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Missionary grandparents meet for laughter, tears, rejoicing

CLINTON, Miss. (BP)–A group of grandparents collectively laugh and cry as they watch a video of one’s daughter, son-in-law and their preschool children.
But there’s more to this gathering than viewing each other’s videos or snapshots of their grandchildren.
These are the parents of missionaries, gathered at Camp Garaywa, a Mississippi Baptist facility near Clinton, to share news and prayer concerns about their adult children serving around the world through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Irene Brown of Bogue Chitto stands before the group to report news and show video footage of her daughter and son-in-law serving in a restricted area of Central Asia that cannot be named.
On the video, the grandchildren on tricycles wearing homemade hats form a parade while their mother plays the piano and their father waves a cardboard American flag.
They are celebrating the Fourth of July, a special holiday in a country these preschoolers have yet to know.
Two months later, the children’s grandparents share the home video with other missionary parents who join in the warm laughter a child’s voice evokes, and also warm tears that come from a separation known by everyone in the room.
The Mississippi Missionary Parents Fellowship (MMPF) was organized in the fall of 1995 by Darlene Breland, a missionary parent, and Ashley McCaleb, who at the time was a consultant with the Mississippi Woman’s Missionary Union.
The group was the first such organization of its kind in the SBC, according to Bill Sellers, current president from Brandon. Bill and Jeanette Sellers’ daughter, Alicia, is married to Larry Braswell, and their family serves in Brazil. The Braswells have three children.
Larry Braswell’s mother, Glenda Braswell of Boyle, also is an MMPF member.
“Last spring, a missionary couple staying in First Baptist Church’s missionary house in Brandon attended one of the meetings,” Sellers said. “They brought their parents who went back to Arkansas and this fall organized a parents’ fellowship there.”
Sellers indicated the IMB is interested in seeing other missionary parent fellowships started across the SBC.
MMPF has a constitution and bylaws and meets each spring and fall. The next meeting is April 24-25 at Camp Garaywa.
One by one, parents share their children’s work around the world. Each has a display table of items from the mission field. Victories are celebrated and prayer concerns are voiced. Around the room, the prayer requests are written down. These Baptists know better than most the importance of prayer for missionaries.
George Taylor of Hattiesburg requests prayer for his daughter who serves in a restricted part of the world that cannot be named.
She has a herniated disk, and George and Mary Taylor are praying that she will be healed.
He also shares a victory. The government would not allow the daughter to give out Bibles, but they agreed to allow her to show the “Jesus” film and pass out transcripts of the film, which is the Gospel of Luke. Many have been saved, Taylor reports.
Jimmy and Earlene Walker’s children, Beth and Al Bailey, are in Guatemala. They will soon be moving to a new work, which means moving their three children, ages 11, 10 and 2. The senior Walkers, of Tiplersville, request prayer for a safe move.
Rene Sugg and husband R.P. of Jackson show photos of her son Rob, daughter-in-law Nan and three grandchildren, Robert III, Harriet Lehnfoff and Carroll.
Rene Sugg asks the other parents to pray for Rob, who as mission administrator is busy working with other missionaries and local pastors drawing up a new mission strategy as part of the IBM’s revitalization. “Pray for God’s wisdom,” she says.
“Drew has a food allergy,” Judy Duncan of Natchez says about her grandson, Drew Lance Williams, age 4. Drew’s parents, Matthew and Shea Williams, serve in Indonesia. Duncan rejoices that a maid was found who could prepare foods without using milk for Drew.
A video from the Williamses shows a room full of children — 36, to be exact — at a birthday party for Melody Lynn Williams, who turned 2. On the tape there is a closeup of Drew and Melody. Drew says, “I love you.” Melody echoes, “I wuv you.”
The room is filled with “Ooos,” “Ahaaas,” laughter and tears. Though separated by thousands of miles, there is nothing like hearing the love of grandchildren. Missionary parents know the joy and the pain of the call to missions.
Part of the pain is the separation. The joy is in the victories for God’s kingdom in which their children share around the world.
For more information about the MMPF contact Edna Ellison, Mississippi WMU, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530; telephone, (601) 968-3800.

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  • Carl M. White