A Mother's Journey and Counsel on Sending Children Across the World :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

A Mother's Journey and Counsel on Sending Children Across the World

Virginia Arnold
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I well remember the puzzled look I received years ago as I responded to a lady who had questioned me regarding the locations of our four adult married sons and their families. When I answered that one son and his wife and children lived in Germany and the other son and family lived in the Philippines, she inquired as to the reason I started to explain, but she quickly asked the oft-repeated question: “So how often do you see your eight overseas grandchildren?” Her stunned silence was mixed with disapproval when I responded that the reason for their overseas locations was ministry. I went on to say that even though we were always glad when we were able to see them, they could only return to the States every three or four years.

Christian friends are usually far more understanding and supportive, but it is not an easily understood situation for many people. However, even though at times the separation hasn’t been easy for us, the explanation has become easier. We thank the Lord for the many lessons He has taught us as our children and their families have pursued career missionary service.

Lesson 1: Deputation proved spiritually invaluable for our children.

Young adults considering foreign missionary service are concerned about the challenge of traveling with a family on deputation. The process of visiting churches can last anywhere from a year to four years, depending on the amount of support the missionary candidate needs.

God strengthened our children’s faith and our own as the promised support was gradually pledged and each family was finally able to go to the field. The mission board for both sons and their families, Gospel Fellowship Association, provided wonderful instruction and encouragement during this period and continues to give legal, financial, and ministry advice.

One fellow GFA veteran missionary encouraged us regarding the benefits of deputation when she said, “Your children grew up in this church with scores of devoted Christians supporting them. As good as that is, it is all they have ever known. But when they first arrive in their new place of ministry, they won’t experience that degree of love and support. There will be very few Christian people there.  God will use deputation to wean them from their dependency on supportive Christians. As they go to church after church to present God’s calling on their lives, God will strengthen their desires in two important areas. They will grow in their desire to relocate to their new place of service, and they will grow in their love and dependency on the Lord. He is the One Who has called them to their new place of ministry, and He is the one on Whom they must depend.”

Lesson 2: We must surrender our children to the Lord when they are young.

Parents will often ask questions such as these: “Do you ever experience fear for your children and their families as they face unfamiliar challenges in a foreign culture? Is it hard for you to miss the special events in the lives of your grandchildren, such as birthdays and holidays? Does God give you peace and contentment when you realize that you will experience long periods of separation from your children and their families? The answer to all three of those questions is a firm “Yes.”

However, letting go of our missionary children cannot be left for the day they leave for the field. All Christian parents must address the hard questions early in the process of training them. Here are some of the questions that must be answered. To whom do my children belong? What direct commands has God given to parents regarding the stewardship and training of children for His service and glory? What are God’s eternal purposes for our children? The following answers have become our convictions as we studied God’s Word.

Children must be considered as gifts from God. (See Psalm 127:3-4; Psalm 128; Proverbs 17:6.) The training of children is a Christian parent’s stewardship—a “sacrifice of righteousness” (Psalm 4:5). Children are loaned to parents for a short time for the sole purpose of being trained, discipled, and then sent out to serve God and bring Him glory.

We can rejoice with our children when God thrusts them out to go where we cannot go and do what we cannot do. We can be reminded that God described children as “arrows in the hand of the mighty” (Psalm 127:3-4). We can support them with encouragement and prayer through every step of the process—deputation, language acquisition, adjustment to the field, and in the lows and highs of missionary service.

Lesson 3: God is enough for us as parents too.

God has experientially taught us Scriptural truths from His Word and met our every need.

Children are not given to us to become our idols or to meet our emotional needs. They are given to us to be returned to God as eternal, heavenly treasures. Matthew 6:19 says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” Matthew. 6:33 adds, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Our love for God must exceed our love for all human relationships. We are commanded to each take up our cross and follow Him. Luke 14:26-27 teaches us that “If any man come to me and hate not (‘to hate” means ‘to love less’) his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33 goes on to say, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

Our Heavenly Father will calm our fears and comfort our lonely hearts when our children and families are far away serving Him with their lives. God gave us the greatest demonstration of love when He gave His only son. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”  As a parent I can be encouraged every time I am reminded that Christ was willing to die for me. He also knows and will meet our needs as parents who were created by God to love and care for our offspring. Romans 8:32 promises, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Our Heavenly Father, the Giver and Sustainer of our lives and the lives of our children, can meet all our needs in a greater way than we can ever imagine possible. Consider Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

It is my joy to be able to give my children back to Him and then to trust that He will meet every need they have. We can be certain that He knows far more about their needs and the needs of their ministries than we will ever know or understand.