If you’ve read my bio then you’ll know that I constantly refer to myself as a Missionary Pastor’s Kid. I’m turning a quarter of a century old in 7 months. I think I should stop calling myself a kid.
It’s Monday, August 16, 2016. The time is 6:54 am. As I type this, my parents are on a plane somewhere between North Carolina and Washington DC. From there, they’ll fly to Ethiopia and then Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Although both of them are American citizens by process of naturalization, they still call Tanzania home.
My parents have been full-time missionaries since 2002. I served with them until I graduated in 2010. My brother and I stayed in Greenville for college while they left with my sister, who now lives in Greenville and goes to school.
My friend Josh asked me the other day when my parents plan on coming back. I told him 2 to 3 years if their financial support holds up. “Is that hard? How is it being far from your parents for so long? Do you plan on going to see them soon?”
I’ve been asked these and similar questions a lot. I’ve never really thought about how abnormal my family dynamic actually is. When I was 11 my brother was 13 and my sister was 8. We traveled on planes, shuttles and buses for missions. We toured 3 churches a week in the U.S to raise support at times. We went to conferences together. We slummed in hotels, inns, and resorts while traveling. We prayed and did devotions together. We spent holidays, birthdays and everyday together, thanks to homeschool. That all took an abrupt pause when we moved to attend college, until this past year. Due to some severe health issues with my dad, both of my parents have been stateside for over a year and 8 months. The highs were high and the lows were low. I remember feeling weird knowing that I could finally pick up my phone and just talk to my mom without a phone card from Walmart or enduring 2 minutes worth of dial tones/connection noises. I could finally toss a duffle bag and backpack in the back of my Volvo, drive for 3 hours and spend the weekend with them. My parents were at my graduation. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family of 5 for the first time in half of a decade. My parents attended my brother’s wedding. I finally got birthday and Christmas presents from them. (Not complaining, I know they save and spend sparingly for the sake of living missionally, but it was cool nonetheless.)
Josh really made me realize that my family dynamic was gonna be on pause again for a few years. The craziest part about it was my siblings and I were okay with it. Tears were shed in years past. Not this time around though. I drove up to the United Airlines departure door, hopped out of my Volvo, unloaded their plethora of bags, hugged my dad, hugged my mom, kissed her on the cheek and got into my SUV thinking, “I think I need to be a lot sadder than I am.”
The whole ordeal was/is a sweet and sour.
The sour part is knowing that my parents aren’t a speed dial away.
I can’t randomly drive three hours and eat what my mom throws down.
I can’t sit across from both my parents and talk life, ministry, etc., until late at night. (Which is around 10pm for them. Wild. I know.)
The sweet part is knowing that my parents are 100% in God’s will.
I know they wouldn’t trade serving God for the sake of comfort.
The distance now pales in comparison when I remember that one day we’ll be together forever.
With not only them but with hundreds of people they’ve reached through their leadership.
It would be different if my dad worked on an oil rig or something. No offense to people who work on oil rigs, I heard they do pretty well for themselves. They’re not away on business. My dad isn’t trying to build an empire. They’re not working themselves to death to retire in Florida. My mom and dad have found the one thing that makes them beyond joyful. Serving Jesus. I can take a backseat to that.
What is family?
What is distance?
What are holidays?
I was blessed to have a family, be close to it, and make priceless memories 365 days a year for 18 years.
I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s word to his young pastor friend Timothy,
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
There are so many facets to these verses but the main one is “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” My parents are called to live this verse out 8,005 miles away from me. Their seasons of life are definitely separate from mine. That’s painful sometimes but the Gospel Jesus preached never guaranteed comfort, ease, closeness and everything in between.
Ecclesiastes 3 really breaks down the idea that there is a time and place for everything. As a missionary kid, I always keep that in mind because I’ve experienced so many different places and times. I’m thankful that I have faithful parents who treasure God far more than normalities. I’m also thankful that I have a God who allows me to get a glimpse of how He sees things and grants me the grace to recline in assurance.
One of my favorite mantras is from John Piper, “Life is hard. God is good. Glory is coming.” I recite, pray and scribble this anywhere and everywhere. They’re the sweetest 9 words to my soul. I have to keep them in mind so that I’m always aware of the hardness of life, family, relationships, illnesses, jobs, homesickness, etc. Then I have to speak to every part of me that God is good and His goodness, mercy, grace, favor, comfort, peace, etc., trumps any hardness that I’m enduring. The best part is that Glory is coming. Heaven awaits all of the faithful believers.
I’ve used this before and I’ll use this again because it’s always relevant. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth these powerful words. We can tell from other parts of his letter that he knew that they missed him. They knew some of the hardships that he endured (i.e stonings, beatings, imprisonments, being shipwrecked).
He still made it a point to encourage them and remind them in II Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
It’s thanks to grace and the unseen that I can endure the seen. Family time, closeness, holidays, birthday presents are temporary. The author of Ecclesiastes refers to life and all the above as a “vapor.” But the unseen though. The mission, the souls that are saved, the lives that are restored, the wins they get to be a part of and the ones I have living and serving God in Greenville are forever.
SO HERE’S TO THE MISSIONARY KIDS (and adults),
who have friends in different time zones, a memorized spiel in the chamber about where their parents are, a portion of their heart on a different continent(s), are the only humans who still use skype, and have waved from both sides of airport terminal windows more times than they can remember.
Life is Hard. It’s not in vain. The unseen > seen. I’m in the same boat. I’m still not 100% used to it. I miss my parents. I’ve cried more times than I can remember in the past. I’m a momma’s boy. I’m not good at adulting by myself. Ministry is costly. We in particular chip in every day.
God is good. Low key, I cried for a couple of seconds earlier today while on 85 South to Greenville at 4am. The tears were followed by prayer, screaming, steering wheel punching and ended with a peaceful resolve that I can’t explain. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put myself up for temporary adoption because I don’t have anyone to watch me 1 weekend a month.
Glory is coming. Luckily I’m not alone. I’m complete because He is complete, He is in me, and I am in Him. And when my “outward man is perishing (hurting, aching, longing, etc).” I know without a shadow of a doubt that my “inward man is being renewed day by day.” So I don’t trust what I see in the mirror or the pain I feel in an instant. I’m moody. We all are. The difference is that I’m looking to Jesus though. His plan is better than mine even when it intersects with mine.
It’s not a straight line.
Eternity is close.
Shame, pain, heartache will be no more.
That’s what we’re told to live for. (I Peter 4:12-19.)
Better days are ahead, friend… and tThey’re beautiful.
If you’d like to know more about my parents and what they’re doing in Central Africa, click on this link. If you’d like to make a one-time or even better, recurring gift to keep them on the mission field and far from me, please, please, please do so. I support them financially every month. I love them. They’re on the front lines. I’m proud of them. They mean the world to me. Regardless of amount every little bit counts 🙂
When my mom is given an opportunity to share a word in churches in the U.S she always says, “Let’s go together. You can do so with your prayer and your finances. I believe on that day in heaven, we will receive the same crown. Those of us who went and those of you who sent us.”
If you read and enjoyed this, share it with a kid (or adult) whose parents are in ministry.