Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

Hello and welcome back.  This is episode 203 of Missions on Point.  We are glad that you have joined us.  We hope that you find here some helpful, biblical resources for your engagement with missions.  Today’s episode is a special one because we get to address an often-neglected aspect of missions ministry.  Sometimes we are so focused on the missionary and the task of missions and supporting that work, that we often forget about the ones we have left behind.  As we say regularly here, everyone has some role to play in the body of Christ as it works to fulfill its God-given purpose in the Great Commission.  Some roles are more visible than others, while some are more behind the scenes and supportive.  That’s certainly true about the missions path that we are considering today.  But it is a vitally important one too.  Today we consider the missions path of the parents or even grandparents of missionaries. 

When God calls a missionary to go to the other side of the world, they usually are leaving behind significant relationships of love and support, most importantly they leave behind their family.  When those parents or grandparents get the news that their child is considering going into missions ministry competing emotions immediately swell up within them.  Excitement and fear, thankfulness for their obedience to God, yet sadness for the distance that comes with missions ministry.  Parents of missionaries need a supportive and sympathetic home church to care for them in their heartache.  They can even face feelings of selfishness, wishing that their loved ones would not go. 

So, how does the missionary’s family get over that initial shock of their calling?  The first thing we do is we go to scripture.  Jesus says in Matthew 9:38, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  God is the one who commissions his people to go.  He sends them out.  And he does so because as he says in the preceding verses that he has compassion on the crowds because they are like sheep without a shepherd.  Consider first here that Christ is the Lord and he has a work for your loved ones to do, and it is one of compassion for the lost.  Think about those who will hear the gospel message through them and know that Jesus’s honor and glory is worth it. 

But also remember that it is a dangerous calling too.  I won’t sugar coat it.  Matthew 10 immediately follows this prayer in Matthew 9.  And Jesus sends out his disciples and he says in v.16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." He's telling them that they will not be warmly received. He says that officials in the host culture will be against them and bring them before the courts.  Further on in that same chapter Jesus says that he does not come to bring peace, but a sword.  The point of this warning is that it is a difficult process to obediently follow Jesus and leave home, and that we ought to expect resistance on the missions field.  There will be a grieving process as you imagine a different life than previously expected.  And while it can be traumatic, the first step is to remember the reason they are going.  They are serving the Lord.  They are taking the most glorious truth in the universe into the darkness and shining it forth for all to see.  Your loved ones have their eyes fixed on a risen and glorious savior who is leading them and whom they proclaim to others.  And we also need to focus on Jesus’ worth.  And because Jesus is worth it, then the parents of missionaries can be supportive of their children as they go.  Don’t be opposed to your children and make it more difficult for them.  Your children are not rejecting you, they are obeying their Lord out of a love for him and his glory.

That’s the first step, to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, and our Lord who leads his sheep, some of whom he leads to the other side of the world for his purposes and glory. 

The second step is to have loving communication.  This communication need goes both ways.  Love and care needs to be given for the missionary, but also from the missionary.  And even if that communication is not reciprocated one of the directions, it is still the right thing to do.  Keep that communication channel open and well oiled.  But remember that the missionary’s job is not to be in communication with you, but it should be a part of what they do.  Ask good questions and show interest in their lives, and about how life is different.  Among those differences will be the freedom and availability of their communication.  It’s not going to happen with the frequency or thoroughness that you probably would desire.  We can be thankful for the technology that allows us to connect, but there will still be a barrier, especially when considering time differences. 

Be warned though with this communication, that it can actually also become too much.  It can distract the missionary from actually getting their job done, it can build an outsized pull back home.  It’s possible too that your missionary family does not have quality access to the internet.  With that, you will have to also be content with receiving some of the same general communication that goes to supporting family and friends.  Weekly prayer points or quarterly newsletters allow for regular communication that does not overwhelm the missionary’s time. 

As a support to these missionaries consider how you can send them gifts and even think about visiting them on the field.  Be careful though about custom regulations and baggage limitations, and not going overboard and doing too much.  Thoughtfulness can be expressed in small amounts without too much expense.  Plus, if missionaries get too many visitors who are expecting a free vacation tour guide, they can get distracted from the work they are called to do.  So be careful about your care.  Balance the amount so it’s appropriate.  If the missionary gives a big sigh of relief when their visitors leave, it’s probably been a counter-productive trip.  That’s the second action you can take: prayerfully considering how you can facilitate your relationship over the miles. 

First, fix your eyes on Jesus.  Second, facilitate your relationship.

And third, engage in missions thinking.  By this I mean that there is a lot for you to learn about with missions too.  Learn the language of missions, it’s terms and vocabulary.  Learn about the missionary call, and the missionary’s term or duration of ministry.  Learn about support, especially the financial component.  Consider the home assignment, or what has historically been called furlough.  Learn about evangelism and discipleship, and the process that the missionary goes through to engage with nationals on the field, and the strategy of missionary workers.  Learn about the culture and language.  Sympathize with your loved ones in recognizing and coping with the unique differences that they experience.  Learn about the missionary’s team and what their support needs are.  Learn about the paperwork, the immigration and visa processes.  Enculturation can sometimes be a long process of learning not just the language, but the culture behind it so that they are comfortable living there.  Consider what it takes for your missionary family to have access to that culture, especially if it is a closed country.  They might have a job or business that they run, what we sometimes call tent-making. 

Learn about the demographics and the unreached people groups your loved one is trying to reach.  Learn about their missions agency and the administration that goes along with it.  And most importantly, learn about how you can better pray for them.  Sympathize with the spiritual warfare they will be facing, and even the risk that they might have in facing martyrdom.  As you can tell, there is a lot for you to learn as you grow in your understanding of missions.

The fourth step you can take is to work on overcoming the challenge of distance.  It’s sometimes quite amusing to work on getting used to time zone differences.  Find a regular time where you can both communicate at a reasonable hour.  As you consider traveling there, remember that jet lag is a real thing.  Your first few days or even the first week in the country can be a real bear.  You will feel disoriented, almost like you have the flu. 

One of the necessary considerations for your loved ones being at such a distance has to do with what we might say are business-related issues.   Who will file their tax returns back home?  Who will take care of banking and fund transfers?  Do they have a will and healthcare directive for them and their children?  What other legal hangups will they face?

Will someone help them with communication, or being a go-between for security purposes?  Do you know the code language that they will use if they are in a security sensitive environment?  Perhaps you will have to coach others in that vocabulary too.  Even more than that, some missionaries are in volatile situations where they need an evacuation plan.  And you can be aware of and prepared for any part you might play in that.  Pay attention to political events in their region, and be in constant prayer.  Remember that God is sovereign, yet we must be as wise as serpents.  God gets all the glory, sometimes especially so as we navigate incredibly challenging situations in faith. 

The fifth and last consideration for parents of missionaries today is to think about relational expectations when you are able to be together.  It is true that sometimes when missionaries leave home, the loved ones they have left behind can have unrealistic expectations about time that they spend together when they are reunited.  In fact, this is kind of the make it or break it moment.  If expectations are off here, then it can do untold damage to the relationship.  When you do get to see each other again face to face, how will you spend your time?  Whether you go and visit them or they have come home for a home assignment, the anticipation is high, and the eagerness to make up for lost time can result in a big disappointment when those expectations are not met. 

The difference in approach here is between that of selfish desires and that of a joy in Christ, even through suffering.  If you think that your loved one is going to spend their entire six months of home assignment at your house and going on vacations with you, you will be sorely disappointed.  They have work to do, and sometimes they are busier on home assignment than they are on the field.  They have churches and supporters to visit.  They have paperwork and health checks.  And they are their own adults with the need of personal space too.  They have other social events they will want to attend.  Don’t overload them with gifts that they won’t be able to take back overseas.  Just focus on having some quality time together, even if it’s not the quantity you might want. 

Similar advice can be given to you when you visit them on the field.  They should not be expected to drop everything and serve you.  They still have ministry to continue, even while you are there.  Perhaps you can support their work somehow or relieve some burdens.  You are not going there for you, but to serve and love them.  In the end, your time together is not going to fix all of the heart pain that you have felt in your separation.  Only God can fix your heart.  Your time of separation is God’s tool in your life to help you trust and depend on him alone.  And when you put your trust in him, and you have godly, unselfish expectations, you will never be put to shame. 

If you’d like to consider this topic more, here’s some help for you.  Go to our website and visit the parents of missionaries missions path.  You can hear five expanded podcast episodes starting with episode number 73.  Or, for you readers out there.  Upstream Collective has a book out by Tori Haverkamp called The Missionary Mama's Survival Guide: Compassionate Help for the Mothers of Cross-Cultural Workers.  A few other books include, Parents of Missionaries, or Long Distance Grandma and The Globally Mobile Family's Guide to Educating Children Overseas

The most important resource you can tap into is your local church.  Parents of missionaries need care.  And if you’re struggling with this, then get some help from those whom God has put into your life to help you.  We are Propempo want help you as well, so do not hesitate to reach out.  Please know that you are prayed for.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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