Standing on the Other Side of the Line

Landing on Italian soil in 1982

The first time I boarded a plane for Italy, I left with one husband, 24 suitcases, a child on each hip, one holding her daddy’s hand and the absolute assurance God had called.

My parents and his parents lined up to say good-bye at the airport.

My dad wasn’t touchy-feely. He may have lacked in some of those skills. I discovered adults hugged when I married into my husband’s family. 

It’s ok. I’m almost normal.

Dad at the airport seeing us off in 1982

At the airport my dad wrapped me in his arms like he was drowning and I was his life preserver. I remember my face smashed against his coat. All I could see were his brown leather shoes dotted wet with tears like they’d stepped into rainfall. My mom pulled out her ever present white hanky and blew. 

I turned from the bawling hiccups of my dad, scooped up my babies, and thought, “I can do this Lord, but I can’t do that. I can’t be on the other side of this line.” 

daily life in Italy in the first months

For months in Italy, I woke in the morning, walked into my Italian bathroom with the see through door and green tile and opened my eyes to the mirror above the sink. My dad’s reflection wept back at me. And each day I bowed my head and cried. For months.  

My momma heart is a little sore today. I’ve been on the other side of the line in many ways and for many years. We said good-bye one by one to our children as they stayed for college in the States, unsure when we would see them again, and climbed back into the planes that dropped us off again and again overseas. 

Today my daughter, son-in-law and grandson say good-bye to their children and parents on this side. And I find as they go my heart is stuck to them like a piece of melted gum on a shoe. 

“Good-byes never get easier,” an older missionary told me once. We sat at a round banquet table covered in a white tablecloth. It was in the old days of women’s church mission-society lunches.  The hall was packed with missionaries, wanna-be missionaries, should-be missionaries, and get me out of here before God calls-me-to-be-a-missionary types.

I looked at her like she was crazy. First for saying what she did to someone about to leave family and country for the first traumatic time, and second for even thinking it. How could any good-bye be worse than the one I was about to make? 

daughter and grandson on a return trip to Italy

Any missionary with any amount of years on the field will tell you. That wrinkled seasoned servant of God knew what she was talking about.

Good-byes never get easier. 

My momma heart feels like it will break today. 

But I will be grateful for this pain because Jesus honors it. 

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15 NIV

I will thank God for my children who brave the good-byes to their own children because they want what God wants more than what they want. 

I will thank God for their obedience and surrender, because it is a huge sacrifice. 

I will thank God for a call so clear and compelling that their good-bye prayer is for “the courage to do what God has called us to do.” 

they’ve done this return flight for years

I will thank God that there are still men and women of God who have the perspective that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. 

I will thank Jesus there is sorrow for all the good reasons, for relationships of tender love, for commitment, and faithfulness.

I will thank Jesus that He left all, came to this earth with the cross in His path, that He knew the love of an earthly father and had a grieving momma at the foot of His cross. I will thank Jesus for what He did and be humbled that nothing deterred Him from the Father’s will. 

I will thank Jesus today on the other side of the line of good-bye.

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29 NIV


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32 Replies

  1. J.D. Wininger Reply

    This post hits far too close to home for me this week my friend. My eldest brother and his family were missionaries in the Far East for many years. This month, their eldest son and his family are departing on this missionary journey to the African continent. While I won’t be at the airport for their “send-off”, I’ll continue praying daily for their safety and that God use them in a mighty way in their service. God’s blessings; and know I’m praying for your children and grandchildren also this day.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you J.D. I noticed you mentioned them in a facebook post. I’m so glad your family has the privilege of serving Jesus in that way. I gotta admit, I’m also glad you know what I’m talking about! It is a wonderful but difficult sacrifice. Thanks J.D. And, may they be used mightily for the kingdom.

  2. Edwina Cowgill Reply

    I’ve never had children leave for the mission field. But my son served in the Marines, and I had to say good-bye quite a few times as he left for various locations in the world. It never got easier. I am so thankful that God brought him safely home every time. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you so much, and thanks to your son for his service. Yes, you certainly have experienced the good-byes and God’s gracious answers with each return. Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s a good reminder to me of the many men and women who selflessly serve. I am so grateful for a God who sees each goodbye tear.

  3. Cleo Waters Reply

    I’ve always enjoyed your writing Sylvia and this post is so ‘on point’. All of us have had our ‘goodbye’ moments and your story reminded me of when I left home the first time ever and how my Dad reacted…. the memory made me cry….again. Thank you for sharing.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks so much Cleo! I appreciate your comment and I’m honored you enjoy reading what I write. Thanks!

  4. Phyllis Chapple Reply

    I remember those days. The hardest goodbye we had was after our third or fourth HMA I think – I have lost track of which one now. Both Don and I were puzzled why it was so particularly hard at that time. I remember the point where Don said “I don’t think I can take one more goodbye”, then the couple we spent the night with while travelling read a little devotional in the morning before we headed out. It was titled “Loving Is Leaving” by Max Lucado. I think we both had tears all the way through the reading. Max listed stories of several difficult leavings, one being Jesus leaving heaven to come down to earth to do the Father’s will. That one put things in perspective.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Phyllis, Oh my yes. I don’t know that I’ve read that, but you have me curious and I’ll have to see if I can find it. The thought though of Jesus leaving all was etched on my heart so many times. It always seems to bring things back into perspective. Thank you so much for sharing.

      • Phyllis Reply

        I tried briefly looking for it online but didn’t see it and it has been so long ago that I don’t remember which of his books it was in.

        • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

          I haven’t had a chance to look, but I’ll see what I come up with when I have a moment. Anyway, I appreciate you reading and commenting. I know you all have said your share of good-byes too.

  5. Jan Puffenberger Reply

    And Justin and Lauren say their first of many goodbyes as Roman leaves for his very first day of school…and it has begun. Not as challenging as leaving for the mission of the Lord in a far away country, but it is preparing them for the goodbyes to come. Prayers! ❤️🙏

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Jan, Oh I know. The good-byes begin. It’s a big step toward bigger ones. But Roman is a great one to start with. Such a calm and sweet boy. Praying for him today.

  6. Katherine Pasour Reply

    Your message brought back a lot of painful memories. Fortunately, for the most part, a painful good-bye will be the prelude to a joyful reunion. Looking forward to meeting my loved ones again.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      I’m sorry for those painful memories. But you are right, there are are joyful reunions waiting. I’m so glad for that. Thanks Katherine.

  7. Jeannie Waters Reply

    Sylvia, although I haven’t experienced the same type of good-byes, your post spoke to my heart. I’ve often prayed I would be as resolute in the mission God has given me as Jesus was in His. Thank you. I’m praying now for your family.

  8. Ken & Barbara Latta Reply

    I’ve had the good-bye bug strike me more times than I can count. It is never easy but when we put them in God’s hands we know they are in the best place they can be. And when we stay in prayer for them and also for ourselves to stay in the right mindset we can know we are connected by our Father who loves us all.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Barbara! I appreciate that perspective. They are in the best place they can be. It is a great comfort!

  9. Dan Pritchett Reply

    Yes, I remember this from a different perspective – and MK (missionary kid) watching my parents say good bye. We got used to doing this with our parents when we went to boarding school. I can remember the public transportation bus pulling out of Manila and lots of tears. I recently came into possession of a stack of letters my parents wrote to my Aunt and Uncle about missionary life. I’m scanning them all. They are special to read back through their thoughts on all of this. One of the blessings of “snail mail” versus email.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      So happy to hear your side of the story! That is so neat you have the letters. A true treasure! I always appreciate hearing from you and thank you so much for reading and sharing your experience as an MK!

  10. Don Pahl Reply

    As usual, thank you, Sylvia. I’ve known this but your reminder of this part of missionary life is good to review to allow us to understand again that special calling of all of our missionary friends.

    Just yesterday, I said goodbye to a cousin who left for heaven (heart, Covid, pneumonia) … and a far more permanent (physical) goodbye. Eventually, no more goodbyes … but lots of stories of God’s faithfulness!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Don. I am so sorry for your loss. I couldn’t help but think as I wrote, of the many much harder good-byes so many have faced this past season. You are right, eventually, no more goodbyes, and lots of stories of God’s faithfulness! It will be so worth it!

  11. Nancy E. Head Reply

    Thank you for your faithful example. You provide a great reminder of what so many people sacrifice when they answer God’s call to international missions.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Nancy, I am honestly not such a great example. I often felt like I had to be pushed on the plane, but I do know He is worth all of it! I appreciate you reading and responding!

  12. Eloise (Harder) Jordan Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Thanks for the picture of your parents, that is how I remember them. Do you remember when I was getting ready to go to Taiwan for the first time? Dad said something like, “I’ve taken part in many commissioning services, but this is the hardest, it is for my own daughter!” I don’t know how many times I boarded the plane, but it became almost as difficult getting on the plane on that side as it was on this side. I’m so thankful for those years. God is faithful and so good.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Eloise! It’s so nice to hear from you. Honestly, I don’t remember when your dad said that, but I know he meant it!! It must have been such a joy and such a difficult thing. Yes, God is faithful and so good! Thank you so much for responding! I always love it when someone remembers my family!

  13. Linda Lou Brucato Reply

    Wonderful! Today I am thanking God for those missionaries who are choosing to remain in Afghanistan; counting the cost for the love of the Afghani people. The day will come when they will hear those most precious of words “well done my good and faithful servant!”

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Yes. Praying and thinking so much about them too! Thanks Linda.

  14. Debbie Wilson Reply

    Sylvia, I remember standing at the airport being the one with tears dripping when my daughter left to live in Switzerland. I also remember being the one driving across the country to my ministry assignment.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Debbie, You’ve stood on both sides too! Neither side is an easy one. Thanks for sending and going. I’m glad God is faithful on both sides! Thanks Debbie!

  15. Terri Miller Reply

    On our brief trip to Africa in 2016, one of the things that made the biggest impression on me was the sacrifice of the full time missionaries there. It became so clear to me during my time there how great it was. “How beautiful are the feet of them” indeed.

    Thanks for your story and your sacrifice.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Terri. It is a privilege to serve Jesus wherever He leads!