The day started normally enough. Our two oldest children woke us up by crawling into our bed. My wife wearily got up when she heard our third through the baby monitor. I took advantage of a few extra minutes of sleep until the kids’ questions and requests forced me to greet the land of the living.
As usual, lots of coffee was consumed at my in-laws’ house where we were staying. But always behind the coffee, or along with it, was a sadness mixed with a little excitement. Today we were leaving the United States to return to our ministry in France.
My kids spent the day playing with their cousins, practically oblivious to the upcoming departure. My wife, Jill, tried to soak up the final moments with her sister and mom and dad. As for me, I spent most of the day handling the last minute logistics for our late night flight, having said the tough goodbyes to my side of the family several weeks before.
The goodbyes came a few at the time throughout the day, just as they had throughout the last few weeks. Goodbyes to family, goodbyes to friends, goodbyes to supporters, goodbyes to favorite places and even goodbyes to favorite foods. Yesterday, we said our biggest goodbye, which was to our sending church. That is always the most emotional goodbye for me.
I was exhausted, my wife was exhausted and my kids were exhausted. Great way to start a transatlantic move, huh? Our exhaustion led to a few terse interchanges between Jill and me. No real arguments this time, just some words that weren’t as kind as they could have been.
After an early dinner of fish and chips with the family, I loaded up our last pieces of luggage and headed for Boston’s Logan International Airport to fly to Paris. My father-in-law and I had agreed on a departure time on the first try, and that is notable. But instead of waiting around the house for the predetermined time of departure, we left 30 minutes early to prevent going stir crazy.
At the airport, the Air France attendant was super helpful. She helped us check our many bags, then asked if we wanted to check our larger carry-ons for no charge. That could be company policy, but tonight, that was a gift from God!
Still being several hours early for our flight, we grabbed our last Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and sat around to drink and talk with my wife’s parents. My daughter dropped her donut on the ground, but I just acted like it wasn’t a big deal and encouraged her to eat it anyway (don’t tell her mother).
After coffee, we headed for security and said our final goodbyes to my in-laws. Of course tears were shed, but not too many because, sadly, we are more used to being apart than being together.
We were the first to board, and right away, we commenced getting our kids to go to sleep. The oldest two were convinced they weren’t tired, but they were asleep before takeoff was complete. The youngest, on the other hand, had found his second wind and took a lot longer to fall asleep.
I sat down to read my Bible for the first time for the day. (Sometimes it is easy for even missionaries to convince themselves that they are too busy to read the Bible.) I read the beatitudes in Matthew 5. Verse 6 really got to me as I thought about real satisfaction coming from hungering and thirsting after righteousness. That one will stay with me for a while.
The rest of the flight to Paris went smoothly, all of us getting at least a little sleep. Once we arrived in Paris, we rushed as quickly as we could through security again, then through passport control to arrive a few minutes early for our next flight. Our kids had slept through breakfast on the transatlantic flight so I hurried and grabbed some pain au chocolat (a French pastry with chocolate inside that my kids call “boomshakalaka,” which I heartily approve) and some sodas in time to catch the flight to Aix-en-Provence.
During the uneventful flight, I began to think about being back in France among the North African immigrants we work with. How will my language be? Will people remember me? Will I be effective in my ministry? Lots of questions and no real answers, but no apprehension either.
Just the day before, we were in Boston, sipping coffee with our family. But now, our plane was landing in France. Our friends picked us up with our many bags, and we headed to our house with excitement for the days to come.
This is where we minister. This is where we live. We are home, and we have work to do.
Patrick and his family are church planters among North African immigrants in southern France. He also leads an intensive program called Launch (available as a two-year program and a six-week program) to equip new and hopeful missionaries for ministry among similar populations. Click here to learn more about Launch and how you can take part.