Today is the day that Keith and Lori Doster, along with their two daughters, Sarah and Emory, have been anticipating for months. Unless an ice storm can deter them, they will be leaving Greenville en route to the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas to serve as missionaries. While it is an exciting thing for their family and their church to send them off on this journey, there will also be some precious relational ties that will be stretched, others that will be broken, and none that will ever be quite the same again.
Last night I had the privilege of joining Keith and Lori as they said goodbye to some of their closest friends from Grace Church. As everyone came around them, laid hands on them, and asked God to bless their transition and their ministry, it struck me that the people in that room were brothers and sisters to Keith and Lori. There were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters—none by birth, but all a monument nonetheless to the strength and sweetness of community in which Jesus is at the center.
I understand what it feels like to be separated from this kind of community for the sake of doing what we feel God has called us to. I spent 11 years as missionary kid in West Africa, and the prospect of the next goodbye always loomed large over every season of my life. I felt like it was constant. I remember trying to eat my cereal the morning of one of our several departures from the States back to Africa. I was by myself, and tears started rolling off my cheeks and into my milk before I could contain myself and stay under the radar of another travel day’s commotion. I couldn’t hide from the sadness in Africa either. At one point we said goodbye to some close family friends who were ending their tenure as missionaries, after which my parents found me in my room crying and resenting the fact that, “We always have to say goodbye!” I was reminded this week that, when the day came for us to leave West Africa for good, I was found hiding in the closet, sad to be leaving the only life I had really ever known.
I say all that to say this: community (I could say “family”) is wonderful, but the Dosters are leaving something wonderful in order to grow their community into something better. If the people praying over Keith and Lori last night were truly their family, then the Dosters are simply spreading those familial bonds even further, inviting all nations to join in the sweetness of their fellowship.
Jesus said, “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” The point of this post is to tell the Dosters that I have personally found Jesus’ words to be true. As difficult as it was to say goodbye, I would never trade the brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, nor would I trade the hardships that I have gained as a result of always leaving behind what I loved. I received a hundrefold now in this life. I believe you will too. Thank you for spending yourself for Jesus’ sake and for the gospel.