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Sunscreen? Check. Bug repellent? Check. Parka? Check. Hair dryer? Check. Winter boots? Not check because it’s July and stores just started selling their fall product selections. I was trying to anticipate what difficulties I might come across - I packed extra products in case I would be in a very rural area, brought my Aeropress, so that I don’t leave a chance for not having coffee, and downloaded a couple ebooks on my phone to keep engaged during long drives and downtime.

Other people also told me to prepare for conflicts with my team, the pain of separation from family and friends since our SIM cards are turned in, but I was completely blindsided by the systematic heartbreak that takes place at least twice a month. No one prepared me for how hard it would be to say goodbye to host families that welcomed us into their homes.

Every Sunday, with a few exceptions, we move to a new host home. We live with the family, have meals with them, pack our lunches with them, hang out with them, and pray with them. We refer to our hosts as Host Mom, Host Dad, and Host Sisters and Brothers.

Being part of the School Board team in the Archdiocese of Vancouver means that we are unlike travelling team in that we have the opportunity to build and further relationships with the people that we’ve encountered. After staying with a family for a week or two, you not only get to know them, but you get to experience their authentic person. Being together every morning and night means that you cannot survive on small talk alone. It’s so incredible when people open up and allow themselves to be vulnerable - it’s truly beautiful. When we depart from the house, more often than not, it feels like we’re breaking up. Of course, it’s amicable, and we’ll stay friends, but we know it won’t be the same as before.

However, because our team stays in one area for the year, it doesn’t signal the end. Recently, I got together with a Host Sister for doughnuts and a walk. We had a beautiful discussion about finding our purpose in life and the importance of incorporating our faith and journeying with other young Catholics. I stayed with her family two months ago, but our friendship continues. We often have the opportunity to visit past host families and spend time with them.

As hard as it is to leave, our reunions are filled with joy and laughter. This, in my opinion, is the sweetest part of being a missionary.