A missionary life is one that came upon me by surprise. My father had felt the call to missions just a couple of years before going on an Evangelical Crusade with the Southern Baptist Convention. Prior to that trip, it seemed Africa or the Philippines were the places that he wanted the Lord to be leading him. African Missionaries are what we children considered “real missionaries”- fighting the jungle animals and living in grass huts with nothing to eat but what you could kill and carry, or so we thought. But after just a few days on a crusade to Korea, my father called us all to tell us that was where he knew the Lord was leading him. I was only four at the time, and the whole concept of “missionary” was a little lost on me except for the wild exploits that my two older sisters put into my head!
It seemed that everything sped up considerably once dad came home from his trip. Immediately, he began making phone calls and taking courses and moving us where we could also get some training. Training for missionary kids mostly consisted of learning songs in Swahili and other languages that we had never before heard, and looking at pictures of people of all different nationalities to prepare us for the cultures that we would soon be immersed in. Each of us in the class were going somewhere different, somewhere new, and somewhere we hoped, we would feel at home. There were groups where we were given a forum to talk about our feelings, but that was for my sisters age group, I was too little yet to understand that our lives were taking on a whole new meaning.
Even after all our “training”, I was not yet convinced of what my father was taking us half-way around the world to do, so a few days prior to the long journey, while mom and dad were boxing up anything they might fathom we would need in the next four years including, Lord help us, powdered milk and sardines, I decided to talk with my father. I remember very clearly needing to ask him two very probing questions. First, I wanted to know why it was that we couldn’t just call up these Korean people and tell them that Jesus loves them since that seemed like the easiest way to handle it, and next, I wanted to know if I would have to marry a Korean. These were two very legitimate questions for a child my age! So, my dad told me about the call of church planting and how God’s love calls for more than just words. He told me that, in order to show the Koreans how very much God loves them and wants them to belong to His family, we would have to leave our family so that our lives would be focused on reaching out to them. I, at last, understood why we were going, and my dad had assured me that at the age of 5, I didn’t have to worry about who I might have to marry! Still, I cried when that plane took off and I waved goodbye to all that I loved and had known in my very young life.
Korea was at once, a whole new world. I remember the frigid air that hit my cheeks right as I got off the airplane. It was gray and snow was on the ground, something that I had never seen! Immediately I noticed how different I must look from all of them. I was a very light blonde headed child with fair skin, and within moments of being on the streets, everyone wanted to pull on my hair. I soon learned that my chubby cheeks were something that they admired also, so when they pinched them as hard as they could I remembered what dad said about God’s love and smiled as I held back the tears. The powdered milk became bearable after a while but only if flavored with Cocoa, and I rejoiced at the boxes and gifts we received from the States filled with candy and popcorn and such experiences as instant Root beer (I promise there was such a thing)! Because I knew, whatever was in them was undoubtedly sent with love.
I learned to deal with what we had, too. Boiling water before we could drink it, the smell of rotten cabbage, and dried fish were not only things that we learned to live with, they became things that I, to this day, crave from time to time! The elaborate Buddhist temples were beautiful, and seeing them everywhere only reminded us of the reason why we were there. The hardest thing about the whole time we were there was my six years of boarding school. A time that I, even still, cannot talk about without crying. Being away from my parents and left on my own to figure out my adolescence was only bearable by the grace of God, in Whom I relied heavily! However, I can say without that time, I could not know Him in the way that I know Him today. Even that hardship is one that I cannot resent or regret.
In my thirteen years overseas, I had the privilege of seeing many Koreans baptized and come to Christ. I witnessed the burning of Buddhist symbols in a display of devotion to their new God. I saw my father comfort many a new believer rejected and disowned by his or her own family, and I saw them build a new and better life blessed by their sacrifice. I saw a nation change in front of my eyes as more and more churches popped up all over the place. I saw my dad marry new believers whose only family was one another. And no, I didn’t marry a Korean, but at times my life was so intertwined with theirs, that had I felt so inclined, I would have.
I was given the blessing of being a missionary’s child and so much more all because my father answered God’s call in his life! So, now when I hear of missions, one word always comes to mind, SACRIFICE. It is a missionaries offering, and I want to do all that I can to make them feel supported for what they are doing. Whether they are local missionaries or foreign missionaries, their callings are for the sovereign purpose of winning souls to Christ! What greater reason to give than that? If an offering on our part, makes the way for the lost to be found, any offering no matter how great or how small is priceless indeed!
Leslie, this article makes us aware of how important it is to support our missionaries, both with finance and with prayer. We need to be behind them 100% and keep them ever lifted before the throne of God. Blessings, Sharon