Finifugal used to simply be one of those pretty words that sounded cool if one of my english friends used it in a sentence. Little did I know that this word, that sounded like some or other Asian dish in one of Eastbound's stories, would gain meaning and reveal one of my hearts greatest fears. It is used to describe a person who fears endings, who tries to avoid the final moments of a story, relationship or some memorable journey. Someone who runs from goodbyes and prolong the ending of a good book.
I used to be a finifugal traveler.
BUT GOD - this has become the intro line for any big heart-change or mind-shift in my life - CAME AND CHANGED THAT.
Due to the nature of our journey every arrival at a bus terminal or airport or harbor is completely unique and different. And although the times, circumstances and means of arrival differ, the overall setting and mood is almost always the same:
Westbound steps onto the foreign soil with sleepy eyes, messy hair and a mountain-size pile of backpacks. The ladies are off to go and scout for a free bathroom while some of the men are looking for a bank. The food team is exploring the streets for cheap, safe food while travel team is somewhere finding a place to be out of the way of all the rushing travelers. I am standing with my cellphone and a watsapp profile picture of a baby, a silhouette, a dog or a family picture of seemingly seventy similar-looking people trying to figure our who our host is.
The next moment a stranger walks up to us and starts greeting my teammates that now looks like they are ready to setup camp on the terminal floor. Aha, our host!
I guess it not such an impossible task to spot the eleven young, loud South Africans next to the mountain of bags.
Next up is quick introductions and a comment or two about the weather, followed by a uncomfortable chuckle or two from the now awake and ready-to-go team.
We are nothing but strangers in a foreign country, met by a stranger that doesn't really know anything about us. Both sides distant because of the mystery and uncertainty of the whole situation.
But because this is Global Challenge and not Contiki there has been a time or four where we have arrived at the airport or bus station without having anyone that is knowingly expecting us. Instead of the usual "spot the random stranger on the watsapp profile picture" we have a meeting to pray and seek God's heart about the "what's next".
The atmosphere filled with excitement and uncertainty, adventure and a dollop of fear.
Once again strangers in a stranger country, without anyone waiting for us or welcoming us.
The arrival hall an empty place filled with mysterious possibilities.
And then a few weeks, sometimes only a few days, pass and we return to that same arrival hall - but this time it will be our departure hall.
And it is here where our God has painted the beautiful contrast on the canvas of my finifugal heart.
The side walk next to the row of taxi's, the windows of the bus station, the steps in front of the church, the big open space before the check-in counter are all filled with the smiles of close friends. Tear-stained faces that reflect from broken hearts over the painful goodbyes.
A crowd of witnesses that woke up at 03:00am or stayed awake till 00:00 to come and see us off as we head out into our next adventure!
Bags full of care-food for the road.
Newly found fathers and brothers, mothers and sisters loudly chatting as everyone carry a piece of our mountain of backpacks, pillows and day-bags to our point of departure.
Hugs and prayers, and then quickly turning around for another hug.
Loading our houses onto our backs and then the loud "Uno ultimo photo" or "one last photo" !
Everyone squish into the screen as the longest arm is extended to capture our last moments together.
And then the hugs and tears start all over again...
Wordless moments in-between tight hugs that speak of hearts being changed by a God who weaves people together in love.
As I sit and think about the thing that I once avoided and detested all my life, all I can remember now is moments that changed my whole existence... the team leaning as far as possible out of the taxi windows, noses pressed against the bus window, the final moments of turning around to wave one last goodbye and seeing the people behind us standing there sending us off and watching us as we leave.
The once lonely and uncertain arrival hall became a departure hall filled with memories, love and sweet, sweet fellowship.
Yes, it is at the goodbyes that this finifugal traveler has seen the wonder of strangers that became friends and friends that became family.
And now I know the beauty of the God who use an ending to paint the loveliest start of something new...