Monday, July 7, 2014

What It's Like to Mother Missionaries

My husband, Chuck, and I never prayed that our children would become missionaries. We simply prayed that they would do whatever God wanted them to do, using their unique gifts, talents, and interests to serve Him. 
With that backdrop to parenting, we provided an atmosphere in our home that fostered a heart for others, whether next door or around the world. When a new neighbor moved in, we played welcome wagon, showing up on their doorstep with cookies and card in hand. We hosted missionary families during our annual mission conference. Our kids played and studied with the missionary kids and formed ties that last to this day. We prayed with others at pro-life rallies. Each of our girls worked as summer counselors in the Christian camping ministry in which I grew up. During the year, we often visited the sick and lonely, gifting them with our music and crafts. We witnessed to people we met, in their homes, on the street, and in our neighborhood.
So, in some ways, it came as no surprise when our oldest daughter, Rachel, announced at age fifteen that she sensed God calling her to India as a career missionary. Prior to that, she’d been interested in veterinarian medicine, even oceanography. Looking back over our homeschooling years, I realize now that she’d always been fascinated with the solar system, even more with geography. She loved taking a globe or map and pointing out as many different countries as she could. She’d read stories of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India. Her innate interest in the world’s countries, her love for the Lord, and her exposure to missions through our church and her youth group paved the way for God to speak to her heart.
Thus, in November 2004, after ten years of preparation, Rachel set off for India as a single missionary gal. Only two months later, God provided her life partner, and they were married in June 2005. Their love story inspired my first novel, Journey to Judah. Writing articles about releasing a child into fulltime missions and later writing a novel helped this mom process the experience. Many ask me, “How can you let your daughter go clear around the world?” I simply respond, by the grace of God, “Well, you know, she’s not mine to hold back. I gave her to the Lord at conception. And I continue to give her over to Him every day. She belongs to Him. God merely used me to train her to serve Him.”
That’s not to say my emotions never threaten to get in the way. They do. My grown children go (for long periods of time) and then they come home (for months at a time). The transitions are heart rending. But the more experience I get as a mother to missionaries, the more I realize that each season is simply that, a season that comes and goes with another season on its heels. When the kids come home, I focus on them. Our home becomes a missionary house. In fact, that’s exactly what it is right now as we house 15 people, seven of them kids! All of them are coming and going as they travel to churches to update them on their ministries. My job as missionary host is to listen, especially to the hearts of the grandchildren who are processing life in a different country, bake, cook, wash, play, and pray. In short, make good memories that will carry us through to the next furlough.

With each tear of separation comes the joy of knowing my daughter is doing exactly what I raised her to do: Serve God and others.
On the heels of Rachel’s commitment, my second daughter, Michelle, trained to serve the Lord, and met and married a youth minister. Today, they serve fulltime in inner city missions. In addition, my youngest daughter, Stephanie, and her family are preparing to go to Thailand as fulltime missionaries, working with at-risk children vulnerable to sex traffickers.
Every day, some days more than others, I have to intentionally release each one of my children, and now seven grandchildren, to fulfill the purpose God has for them. I have to remind myself that we’re not really home yet. There’s lots of work to do for the kingdom. We each play a role: Me in my writing, speaking, and mentoring young moms, and they in their mission work around the world. Someday, we’ll join forever in heaven, celebrating all He has accomplished through our ministries. For now, we work while we wait. And choose joy in the process.

Looking for a summer read? Check out the Born for India trilogy (Journey to Judah, Restored Hearts, Chosen Ones) on my Amazon author page.


Cecile said...

I love reading your posts, because it helps me deal with my possible future.

Eileen Rife said...

Yes, you've already experienced some of what I write about. :) Praying for continued direction for Carleigh and the other children, and for healing for Bob.

Thanks for stopping by, Cecile!

Paula Mowery said...

I'll never forget when my hubby, daughter and I went on a mission trip to South Africa. My hubby looked at me and said, You know we have to be willing to let our daughter go if she should feel God wants her to do this? I cringed but knew. I'm not sure where God will take her when she completes college, but she did walk that aisle two years ago and surrender to ministry, becoming a children's minister. We raise them to follow God's call on their lives and then they do it! Love you, my sweet friend!

Eileen Rife said...

Yes, those trips are life changing. Glad you got to go. And I think that kind of experience opens our children's eyes and helps them determine where God wants them to serve. Praying for clarity for your daughter. How thrilling to know that they are being used. Such a bundle of mixed emotions, for sure. :)

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