08 June 2014

Bye Bye Bartels

Every guy needs a best friend... especially for his wife! I don't know how we could have ever survived the past 8.5 years without Abby... but we are about to find out!

The met on our first Sunday... two moms with toddlers who for some reason couldn't sit through the 3+ hour service at the Mukono Cathedral... while the three boys ran around and the toddlers Sunday School teacher preached about "the blood of the lamb" to babies... the two moms met and saw something everyone needs... a friend! Separated by an ocean and 11 times zones from family and friends back home a friend on the mission field is comparable to a life boat... or at times life support!

Sunday fellowship turned into week day coffees, double dates with the husbands, family vacations and holidays. Over our married life Christine and I have celebrated more birthdays, Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmases with the Bartels than any member of our own families... not to mention tears after defeats and discouragements... celebrations over the births of Mary and Rachel... commiseration over cultural blunders... and belly laughs over the most rookie missionary mistakes we could make.  A good friend on the mission field becomes your family support... filling the role of sibling, cousin and friend!

But back to Abby... she is hardly a friend of convenience... as Abby often likes to point out God puts people and circumstances in our lives for a reason... or in my case God even gives divine illnesses to teach me a few lessons! The girls met that first Sunday because God knew we would need Abby and Mark... Abby is compassionate, tender, able to listen without fixing and able to advise without imposing... in most conversations you simply can't wait for her advice!

Abby taught me a lot about being a husband... I often admired that she could give Christine something that in the moment I couldn't give... I could see Christine struggling at times and I wanted to be the answer but that's more my need to be needed than what Christine really needed... Watching Abby I admired the way she could listen and understand... hear a good rant and not react... sympathize with struggles... and be a friend to lean on until the storm had passed... at one point I simply started asking myself in each encounter with Christine "what would Abby do?"

Mark and I had to be friends... when wives get along so well the "bro-code" dictates that the guys just need to get along... but Mark is another voice I constantly needed in my head... Mark is rationale and I'm emotional... Mark rolls with the punches and I either want to fight back or tap out... Mark understands and explains Ugandan culture so well while I've pulled half my hair out trying to figure it all out... Mark is also my favorite conversation... whether it is family, kids, sports or trying to figure out new cultural phenomena back home like "u-tube" (we later discovered it was youtube) or "selfies" (wow, we were way off on what that was)... and for the last 8+ years Mark has been the first friend that I want to talk through struggles at work, Uganda in general or communicating back home.. I couldn't have asked for a better husband to my wife's best friend!

Mark and Abby will leave on Tuesday and life will change... we will now have a reason to visit Pittsburg... we will get to see close up what life is like "off the island" ... and a part of us will feel like our family is moving away. Mark and Abby won't be replaced... family is irreplaceable! They will just become the new standard for the friends we want to be and the friends we want to find!

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