Departure – A Word with New Meaning to me
I used to travel a lot and the word departure only meant something to me at the airport terminal. Which way to the gate for my flight? Recently, I discovered a new meaning for this word, and how it describes my recent spiritual journey.
After 21 years of ministry at South Edmonton Alliance Church, I resigned to follow God’s calling to BC and take on a new role with the CPD. I love the church, the people, and team that I worked with very much and it was hard to say goodbye to the church, especially during a pandemic.
My sister, my only sibling, passed away on Thanksgiving Sunday last year in Hong Kong after a seven-year battle with cancer. Her last few weeks in the hospital left her feeling extremely lonely and helpless as no visitors were allowed due to COVID, not even her husband and daughter. My Mom (in Calgary) and I wanted to go back to at least say goodbye, but the circumstances did not allow for that. Sadly, we couldn’t even go back for her funeral.
Shortly after my sister passed, I called my mom to let her know about my new role and the upcoming move to BC. Her immediate response was, “Your sister just left and now you’re going to leave me too?” My mother is 86 years old, single, and has been living by herself in Calgary for almost 28 years. I used to live in Calgary when I pastored at the Calgary Chinese Alliance Church. Mom was unhappy when I moved to Edmonton in 1999 but declined to move with me. She was much younger and healthier back then. I invited her to move out to Vancouver with me, but once again she declined. She feels she could not handle the stress of moving and I completely understand.
Natalie and I have three adult children. Geoffrey is 25 and working, Gabriel and Nichole 22 and 20 are attending university. All three will be staying behind. It feels like an empty nest experience in reverse, or the honeymoon phase again. Deep down in our hearts we know we are going to miss our children very much and worry about them. What are they going to eat? Who will clean up after them? What about the dog? Is he going to survive with being fed some days and other days not? Will they close the garage door? I recently installed a wi-fi garage door module, but what if the internet went down? What if…
Departure is not an easy feeling. There are many emotions associated with it. Being emotionally prepared when facing major changes involving departures is extremely difficult, at least it feels that way to me.
The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you. So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed…”
I hear God calling me to serve Him and His churches in the CPD and already see His hand moving in my life. I am waiting for things to improve with the pandemic and for restrictions to lift before completing the final phase of my departure-transition experience. I have not moved in 21 years. I have forgotten how to pack, both physically and emotionally. Packing up the dreams God planted in the fertile soil of my journey means a chapter in my life is through, and a new chapter for my family and my ministry begins.
I’ve come to realize that departures are a part of everyone’s life. It is a sacred pathway to develop our faith. Sometimes God invites us to break free of our present daily routines and rhythms to begin something new. He invites us to firmly hold on to His and follow Him. Vulnerability is the key to experience God and build spirituality.