Emily, Team New York
Our time in New York has come to an end. The question that spins in my brain is this: How do you say goodbye? The past few days have been full of goodbyes. We had a farewell party at the park on Saturday, and I was blown away by how many people came! I kept thinking, “I love all of these people…and I didn’t even know they existed six months ago!”
I can’t believe the overwhelming support we have gotten from this community. Over the past six months, I’ve personally felt unsure of my purpose here. We didn’t build a house, save any lives, or do anything heroic. We came and we lived here; sometimes we felt like we simply existed here. But, apparently, that was enough. We seem to have wiggled ourselves into many people’s hearts—just as they have into mine. The community here is beautiful. They have stolen my heart. How do you say goodbye?
Today, Sunday, will be our final goodbye to our outreach coordinators. They are some of the loveliest people that I have ever met, and have made this outreach worth it. They have six kids already—and essentially adopted five more for half a year! They’ve poured into us in so many ways. I feel like my words fail me; I will never be able to truly express my gratitude to them. They went from strangers, to friends, to family. How do you say goodbye?
Thankfully, I don’t have to figure out how to say goodbye, because it’s not truly goodbye. It’s just, “see you later!” As one of our friends told us yesterday, “There are no goodbyes in the kingdom of God, just see-you-laters!” I like that. We may be leaving, but that doesn’t nullify the friendships and love. Distance is just a physical thing—our souls are still in the same family because God is our Father.
Sara, Team Leader, Team New Mexico
How are you supposed to say goodbye to something that has completely changed your life? It feels like we arrived yesterday, and now we’re in the car again, making the trek back to Ohio.
Saying our final goodbyes this week felt surreal—it wasn’t until the last person walked out of our house that I realized this chapter was coming to a close. I suddenly wished I could go back to the beginning and read it all over again.
How did a place so far from home become home? Simply because of love. Love is what brought our team together. Love is what kept us going when things got hard. Love is what diminished our difference and made us family. Love is the reason it’s so hard to leave. The people in Albuquerque will always have part of our hearts. All that I can do now is express my gratitude.
I don’t wanna go if you’re not going before me. We listened to these lyrics as we pulled into our house in December, and again on Saturday as we pulled out of our driveway for the last time. Those lyrics have gotten us through some of our hardest days and given us faith. Jesus brought us to New Mexico—and we knew that he was going before us. Even when it was hard, we were able to say that we didn’t want to be anywhere else. Now that this chapter in ABQ is over, I’m choosing to believe that Jesus is still going before me. The unknown is scary, but we step into it with faith, knowing that he’ll show us what to do one step at a time.
God, I don’t want to go if you’re not going before me. Your faithfulness has blown our minds, and now we will have faith that you’ll go before us in this next chapter. I don’t have to see how it’ll all work out to know that you are good and that whatever may come, I will be able to lean on you for my strength.
Isaac, Director of Short-Term Programs
This time of year is always a little bittersweet for me. I am relieved that the busy weeks of re-entry are over, and I am excited to see where our REACHers will be swept off to next. I am also sad to see them go.
As Director of Short-Term Programs, I love seeing the transformation that takes place in the lives of the young people who come through our programs. This year was no different. These teams have continually stepped out and been willing to be present where they were placed. They showed resilience and courage—and most importantly, they pressed further into Jesus.
The past year was one of challenge and change. It was easy for discouragement to settle in and for situations to feel hopeless. Within a normal REACH year there are unmet expectations, but the presence of a pandemic only magnified these feelings. What we found in the midst of it all was that Jesus was still moving, and still wanted to work through our teams in Utica and Albuquerque. As the months passed, we saw Jesus soften hearts and plant vision in our teams. We saw Jesus leading.
This week, we joined together one last time as REACH 2020. We sang songs of praise and reminisced on the journey we are on. As I thought of the REACHers moving into the next chapter of their lives, Joshua 1:9 came to mind.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (NLT).
I pray that as they go out from their time in REACH, our REACHers will continue to be strong and courageous. That they will have an awareness of the God who is going with them. That they will continue to invite him to shift their perspective to see the world through the eyes of the King.