During our training time in Dallas we were able to be in a Bible study with some wonderful people. They were all in the same line of work as us, and all in training. Someday we hope to be reunited with these wonderful friends, but right now we are scattered all over the globe.
One of my friends from that study, Erin, is preparing with her family to move to Africa. I just received her newsletter and I LOVED what she had to say about getting ready to leave family to go live overseas. She is an excellent writer and shares poignant thoughts that are sometimes very difficult for people in cross-cultural work to articulate, but are almost always felt. I hope you enjoy what she has to say:
“My dad asked me jokingly the other day if he could take us to court to prevent us from taking his grandkids to Tanzania. I told him that if the judge were a grandfather, he would probably side with dad against us. We both spoke in jest, but we knew that the feelings involved in taking our family overseas are very real.
Most people know that packing up your children and moving to Africa involves some sacrifice. But what about the sacrifice of those we leave behind? We get all kinds of accolades for what we are doing. We get to go through the line first at church potlucks. People bring us up in front of crowds of kids and tell them to make us their role models. We get checks in the mail almost every day! One might say we have received our reward in full. But there are no awards for being the parent of a missionary. Yet what they give up to allow us to follow God’s calling are some of life’s most treasured moments – birthday parties, ball games, heart-to-heart chats, Sundays around the dinner table, and thousands of precious hugs.
They had little say in our decision, but just as with so many things over which one has no control, they got to decide how they would respond to it. Our parents would have had every right to be angry with us, to obsess over the perceived dangers we are exposing ourselves to and discourage us at every step, or to refuse to do anything to move us closer to our goal. But they also have the option to offer us up as sacrifices willingly, to embrace and make the most of their position at long-distance grandparents, and to encourage us like no one else can when we face difficulties. What a blessing it is to us to have parents like that!
Our families have given of their time, their finances, and their talents to help us every step of the way. They have made plans for how to stay connected with us and our kids once we leave. They have said they would like to make the long trip across the Atlantic to visit us if they have the chance. And, perhaps most difficult of all, when faced with the opportunity to remind us of what we are asking of them and saddle us with guilt, they have refrained.
I hope that someday, if Rose or Everett tells me that God is asking them to go to some place where I can’t follow, where I can’t keep them safe or get to hug and kiss them every day, that I will have the faith to give them my blessing and help them on their way. Our children are the most precious of God’s gifts, and nothing is more natural and right than to hold them close. But at the same time we have to remember that they belong to God first of all. We have to raise them to be the kind of people who will love Him with their whole selves and follow Him anywhere. And when they follow Him far away from us, we have to pray and give and speed them on their way, even when it breaks our hearts.
Amen. Matt and I have both also been very blessed with wonderful understanding families that have supported us and loved us (and our kids) so much! We have 5 days left in America – so many mixed emotions!