and the goodbyes begin

I said goodbye to a friend today.

Melissa was in our youth group when we first started doing ministry in Harrismith. She was quiet (until she became comfortable around me) and funny (we laughed a lot). She'd swing by our house often just to hang out, watch movies, eat M&Ms, and drink coffee. We'd kuier (visit) for hours, and she'd laugh as I'd attempt my very best Afrikaans. (Jou voete ruik sleg.) Of course, she was laughing with me, not at me. Of course.

Now 23, Melissita (as I affectionately call her) is a beautiful young woman. Her joy-filled smile and shining eyes bring joy to my heart.

Next week, she's moving to Malaysia with her family.

Over milkshakes and lattes, we talked about the future, reminisced about the past, and took a string of pictures to get at least one in which her eyes weren't closed and my face wasn't cut off. Amid a lot of laughter, our friendship was sealed in our hearts.

As we hugged and said our teary goodbyes, I realized that I was losing one of my oldest connections in Harrismith (if not the oldest). Without even being cognizant of it, there's been a reassurance, a comfort, in having someone here who has known me that long, who made me feel like I made a difference when I was a very "green" 19-year-old missionary, who attended my wedding, and who has become a friend.

Melissita, you will be missed. Hang onto that M&M packet in your wallet, k?

(A funny postscript: The coffee shop owner asked if Melissa was my daughter. I guess I'm not aging as gracefully as I'd like to think I am!)