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Posts Tagged ‘growing up’

Story and photos by Allen Cumbia.

During 2013 and 2014 we will publish a series of articles written by Skyler Cumbia as she reports on her mission experiences in Ghana, Romania and Haiti. She is currently serving as a Venturer (long-term mission volunteer) with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. The first article however, is being written by her father, Allen Cumbia, as he reflects on the beginning of Skyler’s year abroad.

Letting Go?Last night we embraced, a few tears were shed, and then she was gone. Today I am alone. I’ve just finished some coffee, the plane is cruising at 35,000 feet somewhere over central Africa, and I’m returning home without her.

As a young girl she used to say “I want to be a missionary,” but that talk faded as she blossomed into a teen. As the time grew near to complete high school, she struggled with what she wanted to do next. College was definitely something she was interested in, but what to study? Talented, smart and hard working, she could do anything she put her mind to, but what? How was God calling her? The idea of a gap year between high school and college became a possibility: a time to do some volunteer work or an internship, and in the process see a little clearer what it was she is called to do and be; a discerning time to grow some more, see the world with new eyes, and better understand herself and her passion in life.

So now, as Ghana recedes in the distance, I sit here and ponder how I have just let her go. She was such a precious little girl – quiet, observant and stoic. Hers was a tough shell to penetrate, yet underneath we could glimpse signs of the comic, the musician, the wit, and the artist. She has a compassionate and tender heart, a love for animals and a perceptive eye that saw what most missed. So many little things that add up to a wonderful mosaic, all wrapped into a tall and lanky body.

Letting Go?Leaving her as a young woman by herself in West Africa has been hard. She is not the first of our daughters to leave the nest. Two preceded her, but they were still relatively close. We could see them some weekends, get a package to them and just feel connected. But a small town in northern Ghana? That’s not so close! How can I still be a dad to her? How can I hold her and do for her the things that I want to do?

We knew when she was born that our job was to raise her up for a day such as this, yet how did it get here so quickly? A first tooth and then a step, that first day of school, a two wheeler at last, and all of a sudden – a drivers license. In each of these steps and more, we were slowly releasing her, allowing her to become independent, to become the woman that God has planned for her to be.

Letting Go?And now she’s gone, she’s beyond my embrace. It hurts, but also somehow it is right. I don’t want to hold her back, and really I can’t hold her back. Now is the time for this delicate bud to blossom into the beautiful and fragrant flower that she was created to be. To hold too tight now would be to crush and destroy that unique and precious creation that God has given to us. So here I sit, having released her less than 24 hours ago. But have I really released her? Physically we are going to be separated by more than 5,100 miles. In just about every other aspect we are as close as ever, perhaps closer.

I journeyed with her to Ghana for a variety of reasons. Of course as a dad I had some big reservations about her going off by herself and wanted to be with her and help her navigate a strange and distant land as she settled in. But more than that, this trip was a time to share some condensed one-on-one time. I had taken individual mission trips with my other three girls to foreign lands, but this was the first one for just the two of us. In making this trip we shared some unique experiences that bonded us closer than ever. I now understand so much better the daily things she will be doing, the people she will be with, and the physical environment in which she will be living. Now I know better than most how to pray for and support her.

Last night I gave her a last caress across her hair, a last squeeze of the hand and then I let go, but in the process of letting go she has in fact been embraced. Embraced by the new roommate she will have, embraced by the people with whom she will be working, and most importantly, embraced by the One who created such a lovely and fragrant flower of a child in the first place. She was ours to hold for a short while, and we will continue to do so on occasion, but now we give her to God and to the world in which she will work and serve and love … and at least in my mind, that is a good way of letting go.

Editor’s note: Check out Skyler’s blog, Skyler’s Scribbles.

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