Guest Blogger: My Mom!! On Being a Parent of a Missionary

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My Family, Christmas 2011

***Everyone, I’m very excited about having my mom write a blog for me today!  If  you haven’t met her personally, she’s the red head in the middle of our Christmas picture.  She’s the best mom ever and (next to Josh) she’s my best friend too.  So blogging for the first time, let me present my mom, Bonnie!

Grin and Bear It

Recently, April (my daughter the missionary) asked me to write a “Guest Blog” for her own blog.  While I’m not a blogger, I’ve written innumerable letters, documents, memos, papers, etc., etc.  So I wasn’t daunted by the request to write an article.  But the topic worried me a bit.  She wanted me to write on “Parents of Missionaries”.  Well, I do have plenty to say on that topic, but how much of it I really want to publicly share, I wasn’t sure.  I told April I’d agree to write as long as I didn’t have to be funny.  She assured me that humor wasn’t necessary — just honesty. Well, all right then.

I now believe the potential to become the parent of a missionary began for us in the summer of 1974, just a few weeks after April was born.  Jac and I stood on the platform of First Assembly of God in Des Moines, IA, and handed our newborn baby over the our new Senior Pastor, Rev. David Crabtree, to be dedicated to the Lord.  While I don’t remember at all that he said, I know from photographs that it did happen.  And having experienced a multitude of baby dedications at church over the years, I know the gist of what’s normally said.  We gave April back to the Lord.

That’s what it means to dedicate something or someone to the Lord.  In the Old Testament, things dedicated to the Lord were either destroyed, sacrificed, or given to Him for use in His holy tabernacle.

 Ex. 22:29  “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the firstborn of your sons [daughters].”

 Lev. 27:28  “But nothing that a man owns and devotes to the LORD—whether man or animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD.”

In the New Testament, Jesus is the Redeemer of our destroyed lives and we therefore sacrifice (dedicate) our lives to him willingly, to express our thanks to Him.

But in either case, it’s supposed to mean that the dedicated item is no longer to be used in this world, by humans, parents or otherwise.  So from that moment on, God had the option to call our daughter to the mission field of His choice.  Now theoretically, that’s what we believed and that was fine with us.  However, practically, it’s a lot harder to accept.

I think there must be three kinds of “Parents of Missionaries”.  First, there are those who’s child has been interested in and was called to missions from their earliest years.  Their little one always wanted to meet the missionaries at church.  They always talked about becoming a missionary.  They made pictures in Sunday School about little children being taught by missionaries.  They were fascinated by National Geographic, studying all about foreign places like Borneo, Mozambique, or Peru.  These parents must have had a great deal of warning what the expected outcome would be for their child.  This child WILL be a missionary.  So they have 20+ years to prepare for the whole idea of separation by vast stretches of ocean.

The second kind of parents are those who are missionaries themselves.  They’ve raised their little MKs to be enthused about and dedicated to missions.  Their kids are more at home abroad than in the good ol’ USA.  So it’s not surprising at all that these children will follow in their parents footsteps and also answer the call to missions.

Then there’s the third category.  Let’s call those parents “The Clueless Ones”.  These parents may or may not have been Christians.  But let’s say they were.  They went to church regularly along with their kids.  They read and believed the Bible.  Their kids loved the Lord and his church.  As kids, they were very involved in church activities, from Missionettes to youth group.  They even gave to missions and as a family supported children in foreign countries through good organizations like Latin American Child Care.  They prayed for missionaries who visited church.  But that was about the extent of it.  They had NO clue that the Lord was really planning to call THEIR own beloved child to leave the safety and security of home and family, and move to another country to become a missionary.  Maybe other people’s children will go and God bless them!  But not ours.

Unfortunately, we fell into the third category.  Jac and I were absolutely blind-sided by our daughter and her husband when they came to see us one day a few years ago.  We knew they’d become tired/bored/burned out from being youth pastors for eight years (who wouldn’t?) and probably would be looking for another position in a church somewhere, hopefully in Minnesota where we live.  But missions had NEVER been mentioned as an interest or a call.  While they did take multiple short-term missions trips with their youth group, that’s just what youth groups and their youth pastors do.  It’s part of the job.  So we had no time to prepare ourselves at all for this most unexpected and remarkable turn of events.

What was our reply?  I distinctly remember saying, “Well, you and Josh can go to Mexico, but you CANNOT take Taylor and Emma.  They’ll just have to stay with us!”

The catch-22 in all of this is that Jac is a pastor and I’m a pastor’s wife.  The church is our complete and total life.  We left Iowa and all of our extended family 30 years ago to go to Bible college, and then into ministry.   I’m even Chair of our Missions Committee now. So I really have no choice but to accept the call of God on our daughter’s life, as graciously as I can, even if would rather do otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know there are any number of much, much worse kinds of trauma that parents have to endure.  They lose their children to all kinds of evils in this rotten world.  Even to death.  So that’s why I can’t complain too loudly.  At least ours are serving the Lord and we’re very proud of them.

I just wish I’d have been forewarned so I could have been more prepared for the separation from our daughter and grandkids.  While Skype, Facebook, and emails help tremendously to keep us in touch with daily life, it just doesn’t take the place of snuggling a little one in your arms or seeing how much they’ve grown since the last time they were over.  Or taking them occasionally to buy a new toy.  Or having a sleep-over.

But enough grousing.  I’ve become quite good over the years at dealing with tough stuff.  I do know how to “Grin and Bear It” well.  And so I will.

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