Friday, January 13, 2012


Almost nineteen years ago, I hugged my parent at the Minneapolis St. Paul airport and with Jana and Sophia flew off to a new life in Uganda. My parents were in tears, but we left in hope.

Seventeen years ago as I went to work my daughter, Sophia stood on our front porch crying, “Don’t leave me daddy.” I knelt down, looked her in the eyes; and said, “I won’t leave you. You will be the one to leave me someday. You will go to college. You will marry, and leave me.” Somehow, the tears left and we giggled at each other.

Our lives have had many such farewells – tears, separation, and distance. At times it was thousands of miles and years. At times it was only a few miles and hours. Yet for each farewell a reunion came.

Jana has remarked that it these farewells are often the most difficult for the one left behind. The one who leaves enters into the world of anticipation becoming reality. The one who stays grieves the loss.

The easiest thing to do is to avoid the farewells. In fact, I’ve become a master at loud celebratory “Welcome Homes,” and quiet drift away goodbyes.

Life demands that we wake up each morning and step out of our house door to find the hope of a new day. Hope springs courage. Reunion brings joy.

A few weeks ago, startling news came on Christmas Eve. Our friend, Eustache Nsinga had passed from this life to another. I’ve lost a few family members whose life was full and well lived. With their passing though full of loss there was also a sense of content fulfillment. I’ve lost a few friends whose presence on earth has never been replaced. They left this earth at a young age when our shared future was one of great promise. Eustache was one such friend. A temptation is for the grief to be full of anger as we ask the question of, “Why?”

Yet, Eustache and I share a faith in the Resurrection of Jesus. With that faith comes a hope that a new day is coming. On that day our bodies shall be free from the wounds of this earth. We shall have a resurrection body.

I only knew Eustache after an accident left him walking with a cane. The next time I see him he will walk with the vigor of youth. The cane will be no more.

The hope of that day allows me to giggle. Our farewell was one of hope.

Eustache’s funeral had speeches that I will never forget. He was a man who served and loved deeply. His principles remain eternal.

There was one moment in our farewell that made me giggle. Eustache was a big man. His large body contained an extra large sense of joy. He was a soldier by profession. The men he served with physically strong. I stood at the entrance way to CCR as his body was carried into the assembly. As his comrades lifted his body for a brief moment their faces lost the sense of calm grief and were filled with the looks of physical strain. Quickly they balanced themselves, restored their demeanor, and with dignity carried Eustache’s body for our viewing.
I imagined in heaven, Eustache looked down upon our grief and attempts at dignity and laughed hard. I giggled silently in memory of his joy and our shared hope. The last acts of Eustache’s old body would bring us giggles. The next time I see him we will dance in new bodies. Laughter trumps grief.

It is this silly hope in the resurrection that wakes me each morning. I pray. I run. I labor. I love. I laugh.

On this earth, the hope of the resurrection motivates me to build. I want this earth to be filled with the Lord’s goodness. Families should thrive. Children should go to school. Our lives should declare all that God created is good.

For the last 17 years, Sophia and I shared our giggle. “You will leave me,” one of us would say. The future of each day had a moment of separation. Who was leaving who? Yet, we would reunite.

Last year as we pondered Sophia attending university while we remained in Rwanda an illogical thought crossed my mind. When I say goodbye to Sophia it could be the last time. Yet, logic and humor overcame. Our separations of this earth are only temporary. With each one we separated because of new hope.

Sophia would go to Wheaton College. We believed her future there would be good.
On Friday, September 9, I had lunch with Sophia, took her to her dorm, and we said, “Goodbye.” I was about to walk to the car. She remarked, “I was right. You did leave me, dad. I’m standing here. You are leaving for Rwanda.” We giggled. We may have shed a tear, but they were tears of hope. Laughter trumped grief.

Over the Christmas holidays Sophia was with us in Rwanda. This was our farewell together to our home in Africa’s Great Lakes Region. We worshiped. We celebrated. We grieved. We rested at our traditional retreat on Lake Kivu. Then we said farewell. Sophia left on a plane. We were the ones who remained. Yet we giggled.

Another day is coming. We are full of hope.

God willing in five months most of our possessions of this earth will be sold. I will preach sermons, teach classes, worship in vernacular, and perform the rituals of humanity in Rwanda with all my strength before our sojourn to the Great Lakes Region of America begins. I will leave home. I will return to home. I will long for a home where I dance with my grandparents, Eustache, and my Lord.

My parents will meet us at an airport. We will embrace and cry again.
A new journey will begin. Our call requires for us to serve in America while our hearts are in Africa. My heroes of faith have walked the same path before. We are entering a season to call others to our lives in Africa.

There will be tears. They are tears of hope. Our farewells are temporary. We live in hope for a new day.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post, Jenkins family. You summarized many of our own feelings, longings and heartaches so well. We miss Rwanda too, and feel part of our hearts are still in Africa. God willing, one day we will return for a longer period. Many blessings as you prepare for a season of transition.