While I was home for the Thanksgiving holidays I had a chance to catch up with an old preaching buddy of mine. He’s not Southern Baptist but he is a faithful servant of the Lord and one of my closest friends. We have known each other for thirty plus years. During that time we have walked through life together, prayed for one another, advised each other concerning pastoral challenges and watched each other’s families grow. We have celebrated children graduating from high school and college, mourned the passing of one another’s parents, laughed together, cried together – you get the picture.

Well, while we were home he shared with me his latest struggle. He calls it his “greatest faith challenge”. It seems our Heavenly Father has called his daughter Samantha (those who really know and love her call her “Sam”) to serve Him in global missions.  The mission agency connected with their denomination has accepted Sam’s request to serve for two years in what they call a “High Security Level” country. I’m not sure what all that means except that Sam cannot share publically the name of the country where she will be serving because missionaries are illegal in that part of the world. To disclose the location of her future ministry would endanger her work, the ministry of others in the country and most of all the nationals with whom Sam will work.

Now don’t misunderstand. My buddy is a missions champion! He believes in missions both locally and globally! He personally has led over twenty-five mission trips to foreign countries and he has led every church his denomination assigned him to pastor to be missions focused. Through the years those congregations have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to local and global missions. My friend “eats, breathes and sleeps” missions; but when the Lord called his “baby girl”, single and fresh out of college, to a “High Security Level” country he shares with me he began facing the “greatest faith challenge” of his life and ministry. He said, “Chuck, it is one thing to give your money to missions or to devote a week or so of your life to go on missions or to lead your parishioners to do the same. There is really no sacrifice involved in those activities. What I am discovering about myself, to give up my little girl for two years, that’s a sacrifice I am definitely struggling with. I mean she is going half-way around the world, by herself, and
I won’t be there to protect her. I guess what it really boils down to is can I trust my baby girl to the Lord!” Then he said, “You see my greatest faith challenge is to put into action what I know to be true in my mind, my heart and my soul. My God can and will take care of my daughter and I have to simply trust Him to take care of Sam”.

Wow, what a statement, what honesty; “…can I trust my baby girl to the Lord!” Now from the safety of our computer screens we would all agree with my buddy’s heart and shout in unison – “Of course you can trust the Lord to take care of your daughter!” But I wonder how many of us, who are parents, would experience the same “crisis of faith” as my friend is experiencing if we were walking in his shoes? Missiologists tell us that the number one impediment to building the strongest possible global missions force is the unwillingness of parents and grandparents to give up their loved ones for the cause of Christ. We are more than willing to fund someone else’s child to “go into all the world” but too many Christian parents are not willing to sacrifice fellowship with their own children for the sake of the Gospel. Since that conversation, the day after Thanksgiving, I keep asking myself – “How would I respond if God were calling my son or daughter to global missions?” I would hope that I would rejoice in God’s missionary call upon my child but to be honest I might just struggle like my friend. I do know this – my friend and his daughter are in my prayers. As he struggles with his “greatest faith challenge” and as she prepares to share Christ in one of the far corners of the earth, I pray God will be glorified in and through both of their lives.

As we ended our conversation I asked my friend if he would be willing to share the faith lessons God and Sam are teaching him through this whole “daughter as an international missionary” experience with the readers of Cross the Culture.  After receiving permission from Sam, he agreed to share the spiritual lessons. So check back from time to time and let’s experience together, “Lessons from God and Sam”.