Our church has a special service a few times a year, and I honestly dread them with all that’s within me. It’s called a “Blessing Service” or a “Send off Service” and in my mind, its the “Heart-Break Service”. To be honest, its really a beautiful thing…a missionary family, days away from heading off to the foreign field gets to be flooded with tear filled testimonials, letters from church members, a special challenge from the pastors and a time of group prayer over them. Its emotional, but its beautiful for them to be covered in support, and sent out with a heart full of love. For me though, as a sender, its horrible. I hate it. I hate it because its the end of pancake night, pool picnics, walking at the park and sitting on my couch with my best friends for a while…years to be exact. I hate it because I am an ugly crier, and my nerves make my voice tremble and crack in front of a room full of people. I hate it because despite my trying to hold it together, I find myself puddled in my car on the way home wishing I could go with them. BUT…as difficult as that night is, there is SO much more to being a “sender” that makes that one awful night worth it. So what does it feel like to stay/send?
– It feels Blessed. Its rewarding for me to stand at “home base” each week and hear the reports of all that God has done in the past days all around the world. Those are my friends, and God is just pouring out his blessings on their ministries. Its awesome. Getting those updates fills my heart with such pride for what our God is doing. He is still working, and I get to see the rewards day in and day out.
-It feels Important. I think its easy for me to forget that my job as a sender is just as important…if there is no one to send, how can they be sent? The needs on the field are always changing, and its important for me to be aware of those things. Of all the ways a sender can minister, being aware of whats happening is the most meaningful. I may not be able to jump in on every project that comes up, but I can make it a point to be involved and invested in knowing whats going on.
-It feels Humbling. The friendships should (and will) run both ways. I cant tell you how many times I’ve reached out to one of my friends to ask how her day was, to encourage her, and end up leaving the conversation blessed and refreshed myself. Of course, my focus as a sender is to lift her up, but when you become ACTUAL friends with a missionary (or anyone for that matter), its not a duty, its just part of being a friend. I’m there for her, and she’s also there for me. As yoke-fellows, and as friends, we carry each others burdens, its not one sided.
-It feels like Work. I could name some of the senders at our church that work harder than anyone else I know. I’ve watched them work 40+ hour work weeks, then show up to be involved in the church ministries, special events, discipleship, cleaning, and meeting to work on the next big project all while making sure to give and keep up with whats going on around the globe. Just because some stay doesn’t mean they are working any less, the great commission applies to us all.
-It feels like Family. My girls have so many “aunts” and “uncles” around the world. Skyping in for baby showers, birthdays, and just to say “hey” has become the norm for us. The clock on my phone is actually set to display 5 different cities time zones, and my oldest daughter knows who I am talking to on messenger, depending on the time of day. We love it when our friends need a place to stay while they are in town. Late nights filled with the kids running wild, casual dinners and long chats about everything and nothing at all are what our best memories have been made of. We count down the months until we see our families again.
So what does it feel like to stay? Probably a lot like what it feels like to go to be honest. We are all working towards the same goal, and while our locations are different, we are still people ministering to people. It’s hard to leave friends, family and familiarity I’m sure….but its also hard to let them go. But “going” and “staying”, that’s not the focus, and it never has been. The focus is Jesus. The message is the same. The ministry is the same. Being a sender is an abundance of good things, as is being a “goer” to a foreign field. I am honored to be here,we are a family, we are a team, and we are blessed.