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.
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What a wonderful perspective this is. Please thank them for going where my heart longs to be but life circumstances have not allowed. Prayers are with them as they do God’s work.
Awe! Thank you so much for your prayers! And I’m sure you are much more effective than you think in the mission God has you in right now. 🙂
Absolutely. One of the advantages of being at home for me is I have opportunity to pray. My favorite prayer spot is the backyard while hanging on the clothesline:) And thank you. There is always the part of me that wonders, but, then, God has a way of showing us why He has us where He has us, doesn’t He?:
So beautiful–I often wondered why our nephew Joey went…and feel he did this for same reasons..and it was truly where God meant him to be…Love your beautiful and inspiring stories Rebekah!
Thank you so much. And I agree, it was so hard to say good-bye, especially when all you can see or feel is the heart-ache. I’m thankful God can see more when he calls people into this type of work. And it truly is a leap of faith. It is amazing though, in retrospect how Joey made such a difference in this transforming experience, and also met his wife there! So many pieces to the puzzle God knew all along. At the center of His will truly is the best place we can be (even when it seems to make no sense! ) <3
Janice C. Armstrong says
Thank you for this. On Sunday, my husband and I will be saying “see you soon” as we follow God’s lead to the Bahamas. My biggest heart ache is the sadness in my grandchildren’s eyes. May they understand one day that their Papa and MooMa need to share Jesus with kids who have not heard. It’s so true that we do this for Jesus who did and does so much more for us.
Wow. That is incredible that you guys are following through on God’s call for you two. I can only imagine the heartache, and trying to explain. I think of when Paul left for his missionary journeys and everybody was just weeping openly. I’m sure the tears are just evidence of your real love for each other. One day it will all make sense. When we finally see how beautiful He really is, and how desperately we all (and others) needed Him. May God comfort your hearts and give you peace. And may many children come to know the Lord through your witness and love. Blessings to you and your ministry in the Bahamas!
Philip Barker says
We were missionaries for 10 years in the Bahamas. I am co-leading a youth team there again in March. The Bahamas isn’t that big – where will you be “making disciples”? Phil Barker
Rachel Riebe says
I’m struck by thinking of love as a command this morning – not something we should do, or want to do, but an imperative command TO do. Grace to your sister’s family as they leave in order to follow that important directive.
I always love hearing your thoughts Rachel! What a good reminder: love is a command. Why is it so easy to forget that? It’s what He came to show us. He showed us what it looks like. May He give us the strength to love beyond what our hearts can feel and our minds can comprehend. I pray both here, and in Africa, we would fulfill this command: to love. And we would begin to know the power of that.
Mission work is a beautiful calling. Thank you for sharing your perspective on the blessing of living the Gospel along with the struggle of leaving loved ones and life at home. I pray we all find our “mission” and God’s calling for us.
Thanks for reading. And yeah, it was really hard to say good-bye, and writing this kind of helped me understand it better. I know God’s callings can be so different for each person, and sometimes I would have a tendency to put my brother-in-law’s family on a pedestal, because they were missionaries. But my brother in law always was quick to remind me that “America is a nation, too.” It was a really good reminder for me, because I sometimes tend to forget that people are just as desperate for the gospel here, as they are across the world. So, wherever God calls you, even just being a mom, is a total ministry. And I know personally, I need to keep the “missional” mindset for whatever I’m doing. 🙂
Good Grafe says
don’t anyone ever say “Just being a Mom” – if more Moms were focussed on really being a Mom – think of how much better this world would be and how much less broken the next generation would be…. and thanks for the article – we who are away miss our families at times acutely but God opens our hearts to include others in our families and sometimes the others even ‘belong’ in some ways to our first families back home – if they are the supportive/missional types as well….
You are welcome! And you are right–being a mom is full-time ministry as well. We hope to get to know those to whom my brother-in-law’s family is ministering to, by learning their faces and names and praying for them more regularly. Thanks for your input!
What awesome perspective and insight into reality. After having served 25 years in Africa and Thailand I assure Rebekah that her gracious acceptance and support of her family’s “going” is a huge ministry to them.
Thanks so much for your encouragement. I’m glad you enjoyed it. And we do hope to more fully support and embrace the “family” my brother-in-law is ministering to in Africa. Praise God for your service, and may you keep it up wherever you are.
Reblogged this on Matthew and Teresa's Blog and commented:
We just read the following blog post together, and it’s really well written. Please take a moment to read and understand.
Thank you so much for sharing this article. I hope it can help further the understanding among families involved in missions. God bless you guys.:)
Thanks a lot for sharing this! I’m glad it encouraged you.
Rebekah! Thank you so much for this…. It is beautiful and so well put. My family has a calling to missions outside the US, but this helps us explain the why of seperation… so thank you. Also, I wanted to find out it I could have your permission to translate this to Spanish? We have a lot of brothers and sisters in Christ who would be so blessed by this. Let me know if that would be ok to translate and share. Thank you!!
You are so welcome! I’m so glad it could bless you guys and bring understanding and perspective to your families. And yes, of course you have my permission to translate and share in Spanish! I am honored. God bless you guys and your family in the mission He’s called you to.
I have a daughter, son-in-law, and two (soon to be three) grandchildren on the mission field. I wish I were this eloquent when people ask me how it feels to have them gone for such long periods of time. Too often the questions make tears rush to my eyes … yes, of course I miss them. Yes, of course there are times when I hate that they are so far away. Yes, I wish they were in the States when they have medical needs. Yes, I wish I could just put some things in the mail to them and be assured that they would receive them in a timely manner … or at all (which is more the case). BUT, I know they wouldn’t be happy here and not where the Lord has called them. And I know that God has His hand of protection over them. And I put my faith in Him that they will have just what they need when they need it. Thanks for writing this … I needed it!
Thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate you sharing your perspective as a mother and grandmother! I can only imagine the real difficulty there is in truly releasing your daughter and her family to the Lord. But as you said, there is a joy knowing they are right where God wants them. Is there a better place than that? Thank you for being so open and honest. And I’m so glad to have encouraged you! I’m sure you are an amazing mother and grandmother to offer such loving support to them. 🙂
Lou Ann Keiser says
I loved this perspective! We have been missionaries for thirty years, and it honestly feels like we haven’t seen family hardly at all since we left. When we’re back, it’s always the rush to try to visit family while reporting to churches. It is hard on both sides of the ocean, because cousins hardly know cousins, and brothers and sisters hardly see each other, and now, parents hardly ever see their children and months go by before we meet our newest grandchildren. It is not easy, and it never will be. That doesn’t mean we don’t have joy or peace. It means there are empty chairs at family gatherings and empty arms on the mission field. Yes, it’s more than worth it. We all need prayer, though–the missionaries on the field and on furlough, and their families back where they once called “home.”
Thank you for sharing your story and perspective! I can’t say I know what it’s like to be oceans away from my family–but I imagine it can be really tough. God bless you guys in what you have given up in this life, may you recieve 100 times more in the life to come! And may He keep filling you with that joy and peace on this mission He has called you on!
Bonnie Evans says
Families are not only separated for missionary service, but also for military service. Both are for noble causes serving a purpose greater than self. I also grew up in the family left stateside, by grandparents, aunts, an uncle, serving on the foreign mission field and taking our cousins with them. But even our cousins stateside did not live close, either for reasons of church work or secular work. Back then there was no modern technology to email or facebook or skype with immediate contact. There were carefully written airgrams with every space of the lightweight blue paper filled with family news, which then took three weeks to arrive at its destination, and if there was an immediate answer written, three weeks to return. Overseas phone calls were too costly and telegrams were for urgent emergency, such as war or death. But as a child, my missionary relatives were my heroes and heroines of the faith, and their furloughs every four years were precious family reunions. While growing up, I felt our greater family had been chosen for special service, and because we were the ‘anchor family’ back home, we were important in their ability to go on to those far fields of service. And birthdays and Christmas were kind of exciting with interesting packages from afar!! And we all collected stamps from many nations of the world!! Only after I became a grandparent myself did I finally feel some of the loss of those supporting family relationships missing from my childhood. The Lord saw and met my finally felt loss, once actually prompting a young man from that far away country, a beneficiary of the years of missionary service in his homeland, and who now had come here to study and prepare for ministry himself, to stand before me and thank me in halting English for the love shown for his country by the missionary service of my grandparents and other relatives. I was touched to my core and wept for days over his precious words of gratitude and over God’s knowledge of a need that I had not even known for most of my life. How great is our God! How precious and personal is His love for each of us. He is worthy of this sacrifice, whether to be the loved ones going, or the loved ones sending away precious family members with the eternally significant message of the Gospel of Salvation, and helping to fulfill the Great Commission before His return for us!
Sitting in Africa as a missionary on the field, crying real tears as I read your words that could come from my heart. Thank you for sharing.
I am so moved by your testimony here. The thought of the man coming to you thanking you in broken English brought me to tears. How incredible that must have been to hear! And how gracious God is to at times allow us in to see what the sacrifice has been for. May He continue to give you tastes of the joy that is to come one day. Thank you for being obedient to the call, and so deeply affected by those who have left to obey this call elsewhere. Truly an inspiring story, I hope you continue to share! Thank you for sharing it here!!
I can so relate to this post. I have a son, daughter in law, and 4 grandkids in Brazil. There is often tears and sadness because they are gone. They have finished one term and just went back for their second. They too face heat, dirt, slums, diseases, danger from day to day. Their first term was full of many trials with serious health issues as well as dealing with culture shock and trying to learn the language at the same time. When you can’t “get to them” you feel so helpless, but I have learned and am still learning that I can take it all to the Lord and leave it there. Their willingness to serve the Lord wherever He wants them brings much blessing and gratefulness to the hearts of their loved ones. Their godly example to trust God through hard trials thrills my soul. I am grateful for those who are willing to sacrifice, obey, and heed God’s call.
I found this via FB – and guess what?!?! i know your brother in law & sister 🙂 we went through training together (we serve in Madagascar). We’re currently on our 6 month stateside and this was such a beautiful honest post – thank you for sharing your heart!! SO grateful for families that are supportive and prayer warriors! HUGS!
The Guyers says
Reblogged this on As the Journey Continues and commented:
Oh I have a lump in my throat already as I think of the ‘goodbyes’ that are ahead of us. But this, this story, is also so very true! So beautifully true!
Reblogged this on Such a Time as This and commented:
This sums up so much of how I feel about living far away from friends and family. Yes! Those of us flung around the world AND those who have stayed closer to home are all making the family of God bigger 🙂
Daryl Fulp says
As a missionary on a foreign field, thank you! You have explained our hearts far better than we could have. There is coming a day in which there will be no goodbyes. Until then, we say goodbye with a purpose.
Steve Dwire says
Wow. Thanks for sharing your story. My brother is on his third term in Uganda. Another hard part comes when they return and neither of us are the same people we were last time we were together. As hard as we try, we really don’t understand what their life is like, and it’s increasingly hard to relate. They’ve been missionaries for 10 years, and this year will be the first time our family will be able to go and see their ministry. We hope that will give us at least a hint of an understanding of what their third-world life is like and the impact they’re having for Christ.
I hope you’ll be able to visit your brother-in-law in Africa some time, too.
Rachel Larson says
MKs I had taught had reunion. Their favorite hymn –which was not discussed by any in advance — was “It Will Be Worth It All When We See Jesus.” We often prayed “Dear Jesus, take care of those who are dear to us, who are not near to us.”
Tiffany Clark says
Living like your brother-in-law and his family do really challenges our cultural definition of what matters most: “God, family, country.” Even with His own very special mother, Jesus was clear about who His true family was. The more we have lived this out of sheer obedience, the more our Lord has granted sight to match our faith. Our family is so big we can barely keep track of them all! Our children, now living on their third continent, have loving, doting grandparents, aunties, uncles, and siblings of many colors and languages. These are the people we get to share God’s house with.
Thank you for being the sort of family member who doesn’t resent that, but rather who celebrates it with those who go. Your sacrifice for the kingdom is losing the joy of having them near. May our Lord take your offering and multiply it back for you.
Ben Edwards says
Thanks for your blog post. We currently serve in East Asia in a “so-called” closed country. As I read your post, I guess the thought that struck me was a sincere hope and immediate prayer that no matter what geographical place God calls us to, we live with a passion to be intentional about sharing the Good News. Granted, living cross-culturally 8,000 miles from the familiar has a certain set of challenges and adjustments. Because of the lack of Gospel access for the unreached and paucity of resources for the “reached” I will continue to pray that many more individuals and families will consider serving cross-culturally in unreached parts of the planet. At the same time, I hope a friend sitting across from you at your dinner table who lives in Dallas, TX would say, “But I’m more afraid of not obeying God.” That the person living in Dallas, despite social or career risk, the danger of be marginalized, the loss of certain relationships would see the reward; the gain; the joy of sacrificially serving Jesus in Dallas. If, as they regularly seek God’s will, they are called “over-there” then they should pack their bags, prepare and go. Their obedience while living in Dallas will be the building blocks for obedience their — wherever there may be.
Thank you for giving me something to share with my family and friends to help them understand our hearts. My husband and I, have been serving like your brother-in-law and his wife, for 20 years.
as someone currently on the field, I say thank you as well. It’s really hard to explain to our friends and family sometimes. And it’s really hard for us when the closest people to us have a difficult time understanding. Actually, if they express how difficult it is to let us go and yet show their approval and try to understand the calling the Lord has on our lives, that’s one thing, but if they sort of distance themselves from us and make us feel like it was a bad decision, then that’s the hardest. But, it’s not easy for anyone. Not on our side or on our family and friend’s side. Only when thinking with an eternal perspective can we make sense of it all. Because, yes, from a human perspective, it’s completely CRAZY.
I am expecting our second child. If all goes well, I will be giving birth here in country. Very far from the ones we love. It’s been a struggle for me in the last couple of months…. to be away. We still have another two years before we go back. But the Lord has us here for now for a reason. We need prayer, really badly. We face a lot of difficulties, but the Lord is faithful and will get us through. Thanks again for your post. Lord bless,
What a great perspective. I’m preparing to leave for Greece next year, and this was really encouraging. It can be so easy to focus on what I am leaving–how much better to focus on what I am gaining, what God is doing, who I am going to meet and love! Thank you for helping me shift my perspective from a temporal one to one that is eternal.
My husband is on his way to Africa right now – evaluating and working on our home for our family move…a good reminder of how we said yes to begin this journey – as a mother I have lots of worry and fear over things there – animals, snakes, disease, Ebola (never thought that would be a big concern!) etc. but God showed me it was more fearful to stand before Him one day and have to give the answer that we didn’t go because I didn’t trust Him. Thank you for this post
Patrice Miles says
Reblogged this on Miles In Missions.
Megan Parker says
What a wonderful perspective. Thank you for sharing your heart!
Desiree Crisp says
My son, daughter in law and three grandchildren left yesterday for Africa for full time missions. My heart hurts for all the things we will miss but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt they are called. As they were boarding the plane, I knew this is what the Lord entrusted us with when he gave us our son to raise. To raise him to love the Lord and follow God’s call wherever it may take him. The words you have shared perfectly express the why. Thank you for sharing.
Meredith Henley Clawson says
As a MK (Missionary Kid) I grew up overseas and my parents have been in the states the last 3 years on medical leave, but will return to China in a few months. As an adult, I’ve now been on both ends, doing the leaving and being left. It’s true, the call on their lives are more important than all these things we “feel” are important. It’s always been a little funny to me that people feel it’s ok for military personnel to go away, fighting for people’s temporal lives, but Christians even hinder other Christians from doing God’s will in their lives. Very sad. Glad that you recognize God’s call on their lives as a calling and not just a whim, because they are trying to be “holier than thou” or that they’re out of their minds – trust me most veteran missionaries have heard that (and much worse from family members and church members). So for these reasons also, they have to lean on the Lord even more. Don’t feel “offended” at all if they don’t share their new world with you – there are just some things others won’t understand unless they’ve been there.
I live and work in China as a teacher at an International School. I do not consider myself and M (code words) to the Chinese, but as a teacher I do consider myself an M to any student I teach (whether here or in the States). But I do know the stress of leaving family and feeling separated. I come from a wonderfully supporting family, but know they miss me as much as I miss them. And, I fear being away for the birth of my first niece or nephew. But I have many friends here who have struggled with bad relationships with family members who don’t understand. I cried as I read your post because it resonates so deeply with me. “Im afraid of some of those things… But, Im more afraid of not obeying God.” Wow. Yes. I especially loved the paragraph about missing seats at your table leading to new place settings at the Wedding Feast. Beautifully written. Thank you.
A brother and sister-in-law who have been for 40 years and still are missionaries in Brazil. Two of their grown daughters joining them there. A niece from another sibling, married to a Peruvian and serving in Ecuador. A daughter with big dreams. Your post made me cry because I see us in it, and I understand their viewpoint a little better today. Thank you, and may our loved ones bask in the blessing of being in His will…even when life may not appear perfect through human eyes.
J Boyd says
Good post. I was sent a link by my son and daughter in-law who are headed overseas. From the title thought it would be about the separation of children and parents, when MK’s are sent off to boarding school. The culture among CBFMS (World Venture) and other missionaries in West Africa in the ’60’s, 70’s, maybe beyond was, “If you keep your children at home to school them, THE WORK WILL SUFFER”. I remember watching parents of children as young as 5 and their child cry as they left each other for a three month separation. A visit midterm for a weekend would get stomachs in knots & tears going again in exchange for two days together. Once you got older you looked forward to boarding school because you did not like or fit in with the culture at home. You had not learned to speak the language and you had few if any national (native) friends. I wonder if the current missionary culture is more friendly to home schooling now that it has become more mainstream at home.
Beatiful!”But I’m more afraid of not obeying God.”
As someone who left her family behind 6 months ago to come to Africa thank you for this.
Rebekah, could I please share your article at our next parents of m meeting?
You can absolutely share it! I’m glad it could be encouraging to you and your group. 🙂
I know that God can redeem what we perceive as “lost time” (years overseas away from family, perhaps a business or financial failure, etc.) as in Joel 2 when God promises to Israel to make up for the years the locusts devoured. God is fully capable of restoring and redeeming that which we feel has been lost (whether here and now or in the new heaven and earth). But thank you for reminding me once again of this truth!
The Epistolarian says
Beautiful. Just lovely. Admittedly, this is the MOST difficult sacrifice we make when we leave culture, family, comforts we are accustomed to. Forget the delicious burger… give me my family! I want to be at my grandpa’s funeral. I want to hold my little niece.
Thanks for sharing so honestly. I can only imagine how it would feel, and just the longing for your family! (Not the burger, like you said;) I know technology has come a long way from what it’s used to be when missionaries were first sent out…but it’s still long distance. And I’m sure you just want to feel their embrace sometimes. May God strengthen you on those long nights and give you the joy and peace that only He can.
We have been missionaries out of the country for over 4 years. There are many joys, but the main heartbreak is the loss of consistent in person contact ( playing) with our 5 grandchildren, all under 5. Your post really does remind us of the reason, and I love the ‘family growth’ perspective. Our daughter forwarded this to me as she really does understand and support our call. Thank you!
Thank you so much for sharing this! I can identify with it all, the pain and the promise. We recently good-bye to my brother and sister-in-law and their three children as they headed back for their 10th year on the mission field. We miss them all so much, but are at peace, knowing that they are at the very center of His will for their lives.
I’m glad to hear you are at peace with their departure, and like you said. The pain and the promise. That promise does help with the initial pain and separation. In fact that’s the very thing we look forward to, and what allows us to send them out with joy, and not just total sorrow! Thanks for sharing your story here. I’m glad you have given them your full support. I’m sure that probably means more than you know. 🙂
Sometimes God encourages us with the blessing of being understood. Thank you for the beautiful way you expressed your understanding of why we missionaries must do what we do. It is not easy miss out on life with my sweet mom, my wonderful children, my 19 amazing grandchildren – but the love of Christ constrains me. The next time I am missing a holiday meal with my family, I will remember your beautiful word picture, that it will mean more place settings at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. I am sharing this with my family. Thank you!
I love your insight here. Thank you for sharing your experience here! I really do love to hear where each person is coming from. So, thank you. I hope your family can stay encouraged in all the ways God’s family is expanding and growing. And will keep looking forward to the day we all at last be together in His presence.
Blessings to you!
Thanks for your post! I reblogged it at http://www.distantfields.com/.
Leaving family has to be THE most difficult part of going to the mission field. However, we have been blessed with a family that actually understands, sends, and supports us. Many other missionaries do not have that.
I am encouraged by those who stay, live a shining light for Jesus in their own country, and send us and many others into the Distant Fields of the world. “How can they go unless they are sent?”
Thank you for sharing my blog on your site. May God’s glory continue to go forth into those “Distant Fields.” Thanks! May God strengthen you guys!
Lovely post! My friend who is gearing up to leave for the missions field just shared this on Facebook, and I was like, “WOAH! Texas Heather Just posted Bekah’s BLog!!” Always love to see worlds colliding :)!! You’re encouraging so many people with your gift for words! Love you, and will be praying for your family today — those who went to Africa, and those of you who stayed back and are missing your missionary family members!
Linda Spellman says
Ah, so you’re not Mormon. Catholic? We may be a part of different denominations of Christianity, but I really do appreciate all that you’ve written. It’s very wonderful. 🙂
I’m not Mormon or Catholic. I am simply Christian. (Perhaps I will add a beliefs section at some point, since maybe others are wondering the same thing?) Thank you for reading, and I hope you stick around. 🙂 I love to write, and have found I enjoy God through writing. It’s one of the ways I meditate and think deeply about who He is.
Leigh Baker says
WOW! So BEAUTIFULLY written! This struck right at my heart and made me cry, but was exactly the perspective I needed to hear and embrace! I have three brothers…two of which are gone overseas for missions. So our table at holidays is empty a lot and man do I miss them and my sister-in-laws and my nieces and nephews! But I can’t imagine then not following God’s calling either. Thank you for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you so much for reading. I’m glad you could relate, and I can only imagine what it would be like to have two brothers away. I’m sure you long for the day when the whole “family” can finally be together…at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Thanks for sharing your story and your joy.
Rebekah, this blog post and its follow-up obviously touched the hearts of hundreds of missionaries and their families. I too have felt this “separation for a purpose” from both the perspective of the left behind and the one going. As I was growing up in the ’60s, I had an aunt and uncle who were missionaries in Africa. They had five children, some of them born there. When they first went in the ’50s, they went by boat. Communication was as described by an earlier commenter: finely written letters on blue Aerogram paper. No calls, emails, Skype, Facebook, etc. They missed family events, births and deaths. But whenever they returned, we were close. I admired my cousins and their parents. I enjoyed their slide presentations. My family went to the airport to welcome them home and to see them off. And while they were away, we prayed for them. It seemed normal, in my family, to have extended family overseas.
Once I was grown up, my husband and I were also led to serve the Lord on a mission field. Retired by that time, my aunt and uncle were great examples and encouragements to us. My parents and siblings also were supportive and understanding. (It was harder for my husband’s family.) My MK cousins are still some of our closest extended family, and we stay in touch these days by electronic means. I believe that when family understands the truth of what you wrote, how important it is to obey God’s leading and how precious it is to bring souls into the kingdom, it makes missionary service easier to go and do. Thank you for this articulate post.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is amazing that you have been on both sides of the going and the sending! May God bless you and your family’s mission. 🙂
This is so incredibly beautiful, thank you. I have been oceans apart from my family to follow ‘the Call’ and at times questioned the cost but having weighed up His cost to save me, the scales are completely and utterly tipped!
Thank you so much. I’m glad you can see the joy in the cost of serving Christ! May God strengthen you as you are oceans away from your family. May you know His nearness and the nearness of other brothers and sisters in the Lord.
What wonderfully written – thanks for this insight. We are missionaries in a country in SouthAsia, and if only my parents and family were able to read and understand English, they would understand….
Thank you for reading. I hope your parents will come to a deeper understanding of what you are doing and why, and that God will give them insight into this. Blessings to you and thank you for serving the Lord!
I know this article was translated into Spanish by one of my readers…what language do your parents speak?
Laura Elaine Gilbert Tapia says
Thanks so much for your blog: Here´s some thoughts I shared in a note on my Facebook page as a result of what you wrote here! The Lord used you to prepare my heart for my trip to the States, and also my return to the missions field! THANK YOU!!
So here I am sitting on an airplane waiting to take off. The sky over D.C. is a perfect shade of “Empire of Light” over the skyline, and as I muse over many different moments lived the last couple of weeks, tears trickle down my cheeks. About two weeks before my trip to the States, a precious young lady posted an article on her Facebook page. The title “Does missions separate families?” caught my attention and what I read grabbed ahold of my heart (here’s the link if anyone wants a great read: https://barrentobeautiful.com/2015/01/06/does-missions-separate-families/).
Over the past year since our furlough in early 2014, I have struggled like never before with the separation from my U.S based family that serving Christ abroad implies. So many key moments I just seemed to miss out on: volleyball and basketball tournaments. Somehow it felt like my nieces were growing up and a sentence someone once said when my sister was pregnant with my oldest niece was suddenly ringing true, though I had once fought so hard to the contrary: “you’re just going to be a picture in a frame to this baby.” How did this happen I asked myself as I bawled over the finale of Frozen once back in Argentina in early April, touched by the significance of sisterly love, and my little girl Hannah tried to comfort me “”mommy you gonna see Tia Diana again some day.”
Well, less than a year later here I am on a plane, heading home to BA after 10 precious days with Tia Diana. As I look over the familiar sites of the Dc skyline, the Capitol Dome, Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials- places I have loved since I was a child, I ask the Lord, is it possible to call two places home at once and feel an equal love for two families? I prayed as we were sitting on the runway from Psalm 86 “Lord give me an UNDIVIDED heart to fear your name.” And somehow in the midst of my tears and musings God has comforted my heart and somehow allowed me to reconcile as faith so often does two seemingly conflicting and contrasting truths. My family in Virginia will always be my family, and home there whether it’s at mom and dad’s or at my sister’s will always be home because it’s with people I love and people who’ve influenced and accompanied me through this journey of life since the start, but there are three little ones and one super special big guy (and Nona too) waiting for me back home in Argentina, and they’re my family and I can’t wait to get home to them too, because God brought them into my life and I want to be with them until I finish this journey. So, how can I reconcile these conflicting truths? Well the peace of God surpasses all understanding, and as I write He ministers peace to my heart even as we fly through choppy skies (literally).
And I’m reminded once more of that article, “does missions separate families?” The author’s initial conclusion was yes in some ways it does. There are thousands of miles or kilometers however you want to put it that will soon separate one of my heart’s homes from the other, and I will continue to miss basketball and volleyball tournaments unfortunately, BUT missions also enables us to reach out with the truth of the cross of healing and forgiveness through the loving act of sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, and as we sacrifice on His behalf, His love extends to others and those who accept His gift of eternal life by grace expressed through our preaching the Gospel in Argentina and elsewhere only expands our family rather than limiting it.
So what’s my conclusion and my purpose in making these thoughts public, well maybe they’ll minister to some other missionary and/ or his/her family who is also struggling with the cost we have to pay to serve Christ, but as we sacrifice physical proximity one of the lessons God has taught me at this time is that we don’t have to give up on emotional or relational closeness. We just have to be purposeful, which is what I promised to do way back when I was told I’d only be a picture In a frame. Back then I wrote letters once a month to my newborn niece (back when we didn’t have Facebook or Skype) and emails got downloaded once a day and we had to pay for them per page… Over the years the truth is the busyness of all of our lives was more to blame for our distance than the miles between us, and this year I purposed to do things different, and while I started off well with weekly Skype dates with my sis, busyness once more got the best of us…
BUT our God is so truly a God of mercy and grace who extends second chances again and again. So He allowed me to come home, and be with my sis at a time of need, after a major surgery, and I got Tia time with Jordan and Bethany, and as a perk I even got to watch one volleyball tournament and though I’ll miss BB’s basketball tournament, I did get to go to practice one night and watch her play, and worshipping together at church on Sunday was a special highlight for me. So God is good and I feel so satisfied, and though I am sad to leave, I am equally as happy to be going home to 5 precious faces waiting for me in Argentina, and I resolve to not be a picture in a frame on either side of the Equator, and to make the most to be present with all my family. Di, I’m looking forward to reestablishing our skype dates and girls I want to continue to have Tia time with you and even have an idea on how I can continue to treat you to Sweet FROGs (how fitting the name Fully Rely On God for Tia tonight). And I know just as God gave us this special time to be physically present He’ll do so again in His perfect timing, but we need to be purposeful to stay close in between airplane trips.
So if anyone else is wondering about the cost choosing to serve Christ abroad implies. The cost is real, sometimes the price seems higher than others, but there’s no doubt in my mind or heart it’s worth it. I’m reminded of one of my husband’s favorite verses 2 Samuel 24:24: I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” He gave His all for us! Can we do any less in response to His great love? And always in His divine calculations, the profit/ loss ratio can never be fully understood because He rewards in remarkable and unexpected ways. Ephesians 3:20-21. Thank you dear Jesus for this time with family in the States. Thank you dear Lord for my family waiting for me in Argentina, but thank you especially dear Savior that Heaven is the home that will unite both families for all Eternity. I pray you’ll use us on either end of the Americas to bring others into your family.
For those who haven’t read does missions separate families, I highly recommend it!
I am so touched by what you have shared here. Thank you for sharing your experience and love for “both” your families, both here and abroad. And also for sharing the weight of emotion it brings to want to be two places at once, and to advance God’s kingdom here. It sounds like he is using you mightily for His glory, and that you are certainly more than a picture in a frame! It makes me think of Paul in the Bible when he left one of the places, they all wept openly for him. Following God’s call doesn’t strip you of your emotions, but it conforms them to Christ, and it is a beautiful thing to see how you long for your families, and the day you will be united all together in heaven! And it is also beautiful that you are expanding the family of God wherever you are, so there may be even more faces around the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Thank you for going and doing this! May God bless and strengthen your heart.
Joy Murillo says
I loved your article and wanted to know if I had permission to translate it into Spanish. I am the daughter of a missionary and my husband and I are missionaries in Guadalajara, Mexico. We have 7 children and have a church and orphanage. I would like to put this in Spanish as I feel it would be a real blessing to the Spanish world. Mexico is now sending out missionaries to other lands. We have 3 missionary families out of our church. Joy Garlick Murillo
You absolutely have permission to translate this to Spanish! I actually have had one person before ask me if they can translate it into Spanish. I wonder if you might be able to contact them, so that you could get it from them. Let me know if that interests you and I will try to get some contact info for you! Also, I checked out your mission site today. Looks like you and your family are doing some amazing things in the lives of those kids. May God bless your ministry!:)
If God gives you a family I really question that he is asking you to endure the cost of separation. It is incredibly painful especially for Parents and Grandparents who have a healthy close knit relationship. Mission does separate family and it is horrible for those who have to endure it.
Unfortunately, your opinion has become an increasingly prevalent one in the American church. And yet, it is not consistent at all with the Word of God. In fact, Jesus himself addressed this exact issue a couple of times. Luke 14:25-33 addresses it most directly. I now serve in Guatemala with my wife and some of our children. I have two daughters who live in the US with two of our grandchildren. Another daughter lives three hours away, serving in a poor community with her new husband. Still another is living in the US with her husband, but will soon be serving somewhere in Guatemala. Finally, I have a daughter who has moved to Uganda where she serves in missions. I often grieve that I cannot be close to so many that I love, and I look forward to the day when we will all be together in eternity. But I would never say to the God who gave His only Son so that we might live that the cost of separation is too great a price to pay for Him. In fact, it is the least that I can do. One day, we long to hear the words, “Well done!” and celebrate together for eternity. Then, it will all be worth it. I would encourage you to allow God to search your heart in the light of Scripture.
Rachel Larson says
I served in Central African Republic in the days before SKYPE, email, cell phones and less expensive air travel. We used air mail, sent things home with people who were traveling back, and made the best of it. Was it hard? Sometimes. So much depended on the attitude or parents and grand-parents. I taught in an MK boarding school. Many of the kids adjusted well and have gone on to serve on that field on or another field. The MKS had a reunion and on the questionnaire that was used, they were asked about the hymn that was most special to them. Without knowing the choice of others, numbers of them listed “It WIll Be Worth It All, When We See Jesus!” How reaffirming for parents who followed God’s will and were willing to make the sacrifice to serve Our Great King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When I think about this and going to Heaven, I think about the thrill it will be to meet those from every tribe and nation as well as dear family members already in Heaven. I love my country and have enjoyed teaching its wonderful history. But I sometimes think, the American Dream can be and is an enemy of service for Christ. We want a nice house, a good car, can choose a church often from a long list. I also think of Jim Elliott’s quotation: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (Hope I got it right!) I am thankful parents who were what I call “open fisted.” They told me and encouraged me to do the Lord’s Will and reminded me that they given me to the Lord before I was born and done so publicly when I was a babe in arms. Even though we all shed tears upon occasion and I missed many occasions, they never put pressure on me. They sent me tapes they made at family events, sent pictures, and wrote wonderful letters. Their giving spirit and expectation for me to do God’s will made what could have been a hard thing easier. They were thrilled to have me home but shared me with many others. They trusted God and prayed He would keep me safe. I have close friends who are open fisted and don’t hold on tightly and others who have pitched fits about children they feared would not end up near them. “I’ll NEVER see my grandchildren; I’ll NEVER be able to influence them” and on it does.
Thank you for writing as you have. I do not have children but I pray for my former students who do that they will allow their children and grand-children to do the Lord’s will.
I came across this post through a link on another blog and when I saw the photo I knew I had seen it before. We used to live in Columbus and attended church with J and S. We live in another state now but still pray for J and S and their 4 and enjoy reading their updates as they serve overseas. Grateful for this post and your perspective!
Gwen, that is amazing you know them!! What a small world! And thank you for your prayers!
Oh, the tears. A missionary friend posted this blog entry today. I am currently on the mission field. In Africa. For the next three years. Tomorrow will be our first a Thanksgiving away from “home”. My two oldest children are both in the states, one in college and one working full time. I miss them. Terribly. But God is faithful. He is good. He is worthy of all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They truly are an encouragement and wonderful reminder for me.