In Response to “Does Missions Separate Families?”

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I never expected that my recent post “Does Missions Separate Families?” would be so widely-read. But in the past week or so, I have had the privilege of a whole audience I never imagined: missionaries.
From all over the world.

And I just wanted to say to these missionaries and your families: thank you.
As I read your comments, I got just a small taste of your daily reality. Your real thoughts, your real feelings, and the real cost of what you are doing. More than anything, that you are real people.

I couldn’t respond to your every comment. Not because there were so many, but because…sometimes I just didn’t know what to say. Reading your perspectives, and testimonies left me often just whispering, “Wow,” and pushing myself away from the kitchen table, lost in thought about you. I had no words to simply “reply” to all I feel for you.

But this is what I want you to know, if you find yourself here and are now following:
I love what you are doing. I love that you are following Christ and proclaiming Him in the darkest places of the earth. Even when that darkness seems to invade every part of you. Even when you feel completely and utterly, alone. Even when you can’t talk to anyone (in English) and just want to scream at the sky. And even when your families, and showers, and clean sheets, and sanity seem a million miles away.

Surely you will be give one hundred times more in the life to come.

The other day, my brother-in-law in Africa (whom I wrote the post about) emailed us and said protests and riots broke out in their city (due to what happened in France.) The next day, the protesters burnt down eighty percent of the churches. And the day after that, he visited one the smoldering churches just two miles from their home.

There he met two men, who said the protesters tried to burn the church down, while they were still in the building—but they managed to escape. Nearly all the teaching curriculum and bibles were burned.

Listen, I don’t know where you are. I don’t know the threats that lurk outside your door. I don’t even know if you will be able to read this. But this is what I do know—Your mission stands. It is of God. And it cannot fail.

They can burn down your churches. They can burn up the bibles. But they cannot take away the Spirit of the Living God. And He goes everywhere with you. And you go everywhere with Him. And His Word is in your heart, like a fire. And He will not be mocked. And this mission, regardless of what you see in front of you today, is not a failure.

My brother-in-law tried to encourage those two native men, who escaped their burning church, but instead they turned and encouraged him saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” And then went on to assure him that even though their building was destroyed, the Church still remained.

I was later sent this amazing video footage of the believers from their country worshiping in their church the day after it burnt.

They get it. They know where their treasure is. And that He is faithful, and He will do it. “He will not fail or be discouraged.” Isaiah 42:4

He will not fail or be discouraged.
And I guess that’s the only reply I have for you. I’ve searched it out, and these are the most soothing words I can find: He will not fail or be discouraged.

And neither will you.

Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with me. Thank you for laying down your lives. And for making our family grow. For the day is drawing near, when we will meet, face to face, every brother, sister, son, and daughter at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, and we will all rejoice wildly together at the greatest reward of all. That is, Christ.

For He will not fail or be discouraged.

Does Missions Separate Families?

 

Selah meeting her cousins for the first time.

 

Tomorrow, my brother-in-law and his family will get on a plane, and fly to Africa. I won’t see them again for three years, except by some emailed photos, or maybe a choppy Skype connection.

I joke that I am going to sabotage their trip to the airport. And part of me really wants to. Because deep down, I really don’t want them to go. I have enjoyed having them and their three sweet girls around the last six months. They were the first to teach her how to have a proper tea party, and make elephant noises, and sing “Let it Go” at the top of their lungs. As they ran barefoot through the grass in the summer, she chased them. As they danced wildly in the living room in the winter, she imitated them. She adores them, as if they were her own big sisters. They take her by the hand, they whisper in her ears, they burst into laughter at her expressions, and pull her in for a second hug. And now, they are going away.

Does missions separate families?

I think the impulse answer is: yes.

They left for Africa three and a half years ago. And in that time, they missed births of new nieces and a nephew. The death of a grandparent. They missed all the Thanksgivings and Christmases and game nights. They missed heartaches and victories. They missed life here, for three years.

And not for an easy life. But for oven-like heat, and dirt, and difficulty. And constant sweating. And risk. Risks of violence and persecution. Risks of disease, and illness. Risks of terrorist groups, and wild animals. Risks of kidnappers, and poor health care when it really matters.

I see these three fearless little girls, whose mom is pregnant with their first little brother, and tremble that he will be born there.

The question inevitably crops up: Why are they doing this?

One night after dinner at our house, as we pulled apart the last remains of the garlic bread, I asked my brother-in-law, “So, how did you…get over all of the fear?” I think he made a few cracks about my fear of Ebola. And then he just looked at me, and said with such simplicity, “I am afraid of some of those of things. I’m actually really afraid of flying. But I’m more afraid of not obeying God.”

But I’m more afraid of not obeying God.

And that’s the difference. I see the risk, the danger, the loss. He sees the reward. The gain. The joy.

He and his wife see hell as a reality. And love as a command. And the gospel as real. And they are doing it. They are living it. They really love Jesus. They really believe He’s coming back. And they really love bringing others into His family.

While we feel like we are losing a brother and a sister, they are actually rescuing lost brothers and sisters and bringing them into the Kingdom of God.

While we will miss their daughters and son, they will be rescuing daughters and sons and bringing them into the family of God.

They leave us in order to rescue others, to bring more into the family, the family of God. The family that will live on forever. And the gates of hell will not prevail against this mission. Because it’s the one Jesus called us to.

Does missions separate families?
Yes. For a time.

But it also expands them. By inviting the lost into a family. Those who had no family, no hope, who were on the outside and separated from God. (See Ephesians 2.)

There may be a few empty seats at our next Thanksgiving dinner. But by those seats being empty, it will mean that other place settings are being made ready for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Because lost brothers and sisters who live across the ocean, whose skin is darker than ours, whose language is different than ours, will be invited into God’s family, and will be called for the first time sons and daughters, and will be given a place at His table forever.

One day, we will come together, all of us, those who were far off, and those who were brought near, as one family, with exploding joy.  And there in the presence of Christ, we will see that missions never separated our family at all.

It only ever made it grow.