FIRST-PERSON: A church bids farewell

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (BP) -- Life is filled with farewells, such as when you move from one place to another due to graduation, a new job, a military deployment and so forth. It is sad to say farewells to loved ones, friends, church members and neighbors.

Two longtime church families from Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., were appointed in May to join our global outreach -- the Choi family in a former Soviet republic and the Lee family in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Pastor Donald Choi and his wife Jung Yoon Choi have been with us for nearly a quarter century ever since they started coming as freshmen at MIT. Deacon Isaac Lee and his wife Jane have been with us for 23 and 13 years, respectively. Pastor Choi delivered a challenging farewell sermon from Matthew 6:19-24 about how his life has been changed through relationships in the family of God. The other three shared their personal testimony of how they have been changed through the power of the Word of God.

The inspirational message and testimonies touched the hearts of the congregation. After the fellowship meal they remained at church for a time of fellowship when a video slideshow was shown depicting many memories the two couples had made within the history of our church. But most importantly, it gave evidence of God's faithfulness to them in transforming their lives over the years.

A few days later, many church members gathered together once more for a Wednesday night farewell celebration, sharing their most lasting memories, funny stories and experiences of living life together. It went on late into the night since it was the last day for them to be with us.

The next day a large group went out to the airport to send them off. Tears were shed as we said our painful goodbyes. A TSA agent was overheard saying, "I have never seen so many people come out to the airport for a farewell...." It was a powerful testimony of the impact these two families have had in our lives through their faithful service to the Lord.

Members of Antioch Baptist Church gather at Boston’s Logan International Airport to send off two church couples for ministry – one to a former Soviet republic, the other to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Submitted photo
This beautiful picture reminds us of the farewell between apostle Paul and the Ephesian church elders in Acts 20:17-38: "... After he said this, he knelt down and prayed with all of them. There were many tears shed by everyone. They embraced Paul and kissed him...."

In life we experience numerous farewells. In Ecclesiastes 3:4 the writer tells of "a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance." It is sad to see our loved ones leave but we know that there's a time for everything and it is a part of life. This should also be a natural occurrence in the life of a healthy church because God commands us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (John 20:21; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

As Christ's ambassadors, we must go when He calls us. As pilgrims we walk this journey on earth, but one day when the journey ends we will have a heavenly reunion with all those who trusted the Lord Jesus Christ in faith (John 1:12-13, John 3:3-8; Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Our church in Cambridge experienced a painful farewell, but our families who are already in the former Soviet republic and in Fairbanks, Alaska, will welcome our two newly sent couples, so we know they will be in good hands. In John Bunyan's classic, "The Pilgrim's Progress," the pilgrim bids farewell to his old life and journeys heavenward toward the celestial city. And until we get there, let us be faithful in Christ as we long for eternity, just as Abraham was looking forward to "the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10).

Paul Kim is pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., and the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.
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