Where’s Dad?

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The road that a missionary kid treks is not always a simple or effortless one. Nor is the journey without sacrifice. When John or I have ministry work to attend to, it’s all hands on deck to make it happen – even if our boys are not directly involved in executing the ministry work firsthand, they play an integral part.

John received a surprise invitation to attend a ministry event out of country this weekend. It’s actually a pretty big deal. Very few missionaries have ever been offered this opportunity due to this particular denomination’s distrust of people of Anglo-Saxon descent. Misguided and insensitive colonial practices of the past in southern Africa made them wary. John graciously accepted the invitation and then our family proceeded to prepare for his departure and absence.

On the eve of John’s departure, our front gate stopped working. The gate’s incapacitation came at the most inopportune time. As John and I (well, mostly John) attempted to determine the gate’s problem, we realized he could not fix it that night. I would need to sort the situation out later in the week. This assessment took time. The boys, meanwhile, prepared themselves for bed and later John said his good-nights and his farewells to his sleepy kids.

When Caleb arose in the morning, he asked, “Where’s Dad?”

I answered, “He left this morning for his ministry trip.”

Caleb’s face sunk. “You mean he’s gone? I didn’t know Dad was leaving today!”

It was then I realized that John and I had failed to have a family meeting with the boys before his departure. Our common family practice is to sit down as a family the night before a ministry trip to talk about ‘stuff.’ That ‘stuff’ addresses things like how long John will be away, where he is going, who he is going to see, what he needs from his sons while he is away, and other matters of importance. It’s a time for the boys to ask questions and receive the answers they need. We pray for John and the trip too. Our family gathers our collective strength in our God and in each other and send John off with our love and support.

None of that happened. The gate malfunction and the time it took to assess the situation and develop a game plan interfered with our family’s ministry routine.

It’s not that we hadn’t been talking with the boys about the trip and also having them assist in the preparations. All of that happened. However, for some reason, Caleb didn’t comprehend the timing of John’s departure. Since we hadn’t assembled for our family meeting, he had assumed that John was leaving later.

Caleb’s tears welled in his eyes.

“I miss my dad,” he whimpered. Caleb buried his head into my shoulder and cried.

Tender times like these tug at my mama’s heart.

I recognize that my son is truly experiencing what it means to be a holy and living sacrifice.

In Romans 12:1, Paul exhorts all believers throughout the world to offer themselves fully – not half-heartedly – to Christ.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

To be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, is an active, all-in, vigorous, life-giving exertion of the soul.  The sacrifice is holy, well-pleasing and agreeable to God, Himself.

I believe that when Caleb and his brothers are continuing on in life without the presence of their amazing, wonderful, loving father who is serving his God on the mission field, theirs’ is a living sacrifice. It is their spiritual act of worship.

Sometimes we think that service to God should be some happy-clappy-all-of-the-time-kind of deal.

Friends, service and sacrifice often require just that – real service and real sacrifice. There is a cost. Time, skill, relational output, and resources are allocated in various amounts. The attitude in which they are expended is part of the process as well.

John was excited for this particular ministry opportunity in spite of all of the materials to be gathered and behind-the-scenes-preparatory work that needed to be done in a relatively short period of time.  For John, this was a life-giving moment of service and sacrifice. He looked upon it with joy and expectation as He wondered what his God was up to in all of this!

However, for Caleb, this ministry opportunity was a time-away-from-his-dad sacrifice. John’s absence was felt even more since the boys and I are leaving for the States in two weeks and will be away from John once again. Caleb’s precious heart hurt.

Thankfully, John called us later in the morning and I shared what had happened with his third-born son. John asked to talk to Caleb first.

When Caleb heard his dad’s voice, his whole demeanor changed. His face lit up as Caleb shared how much he missed his dad. John affirmed and loved on his boy.

I truly believe that our God does the same for us as we serve our God in honor and sacrifice – especially at times when the spiritual act of worship cuts into our hearts.

Our God knows that life on earth is no fun-loving picnic at times. And so, in the midst of our service and our sacrifice, He affirms us. He listens to us. He blesses us. And most of all, He loves us.

Caleb received from his dad what he needed and has continued onwards in John’s absence with joy.

Our Joy-Boy was back and has done well!

Yes, that’s what it means to be a living sacrifice. Our God gives us the sustaining strength and hope we need to live this life in obedience and grace. Caleb is doing it.

So are his brothers, who each have their own stories to tell of what it means to live life as a missionary kid.

I am so stinkin’ proud of them. Micah, Jake and Caleb are amazing young men who have been given the unique opportunity in life to serve with their parents on the mission field and in so doing ultimately choose to live out their faith in Christ for themselves. I will not tell you that it has been easy. I will not tell you that we have been ‘perfect’ in it all. We have made mistakes.

However, through all of this ten-plus-years of living life on the mission field, we continue to grow and continue to seek our God. And John and I are witnessing how our sons, Micah, Jake and Caleb are living their lives as holy and living sacrifices as best they can. For this, I am both humbled and amazed.

Friends, thank you for praying for our family. Truly, your prayerful support and care of us helps us through such tender times of heartfelt worship.

With gratitude,

heather

2 Comments

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  1. Thanks for sharing Heather. It is so amazing what we can learn from our kids. Will be praying for you guys and John while he is away. Love to everyone…Jeff

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