Parenting a Missionary, Pt. 2

I got an email today from WordPress telling me that there was a comment on a blog posting I’d written several years ago.  Regular readers will know that I switched my blog over to Blogger back around 2010 so a lot has happened since then.  Anyway, the comment was from a mother of a young woman who was feeling called to be a missionary.  The mother was hurting at the thought of the potential separation that might lie ahead.  Thank goodness WordPress notified me so that I was able to respond to her but it got me to thinking that perhaps I should repost my initial advice up here on my “active” blog, which is monitored daily, and also give you a little update:
Five Things to Consider When Your Child Is Feeling Called to Be A Missionary:
1.  If your child has been called by God to be a missionary, your desires are secondary. I say this without bitterness.  God’s call on a person’s life is going to trump a parent’s wishes or hopes every time.  And if you stand in the way of that call, shame on you.  I have had to remind myself over and over since my children were born that they are not “mine.”  They were given to me by God for a season only…to nurture them until it was time to release them.
2.  Conditions can be quite fluid in a missionary’s life. There seem to me to be a lot of parallels to life in the military and life as a missionary.  With the military, there is a lot of “hurry up and wait.”  There is a lot of that in a missionary’s journey, too.  You don’t just feel the call to a foreign country and then head out.  You have to determine what organization you should join.  You have to raise support.  You must obtain visas.  Countries become “closed” and you are diverted to other countries.  Orders are changed and you get sent to different places.  You don’t buy homes because you never know how long you are going to be in one spot.  You might need to be sent off for additional training. You can’t always tell loved ones where you are nor communicate regularly with them.
3. Be prepared for a lot of surprises, twists, and turns as their missionary call is defined. Many parents (and the child being “called”) immediately think overseas when they think they are being called to the mission field.  But over time, as they pray and listen to what God is directing them to do, that missionary call could be to work with the homeless in Camden, NJ or with immigrants in San Antonio.  Or it could be a call to go to medical school and then head over to Paraguay to be a missionary doctor.  There are many forms that missionary call could take.  And a child’s missionary work can change over their lifetime.  God will use them when and where He sees fit.  You, as their parent, will become quite familiar with the word “adaptable.”
4.  You might feel angry. Shocker, I know.  Folks at church will probably be hugging you and congratulating you once they hear that your child feels called to the mission field.  Little do they realize that you might be experiencing a whirlpool of conflicting emotions, not the least of which is anger.  You’ve been throwing your whole life into keeping your child safe.  Now they want to go somewhere where they will be living in terribly unsanitary conditions, where people might want to harm them, in voluntary poverty, away from loved ones for long periods of time…….and you’re supposed to SMILE about this?  Are they nuts?  Take a deep breath.  What you are feeling is normal.  Acknowlege it and then you can work through it.  Personally, I worry more about those parents who are giddy with joy when their kids want to be missionaries.   Are they counting the cost?     Be prepared but then pray that God will keep you pleasantly surprised.
5.  Start developing a support network. When your child becomes a missionary, you will most likely not see them for long periods of time.   Seek out other parents of missionaries.    You can find them through your denomination or the missionary organizations.  Become familiar with the computer and long-distance communication tools like Skype and email.   Stay connected with your  friends and church family.  Let them know if you are having a tough time with loneliness.  Get that passport up-to-date and then make plans to do some traveling to places near enough to connect with your missionary child.  That means you need to take steps now to be healthy enough to travel, if at all possible.  And at the risk of sounding trite, remember that you can talk to God about what you are feeling every step of the way.  He’s along for the entire journey.
Bonus Advice:
6.  Take advantage of great resources like the National Network of Parents of Missionaries.  This group (also known as “NNPOM”) has a website at http://www.pomnet.org/ and it is chock-full of good advice and resources for you.  They also have a Yahoo group for POMs (Parents of Missionaries) that I can tell you is wonderfully supportive.
Update on MY missionaries:
My son and his family are now back in the States.  At the risk of repeating myself for regular readers, my dear daughter-in-law became pregnant while they were serving overseas and, since she has high-risk pregnancies, they had to return to the States for her final trimester.  Before they had returned, they were beginning to feel that God was changing their call and once they returned, it became clearer to them that this was the case.  Our granddaughter was also experiencing physical problems brought on by the environment overseas, which was a cause for concern.  Now my son is attending seminary while still working as the North American Sending Offices Director for his missionary organization.  We have two wonderful grandchildren.  They live half-way across the country but that’s a walk in the park compared to halfway around the world.  The Commander volunteers as a treasurer for Jason’s organization and I like to joke and say that I’m the “Postmaster” for the group since I print off the postage and mail off the contribution statements around the country and also mail off books and cover letters to those interested in serving with the organization.  It’s a small thing, for sure, but it helps me feel connected to my son’s missionary work.  I wonder sometimes if it didn’t take me finally  throwing up my hands and releasing my son and daughter and their precious family through my tears to God before He, in His graciousness and mercy, gently restored them back to me.

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Hot Flashed Funk

  • Such good advise, Dee. I hope many POM’s read this! You have been a wonderful support to me in our journey and I can SO relate to your last statement. For now, at least, God has restored my daughter and her family back to me. But, I have also learned to be more willing to ‘let them go’. (And I’m saving airmiles again – so I’m ready if/when they go back).

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