Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Sacrifices Most Don't See

When I was five years old and my parents were preparing to move to Liberia, my grandmother was so furious that she threatened to contact a lawyer to try to get custody of my brother and I away from them.

In contrast, last week my mom said to me, Your job is to follow God's calling.  Our job is to release you to pursue God's calling.

My grandmother really, really loved us and couldn't accept us being so far away.  My parents really, really love their grandchildren too.  Being separated from them by 10,000 miles is excruciating.  Every time we talk about our upcoming departure, my mom and I get all teary.

Most of the time, the emphasis is only on the missionary and the sacrifices they make.  But hidden behind the banner of missions are others who are forced to make equally difficult sacrifices--the ones who are left behind, and who didn't get to choose to be there.

We made the choice to live so far away from our families.  And yet, they have to suffer the consequences.

So today, I want to honor those who are our biggest supporters, our biggest fans, even though every day we are gone leaves a hole in their hearts.

My mom (known to my kids as Bibi) handles the American side of our finances when we are in Africa.  She is my personal shopper, and so many of my emails start with, Do you think you can find__________? or We just need a little bit more of __________.  She is the first one to be concerned, the first one to pray, the first one to listen.  When we are home, she stocks her closet with crafts and patiently pushes a four-year-old on her bike a mile to the park.

My dad (known to my kids as Babu) is the first one I go to with missions questions.  He is famous for his pancakes and even more famous for sneaking desserts to his grandchildren.  He has taken each child out for breakfast dates on numerous occasions, and dutifully rides the roller coaster at Happy Hollow--over and over.

And of course, Gil's parents love us just as much.  Grandpa does our taxes and is also an expert roller-coaster rider, and Grandma can find anything at a garage sale--even cars, which she has bought for us more than once.  They have driven an hour each way every Saturday just to watch all of our kids' sports games this year.  They drive an hour each way every Thursday evening to baby-sit while we lead college group.

I really can't imagine any two sets of grandparents who are so devoted to their grandchildren.  And yet, we continue to take those children away from them.

And yet, they smile.
And they support us.
And they love us unconditionally.
Even though they miss almost every birthday, every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every ball game.  Years go by before they see their grandchildren again.

But they smile, and they are so brave.

I know very well that this does not characterize all parents of missionaries.  I have a number of friends whose parents are bitter, or angry, or emotionally distant because of their children's decisions, and the missionary has to make the excruciating choice between obeying God or making their families happy.

We feel so blessed that our families have chosen joy, and courage, and unselfishness.  They have given us to God, and given us the freedom to follow Him, despite how much it hurts.

Bibi and Babu and Grandma and Grandpa, we love you so much.

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