**Written in St. Petersburg, Russia on July 23**
This year, I have been incredibly blessed to be able to serve on two separate mission trips. The spring trip (which I dearly love) was all about moving from city-to-city, and country-to-country meeting and encouraging pastors. This summer's trip was about participating in the fruit of the spring trip. It was about serving alongside national pastors who live their ministry day in and day out.
No matter how many times you come to a city…you develop a relationship with each person, each pastor, each child and each team member. When you are living in the same house with your host family or even in the same room with one of your team members, you get to know someone pretty well. You see them at their best. You seem them when they are cranky from lack of sleep. You get a chance to hear their heart and their passion for things in life and in the ministry.
When it comes to saying “Good-bye”, I think we all stink at it. For one week we shared in ministry together. We baked in the morning and afternoon sun. We laughed at our quirky moments. We played volleyball until all hours of the night (because the sun rarely sets in Russia), and we appreciated the laughter that comes from joking around with each other.
Each of these moments is embedded on my heart. As we celebrated what God had done in the lives of people in Pskov, the reality of the moments rang true in our lives. Each moment we spend with our Russian brothers and sisters, we leave a little piece of our hearts with them. For me, I left a piece of my heart in the Czech Republic and in Russia.
At the beginning of the week, our interpreters and others were strangers, and by the end of the week we are friends. You hug them good-bye or you shake their hand, and it lingers…knowing that we will not see each other for some time. Hearts were opened and softened. Email addresses and Facebook friending were exchanged, and suddenly it hit me. I wasn't JUST a photographer or a blogger or an Elder or a friend, but I had invested in the lives of each of these individuals.
And…that is why…it is so hard to say “Good-bye“. That is why when you board that mini-bus, and wave for the last time…you leave a little piece of yourself with your new friends.
For we once were strangers…and now…now…we are…FRIENDS!
[This post is part of the Summer Missions Trip 2011 series.]
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