Capernwray Goodbyes

Someone once said, “Capernwray gives you a heart, then rips it into a thousand pieces.” Perhaps it’s not as drastic as that, but saying goodbye to friends made at Capernwray may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

Spring School 2014 ended ten days ago, and students who lived here from two to nine months left the Hall for the last time. Standing beside the coach that would take them away, they shed tears, scribbled messages, promised to visit, and held each other tight. The scene reminded me of this time last year, when I was the student tearing myself away.

When I came for Spring School 2013 I could count my close friends on one hand. Upon arrival I was dropped into a room with four strangers from drastically different cultures and life experiences. And we would live with each other for eight whole weeks. Besides the roommates there was my family group where I met young men and women from Britain, Romania, Germany, Oregon, and an MK who had lived everywhere. The only thing I had in common with my interactive group was my blue passport. At mealtimes I could choose to sit with any one of about 150 new faces. My social life had been turned upside down and thrown into a melting pot.

It was tough at first, but I knew that if I didn’t make friends I would be lonely for two months. So I talked with people, and laughed with them, and played every crazy group game the RAs dreamed up. We traveled, we learned, we prayed, and we cried together. I shared secrets I’d never shared before, and helped others through dark moments. And the strangers transformed into friends. Their names and faces are impressed into my memory, never to be forgotten.

Saying goodbye nearly broke my heart. I struggled with breaking away and leaving the people and the place that had changed me in profound and wonderful ways. When the students left this week it tugged hard on the same heartstrings and made me wonder, “Why make friends at all when you know you’ll have to say goodbye?”

But in my heart I know the truth. Jesus says to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and that’s a call to genuine, intimate relationship. You and I weren’t meant to be solitary pilgrims. We were made for community. For friendship. One day we will be forced to leave all our friends, but that’s OK. Because parting wouldn’t hurt so much if the friendships weren’t so beautiful.

I treasure the people I’ve met, from California to Germany to Canada to the Philippines. And I will see them again, if not in this life then in the next. And it was worth knowing them, because now I know myself better, and my Savior.

If the cost of a Capernwray friend is a Capernwray goodbye, then it’s worth every tear.

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Derek Burnide