It’s never easy to say goodbye, but very rarely does one’s body actively rebel against the whole leaving process. Just three days before Elisa and I were set to leave, as we were giving away clothing and household items to anyone who got in our line of sight, my immune system decided that it would very much like to stay right here thankyouverymuch and promptly gave me strep throat. I ended up spending our going away party watching pathetically from bed as my friends played games and ate all the delicious food that would have been like gravel and shards of glass to my poor throat. My body, though, was a pretty good approximation of what it’s like to leave Central Asia after pouring my life into these students for the past two years.
It seemed pretty evident that many of them felt it, too, if the pile of lovely gifts left behind is any indication. More than one person asked if we were sure that we could really fly if I had strep throat. “Aren’t there regulations or anything?” Another couple guys asked a week beforehand where my tickets were. “Why?” I asked. So they could rip them up. I pointed out that I also had copies in my email. “Scott, c’mon,” they looked at me, “We go to an IT university. You think we can’t get into your email?”
My heart is sad to leave behind so many wonderful friends, but it’s made happier to see that I’m not the only one who feels that way. They feel just as thankful to have known me as I am to have known them. There’s one friend in particular that made us feel like God was saying, “This is what I kept you here until now for. Now you can go.”
The Saturday before we left, Elisa and I received a call from one of our ethnically Kazakh students, named D. D had been coming around since sometime late in the school year. I can’t recall for sure if she even came to any of our large group gatherings before we ended them for the summer. But all summer, she came to virtually everything we did: English club, Frisbee Fridays (okay, we didn’t call them that), and, most important, Bible study. When I answered the phone, she told me, “Scott, I have something to tell you.” I didn’t know what to expect. “Tonight, I decided to follow Jesus!” I was absolutely bursting with joy. She had just met with Diane, one of our team members who will be staying to work with OMF for the next year and a half, and they’d talked for over two hours. Diane was the one who had initially connected with D, but had been in Kyrgyzstan for about a month because of visa issues. Elisa and I both poured into D during that time through the Bible study–but I didn’t realize how close she was to the Kingdom. It makes you marvel at the way God can use you, even when you don’t quite understand it. I hope this story is encouraging to you, because it is to me.
I can think of no end more fitting to our time here than this. Thank you, D, for reminding us of why Jesus left the 99 for the one.
I’m writing this from Italy. We arrived yesterday afternoon and are visiting Elisa’s family before coming to the States. I’m feeling much better, too.