As missionaries on deputation or furlough, we are in hundreds of churches and meet thousands upon thousands of people. Because of the sheer quantity, after a while only those individuals that made an impression stand out easily in the memory. At an evening meeting while in Florida, I met someone on furlough that I will never forget.
Since my children were very young, and long before we had any inkling that we would someday be on a mission field, I would read them biographies of famous missionaries. As I read missionary stories there were certain commonalities that became apparent that I noted. One that I noticied was how missionaries of years gone by would typically send their children off to boarding school or a distant relative while they pursued the Lord's call.
Let me pause to say, as I would always explain to my children, for whatever good those missionaries did it was absolutely not right for them to send their children away. Yes, our love for the Lord should be first in our lives. But God and ministry is not interchangeable. And after the Lord, our first priority should be to our family. What kind of mother or missionary would I be if I cared more for the soul on the other side of the world and not the souls that the Lord entrusted to me in my children? After God's child, I am then a wife and mother before missionary. God established the family before he established the church.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:16
I expect responses that it was 'a different time' and 'that is how everyone did it back then'. I understand that... but that doesn't make it right nor do I believe it was God's perfect plan.
Some may say to me, 'who are you to criticize these famous missionaries? No one even knows your name'. I understand and admire the pioneering missionaries and all they accomplished. But God's perfect will is for the family to be strong and of one accord... not divided. Not children, who were not even called, left hurting and alone at some boarding school.
Perhaps God's perfect will is different than our personal goals and aspirations. Perhaps God's perfect will is for his glory and not books written about our legacy. And by the way, I don't care if anyone ever knows my name. The Lord knows it and that's really all that truly matters.
After the service that Stetson preached at a potential supporting church, I found myself where I usually am... standing by our display, meeting and greeting people as they exit the service and answering any questions about our ministry, Italy and our family. At the end of the night, as we were tearing things down, a late arrival approached me. She was an older lady. She began telling me her story...
She said 'I was a missionary kid. So I'm always drawn to missionary families with kids. When I was a child, and my parents went to our mission field, they sent me to boarding school'. She went on to tell me how they dropped her off when she was 6 and she would only see them every 4-5 months. That it was particularly difficult during puberty when a girl needs her mother. And that the bullying at boarding school made her situation worse. After graduation, she was dropped off back in America, a culture that she was not familiar with at all. For many years, her animosity in how she was treated as a child caused her to leave the faith. She eventually returned.
My heart is broken and I was weeping for this little lady that suffered much in her childhood, as a missionary kid...
So the last shall be first, and the first last. Matthew 20:16
Missionary children are a group of unsung heros of the faith. Their strength, sacrifice and integrity would put the loftiest and most known Christian to shame. My heart always goes out to missionary kids that are not valued or those who are expected to act like little soldiers. There are some Christians and pastors that treat missionary kids as if they are also being inspected to meet some ridiculous expectation that they couldn't themselves obtain.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14
Dear Christian, have you ever given up just about everything you've known and loved? Have you ever moved to a foreign field? Have you ever made the transition to a school that you don't speak the language nor know the culture? And then returned to your home country whose culture is now not at all familiar to you? Have you ever traveled thousands of miles and slept in hundreds of places? Have you been under the watchful eye of thousands of people? Have you been let down, hurt and abandoned by extended family and friends? And the list can go on and on....
If the Lord gives you an opportunity, demonstrate the 'fruit of the spirit' to missionary kids too. Be kind. Be an encouragement. Be understanding. Be a blessing.
I can't help but believe that missionary children are special to the Lord. They sacrifice their lives due to the obedience and love they have for their parents and their calling and ultimately their love and obedience to the Lord. They don't seek glory. They don't seek fame.