Editor’s Note: With the end of a school year, missioner Erin McHugh reflects on the relationships she built at Valley and the surrender required as she says goodbye to the kids.

This time of the year is the always emotional for everyone at Valley, as the school year comes to an end. For the graduating kids, it is a big transition of leaving Valley and moving onto their next chapter of their lives. For the other kids, it is a three-month vacation home with their families, back to a reality that is much harsher than their life at Valley. The kids are often filled with more anxiety and stress at this time as they prepare for their time back home. I, too, am filled with anxiety for them, but also much sadness, as I have to say goodbye.

Erin (left) with some of the girls she works with at Valley of the Angels.

I don’t like goodbyes. I never have, but coming on mission has made goodbyes even more painful, as I am giving so much of my heart and myself to these kids. I have fallen so deeply in love; they have stolen my heart. It probably sounds weird, but I feel like a mom to these beautiful children. However, as much as I feel like a mom, the kids aren’t really mine and I have to let them go. I so want to protect and guide them from all the pains of life and from the difficulty of transitions. I want to hold them by the hand, giving them the continuous love and support that they need. I want to give them the very best to be able to follow their dreams for a better life.

But, I know that intense sheltering and protecting is not healthy for them or me, so I have to let the kids go.

I let them go in love, knowing they are not going alone, but rather going with God.
I let them go in love, know they are deeply rooted in faith and love.
I let them go in love, knowing they have the courage to act despite their fears.
I let them go in love, knowing it is time for them to spread their wings and fly.
I let them go in love, knowing the angels will light and guide their path.
I let them go in love, knowing they will find the strength from within to overcome any challenge.
I let them go in love, trusting that the seeds planted will eventually blossom into a full harvest.
I let them go in love, grateful for the time we spent together and how the kids changed me forever.
I let them go in love, entrusting them to God, knowing they will always be comforted in the arms of Love.

As hard as it is for me to let them go and say goodbye, I am learning to pray my goodbyes. I know God is leading and guiding them. God has big plans for them! The love and support I have given them is enough. These children will always hold a special place in my heart. While things are changing, and while I have to say goodbye and let go, and I know we will forever remain connected through the deep bond we formed.

Reflection Question: How can you incorporate prayer into your interactions with others?