7 Tips for Stayers and Goers

As a military kid I grew up hearing about these things called “Hail and Farewells.” I didn’t really know what they were; I didn’t even know it was two separate words. I thought of it more as “hailenfarewell” and was at a complete loss as to what it was.

But as I began to contemplate this upcoming season of expatriate goodbyes, I couldn’t get the phrase out of my mind. So naturally I went to my mom and asked her to tell me everything she remembered about Hail and Farewells. Her answers blew me away with their spiritual applications.

Let’s have a look, shall we?
1. “Hail and Farewells were an integral part of military life. Whether we were stationed at a military installation or a university in the States, or were stationed abroad, we all took part in these monthly events.” Hellos and goodbyes happen at regular intervals, and they touch the entire community. Nobody gets to skip out on the goodbyes (or hellos), and nobody is immune to the transience – either the Leaver or the Stayer.

2. “It always involved food, whether it was at someone’s home and everyone brought food, or at a restaurant and we purchased our meal.” Ok, so we need food. It’s perhaps kind of obvious, but this answer stood out to me. As humans we celebrate—and mourn—with food.

3. “They were usually more dressy events, except those that were barbeques, etc. There was always a gift, usually a memento that represented your unit and also some kind of plaque that commemorated your time there.  Oftentimes others would gift you with items that spoke personally to the officer leaving.” Whether we’re leaving or whether we’re staying, we honor our friends with something special. Whether it’s a physical gift representing our relationship or our country of service (for the gift-givers among us), a special event (for the quality-timers among us), or something else, we don’t let them fade away without that special honor.

4. “The commanding officer would do the introductions of new people, and we would find out where they came from and a little about them and their family. Then the farewells were saved for last with the usual good things said about people. Those that worked closest with the departing officer would also have an opportunity to share about them.” We honor the newcomers by trying to find out a little about them. And we honor the Leavers by sharing our cherished memories about them.

5. “Something I always saw in the groups we were in was the total willingness to accept and ‘get behind’ a new commanding officer. Oftentimes the departing commander was beloved and the idea of someone else coming in and taking over could be hard in a way, but your dad and I and others were intentional about welcoming and following new commanders just as we followed the departing one.” This gets to the heart of welcoming new people, whether they’re in leadership over us or not. Being new is hard, and the least we can do is welcome new people even as we say a painful goodbye to beloved friends. Whether we’re the Leaver or the Stayer, no one can replace our friends, but our hearts can expand to love more people.

6. “We were usually notified about 6 months in advance of our new duty station, and something strange and wonderful always happened after we found out where and when. Usually it was met with, ‘Uh, okay,’ but that time in between notification and actually leaving, our minds turned it into something good that we were actually looking forward to, and we were very ready to leave.” If circumstances allow (and I know they don’t always allow), we plan time between the decision to leave and the actual leaving. That time gives us the space to say goodbye well to people and places, to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for the next step, and to physically and mentally prepare our friends and co-workers for our departure. We realize that nothing can completely prepare us for our next stage, but a little time to reflect and say goodbye is helpful.

7. “It was sad to say goodbye, but many times we figured we’d meet up again.” To a certain extent, expatriate life also allows us to meet up again. (And I’m always thankful when that happens!) But even if we never see each other again on earth, as Christians we know we will meet again in Heaven, and (at least for me) that reminder does cheer the aching heart.

This time of year is painful. I will not deny that. April and May are months of many tears for me. I’ve written about these heart-rending goodbyes before. Each year I feel the feelings afresh, and sometimes I fear they will break me. But I do want us, as the Body of Christ, to carry on in a way that honors both our earthly fellowship and our faith in a mysterious God. With that in mind I offer you my Expat Manifesto:

We acknowledge that we will always have Hail and Farewells. We will bid farewell to our people. We will honor them with our tears, with our laughter, with our food, with our stories, with our hugs, and with our time. And we will bid farewell to seasons, whether satisfying or sad. We will welcome new people. We will honor them with our open (though sometimes wounded) hearts and remember that they may one day be our old people. We will remember that in Christ goodbye is never forever, but only for a time. And with Christ as our Anchor, we will embrace each new season, whether dreaded or longed for. We will Hail, and we will Farewell: This is how we carry on.


What traditions do you have for Hailing and Farewelling?

How do you carry on?


  1. Beth Everett May 31, 2016

    So good, Elizabeth. I’m thankful to have been a part of a community that practiced “hailenfarewell” :). What a difference it makes to intentionally make it an important part of doing community life together.

    Indeed: “this is how we carry on”.

    1. Elizabeth May 31, 2016

      Thanks, Beth 🙂 I’m so thankful you have this kind of community.

  2. Paula May 31, 2016

    I love these thoughts. We are a military family. So many times the “hail and farewell” feels so routine, it is pointless but as you put so well, there is much value to the practice, no matter your community. Intentional was about welcoming and fare welling is key.

    1. Elizabeth May 31, 2016

      Hi Paula! So glad you could relate to what I was talking about, and not only in theory, but in practice! God be with you in your (always) upcoming Hail and Farewells.

  3. Rebecca June 1, 2016

    I can SO relate.  My husband and I are overseas workers to the US military stationed overseas.  In our 17 years we have said “farewell” more times than I can count and a piece of my heart leaves every time.  We are currently in a season of “hails” and I’m excited for what God will do with these new relationships.  Sometimes it is so hard to be the one always left behind and always saying goodbye.  Thanks for the reminder that in Christ our goodbyes are only for a time!

    1. Elizabeth June 1, 2016

      First of all God bless you for your ministry to soldiers! Thank you for your commitment to serve in this way.

      Second of all, I’m so sorry for all the farewells. 17 years is a lot of years to have to hail and farewell. May God continue to uphold your hearts through all the hellos and goodbyes, and may He bless you with deep, dear friendships that will nourish your soul in this next season of hails.

      And third of all, YES, so thankful that in Christ the goodbyes aren’t forever. So thankful this isn’t our forever home.

  4. Lisa June 1, 2016

    Where we serve, there’s a third category – the “come-and-goers” 🙂 Or something. My husband began teaching at a university in Eastern Europe last fall, and campus during the summer is a ghost town. There’s a lot going on, but the usual 9-month faculty are mostly gone. Our sense of community has gone with them, and I admit I feel a little lost. I’ve been really intentional about making traditions for my kids to say “see you laters” to friends who are moving on, but I’m realizing there also has to be traditions to say “see you soon” to friends we won’t see for a few months. The kids have good friends who are going back to the United States for a five-week visit, but there is a lot of panic about whether or not they will return. So far, our kids’ experience has been that people who leave don’t return. 🙁 So, I’m realizing I need to make it clearer that there are three categories of people, and three different kinds of traditions, those for people going, coming, and returning. Or something. We’re still in our first year and I’m still trying to figure everything out.

    1. Elizabeth June 1, 2016

      Very true Lisa! Our city’s population of expats also empties out by about half each summer. “See you laters” are important — especially if they happen to morph into a more permanent “goodbye,” as I’ve also seen. 🙁

      I remember that first year well — how people left even before I started to really get to know them well. It was very jolting.

      So . . . many blessings to you as you guide your children through these difficult times, and as you navigate them yourself.

      1. Lisa June 2, 2016

        Thanks, Elizabeth! We’ve been here on sabbatical before so I knew the dynamic… but knowing it is different than living it. And, yes, this particular family that we’re saying “see you later” is in a situation where I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t renew their contract next year. They’ll be back, but maybe only to pack and leave. I think the kids pick up on my uncertainty about our friends’ situation (even if our friends themselves haven’t said anything). I have some downtime this summer to think and to plan, and I think one thing I will definitely do is formalize some of our traditions and plan ahead for how to say goodbye and hello and see you later. 🙂

  5. M'Lynn June 3, 2016

    Loving your Expat Manifesto! So good. And useful and applicable and challenging and….YES.

  6. Ellie June 6, 2016

    This is really helpful Elizabeth, thank you.

    1. Elizabeth June 6, 2016

      I’m glad it was helpful for you, Ellie 🙂

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