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The Last Goodbye

For missionaries, goodbyes are brutal. Each time I say goodbye to loved ones, on either side of the world, I wonder if it will be the last goodbye.

Last summer, I stood in the hot Georgia sun and said goodbye to my sweet mother-in-law, Faye. A few weeks before, she received word from her doctor that her cancer had returned. As I hugged her, I tried to push the thought of “this could be the last goodbye” far from my mind. I wanted to pretend that we’d see her soon, that somehow she would live many more years.

After that goodbye, we returned to Indonesia, and for several months, Faye did well. My husband David was able to visit her in January of this year, and they had a wonderful visit. She even got in the kitchen with him and taught him how to make her famous baked potato soup.

Natalie (left) and her husband David (right) say goodbye to Faye (center) before their return to Indonesia in 2016.

But then in April she started to decline. We debated, should David go to be with her, should we all go to be with her, and when? Finally we decided David should go, and go soon. Thankfully, he had time with her and his father and siblings. She died a few weeks later.

It is the thing I have probably dreaded the most about living overseas as a global worker – that someone close to me would die, and I would be on the other side of the world, unable to be there to grieve with family. And yet, in the midst of our grief from losing a beloved mom and grandmother, God showed his loving care toward our family. My parents were able to be with Faye in her final moments, and share with us how peaceful her death was. Friends in Sentani where we live brought flowers, food, and cards. Our sending church in Georgia offered to fly us back for the second memorial service and burial.

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These past two weeks we’ve been in Colorado for the memorial service, and it has been a special time as we honored the memory of Faye, who loved us well, prayed for us, and was always one of our biggest champions during our time with MAF in Indonesia.

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