The Tug of War :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

The Tug of War

Carol Loescher
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If you have ever wondered, heart strings are made of rubber. As loved ones are separated in space and time, the pull tightens proportionately. If there’s an ocean of separation—toss an exponent into the equation!

I’m revisiting a scene in my mind: loading two toddlers and a baby into the back of a packed van and heading to the airport. The plane that took my family to Africa in 1998 was both a friend and an enemy to me. It transported us to our new home, but it took us from our home as well. More accurately, it carried us from grandparents, parents, sisters, cousins, and friends. Not only was it hard to leave them, but it was doubly difficult knowing how hard it was for them to let us leave!

God is carrying history toward this certain destination. Are you onboard? In Cameroon, people say, “Tie hard your heart.” Translated, that means, “Put on your seatbelt when encountering emotional turbulence.” For me, buckling my emotions meant visualizing certain things. At night, I would look at the moon and think to myself, “That is the same moon that shines on my family back home—and they see it too. It is a common object for both of us.” Then I would pray that the Lord would bless my loved ones in proportion to my missing them. (I figured that would result in a LOT of blessing for them!) When I was really sad about a departure, especially on an airplane, I would picture the woman who broke her alabaster flask and poured the perfume on Jesus. Such a lavish gesture! Seated by the window on the plane (I always hog the window seats), I would tell the Lord that leaving parents—and eventually my children—was my alabaster flask, and that I was breaking it for Him. The Lord and I have exchanged this conversation many times over the years.

Maybe that sounds sentimental, but I honestly think the Lord answered those prayers and even delighted in my offerings. Strangely, I sometimes think that I pray better for my loved ones when I am separated from them because it is my deepest form of communication about them. God has blessed my family in ways that I couldn’t begin to list in this short essay.

I know you have close friends who have influenced you; I have “Bonnie-isms.” Once, I was lamenting the departure of my oldest daughter after she and Gracie Studdard had paid us a visit. I told Gracie’s mother, Bonnie, how sad I felt that our girls were returning to the USA. She replied, “but aren’t we glad that we had them while we did!” I suppose there is such a thing as coveting even the dearest of the Lord’s gifts. Now, I often think of Bonnie’s little phrase when parting from a loved one.

I am sharing these musings at least 22 years from that first transatlantic trip. I happen to be in Togo at the moment, and my youngest daughter (who was born in Africa) just called me from the USA. One by one, the precious cargo that Walter and I took to Africa has flown back across the Atlantic when they left the nest. There is something sweet in the cycle: our parents let us leave with their blessing, and now they are doting on the grandchildren to whom they once bravely waved goodbye.

Finally—not to sound too surreal or even antiquated—I should mention WhatsApp, Facetime, phone calls, and cheap flights! It’s amazing how the Lord has allowed us to stay in touch with our loved ones! Guess where I’m (hopefully) headed for Christmas? Don’t guess “home,” because that would be a toss-up between three continents. Let’s just say I’m going to give in to the tug and let my heartstrings pull me to my loved ones. You can never ever outgive the Lord!