A year ago I introduced the readers of Cross the Culture, to my friend, John, whose daughter, Samantha (Sam), had been called to international missions. John shared with me his struggles around Sam’s call to missions and the life-lessons God was teaching him and I shared them with you here and here. I saw John again as we both returned to our hometown in rural Mississippi to visit our families during the Thanksgiving Holidays. Once again John shared with me some of the life-lessons God is teaching him through his daughter’s missionary service. I asked John if he would be a “guest blogger” and share first hand with the readers of Cross the Culture what he is learning. So, let the Lord speak to you, as He spoke to me, through my friend, John. John writes…
Our daughter, Sam, has been on the mission field for a while now. Long enough for her to be introduced to a new culture and language, long enough to build friendships with nationals, long enough to learn how to function in her ministry platform, and long enough for her Mom and Dad to become comfortable with the idea that their “baby girl” lives half-way around the world. Our daughter hasn’t been gone long enough, and she never will, that we don’t; pray for her constantly throughout the day, cherish every second Skype is operational and constantly ask the Father to bring maximum glory to Himself through Sam’s life and ministry.
Oh, and another thing – Sam will never be gone long enough that we don’t miss her immensely, especially during the holidays. As “rookie missionary parents” my wife and I are discovering first-hand the emotions of the “She Won’t be Home for Christmas Syndrome”. Don’t get me wrong. Since the first day our daughter departed for the field we have missed her smile, her hugs, her laugh and her presence. To be completely honest we have missed everything about her. But, as Christmas approaches our longing for Sam’s presence has risen to a new level. When we sing Christmas carols at church we miss her, when we hang Christmas stockings from the mantle in our home we miss her, when we decorate the Christmas tree we miss her and when we just sit and think – we miss her. Trust me, every time we hear the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” we weep. Suffice it to say like all missionary families we love “our missionary” dearly and we miss her greatly!
Several weeks ago, in the midst of a major case of “missing my missionary”, the Lord cautioned me about a serious error in judgment I must avoid at all cost. The Lord reminded me that if I am not vigilant, I may well begin to view my daughter’s obedience in “reaching the nations” and “my sacrifice” of her presence while she is on the mission field as somehow fulfilling my responsibility to the Great Commission. The thinking goes like this; “I believe whole heartily in the Great Commission. I am even willing to “allow” my daughter to go half-way around the world to tell people about Jesus. I pray for her and support her with resources and gifts. I am giving up two years of our relationship with her so she can “reach the nations”. Certainly that is a sufficient sacrifice for global disciple-making!”
There is only one problem with that way of thinking. My daughter’s obedience does not absolve me of my responsibility! Simply put Sam’s obedience is not my obedience and Sam’s sacrifice is not my sacrifice. You see when Jesus said, “…you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) He wasn’t just speaking to the universal church or to my local congregation or to my denominational mission agencies or to vocational missionaries. Jesus was speaking to every Christ-follower. He was speaking to you and He was speaking to me! We who call Christ Lord must not; we cannot, allow ourselves to believe that someone else’s sacrificial obedience to “make disciples of all nations” fulfills our own responsibility to “go into all the world”. The command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 demands my sacrificial praying, my sacrificial giving and my sacrificial going. I must not allow myself to entertain the idea that I can simply “pray and pay” for someone to go where I refuse to go, or even more, to go so I don’t have to go, and still call myself a faithful, obedient, follower of Christ. I personally have prayers to offer, offerings to give and the Gospel to share if I am to be obedient to this God-honoring activity called global disciple-making. No one can do “my part” in reaching the world for Christ except me! I say again, my daughter’s obedience does not absolve me of my responsibility and neither do the missionaries you support absolve you of yours!
PS. To Sam, our missionary daughter –Your Mom and Dad love you dearly and we are so spiritually proud of your obedient sacrifice for the Father’s glory. We promise to join with you in “reaching the nations” by doing our part to reach the world with the message of the Gospel. We are also very thankful that this year you will be home for Christmas -“if only, in our dreams”! Merry Christmas Sweetheart – we love you!!
Wow! The Lord is definitely teaching John some life-lessons through Sam’s missionary service. I pray God is teaching us as well!! Thanks buddy, for sharing your heart and thanks Sam for sharing your life and the life-changing message of Jesus. From the team here at Cross the Culture, Merry Christmas to you both.