This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalm 118:24, ESV
I reflected on this verse during prayer time this morning to prepare my heart for this day. I had known for several months that a dearest friend already bought his ticket out of the Philippines for October 30, but somehow my heart still did not learn to cooperate.
God had revealed to me in prayer that He had great plans for my friend, and there was much reason to rejoice and be glad. For my friend was coming home, where his community, family, and ministry were waiting for him. He had done a good job as God's servant and missionary for almost six years on this to him a foreign land, with a culture he could not fully accustom to, a language he could not fluently speak, and a diet he could not happily relate to.
I should be happy for Fr. Geoffrey Coombe, mgl for he had so much in store for him back in Australia. Fr. Brian texted me yesterday that Fr. Geoffrey was packing already and asked me, "Why is he doing this to us?" Fr. Brian and I then planned to sob together during the final despedida last night. He would miss his brother and friend. I would miss my spiritual director and friend.
I texted back to Fr. Brian about Fr. Geoffrey's leaving. I said, "I think God is doing this to us." He replied with a chuckle that this was one of the times he could truly say that God's ways were not our ways.
For this parting was painful, but necessary. Even if we knew that we would survive. Fr. Steve would find more hands to help him in the parish. Fr. Brian would assimilate more into Filipino culture. The young people would find new mentors. Ella would learn new things from her new spiritual directress. Fr. Geoff had to leave, most likely, for all of these to bear more fruit.
Still, for today, I am experiencing the pains of parting. At least I have said all that I wanted to say, and done all that I had wanted to do, to show my appreciation for this wonderful gift of a person. I have given him a bone-crunching hug and bought a gift he could use for his studies and his ministry. I have spent quality time with him at every opportunity and, together with my family, have given a special send-off piano recital for him.
I could also tell from the series of send-off parties that he had given all that he could to this country. Among the many fruits he would be leaving behind were my family's return to performing classical music, the Knights of the Altar's greater appreciation of their service as to God and not to men, the livelihood project, Carlite ministry, PowerPoint presentations on Youth Alpha and Catholic Apologetics, sports as part of spiritual health for Christians of all ages, and all the expressions of art in his faith and his ministry.
Instead of crying all day, I will be grateful to have been cared for spiritually and loved by a rare and special priest. I have to let him go so that more people will be blessed by him.
So I am a bit emotional today. It comes with honesty and freedom, and in loving God with all that I am.
To all who, like me, are sad today because of this leaving, I hope we could all rejoice at what God will do in us and through us because of this.
Bon Voyage, Fr Geoff. See you soon. God bless.