Platform: Letting Go to Start Anew
By Joanna Swart
Anywhere we look out from our house is a sea of green. Acres and acres of corn and sorghum. All around us, green shoots stretch knee-high. It is a hopeful time.
Kids perched on tall platforms yell, fling mud, shout, and carry on—anything to keep the birds away. Ladies, bent over double, work: clearing and then planting and then weeding. The promise of food, they tell us, fills their bellies all by itself. We feel the joy with our community. But our joy is tinged with sadness, for by the time this grain is harvested, we will have packed the house, filled the trunks, said our good-byes.
Anywhere we look out from our house is a sea of people. This, too, is a sight of hopefulness and work to be done. This, too, is a sight of different stages of growth: Nanuk and his family, leaders in the church; Semola, a young man who struggles to find his place in his community; Hiran, learning to trust God; a few faithful old women who never fail to fill the bench in the sun out at church. This is where we’ve labored for the last seven years. And this, too, is tinged with sadness. We will leave before all have grown to maturity. We’ll be gone before the harvest.
I say all of this at the risk of painting a depressing picture. This is far from the truth. Because as we’ve made our preparations for leaving, I have been struck, over and over again, how we are not the end of the story. We have been given the blessed privilege of being a part of the story of this land—the work of the harvest—for seven years. We were not the first ones here, nor shall we be the last. Nothing ends with us, and we, we who love this place as a home, get to carry this story with us.
But closing chapters is hard, and takes time, and our love for this place will not end when we board a plane for Tanzania. And so part of starting anew is letting go, with as much grace as possible. Thank you for remembering in prayer and love what we will be leaving behind.
Joanna Swart and her husband, Caleb, served as RCA missionaries with the Daasanech people along the Omo River in Ethiopia from 2007 to 2014. In Tanzania they partner with Training In Ministry Outreach, training future missionaries in cross-cultural ministry. “Platform” gives RCA members a chance to share their opinions.