideas for perfect dates. I've often said to other missionaries out here that the one you love is the one that occupies your mind when there's absolutely nothing else to think about - when you're on a busride or those last fifteen minutes before you fall asleep.

One could also argue that if you really love somebody you'd do absolutely anything to make them happy. Their happiness is your happiness. Real love is by definition unselfish. Real love is a kiss on the cheek when you when you don't expect anything in return (or maybe that's just shameless affection).

I guess my question is - at what point do we differentiate between "being in love" and "being twidderpated." I'd have to say that being in love is probably the most amazing feeling in the world. Think back on when you were the very happiest with your significant other, and you could probably say you were in love with them. Of course this could all just be some fairy tale nonsense I only want to believe in - a "movie-script ending."

Being in love with someone could also be a gradual process, that comes from fragmented revelation. You know, the kind of love that comes from experience, time and familiarity. I guess I would say that real love should stand the tests of time.