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Reflections from the mother of a missionary

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — During my pregnancies with my daughter and my son, I read in the Bible about Hannah a lot and knew what courage it took for Hannah to leave Samuel at the temple with Eli. I thought about my children.

Could I live a life in such a way that I would be willing to trust God with their future decisions?

My prayer was that at an early age they would accept Christ as their Savior and whatever path God led them down, they would follow in faith. I have seen that take place in each of my children’s lives. Our daughter serves as a missionary and our son serves in the medical field.

God has shown His faithfulness to our family many times.

Our daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease at age 16 and went through radiation and chemotherapy treatments. I still remember one night at the hospital she was having a treatment and was very sick. When she was able to rest and sleep, I walked to the window and looked out. There were a few cars in the distance, and since it was a winter night there were no leaves on the trees. Everything looked quiet and dark.

A lonely feeling came over me, and I prayed the most difficult prayer I had ever prayed. I asked God for healing, but if that was not how God wanted it, I prayed He would just give me strength to handle it. I asked for peace so I could go on. There was a peace I can’t explain but I knew God heard my prayer and I knew I could face the days ahead.

As the years passed, there were times of happiness and joy but there also were times of sadness. Through it all I knew God was there.

A granddaughter entered our lives and I would travel 25 miles morning and evening to take care of her while her parents worked. One morning when my granddaughter was 3, I was backing out of their driveway. Her sweet little voice from the back seat said, “We’re going to sell our house and car and go tell others about Jesus.” My heart skipped a beat. I prayed all the way home. That evening my daughter and son-in-law confirmed her announcement.

The next few months were filled with all sorts of conflicting emotions. I am thankful for the ladies in my Sunday School class who tried to understand my feelings and would say, “I know it must be hard; I’m praying for you.” Thankfully, people who had known me all my life supported me.

But there were other groups and places where I would leave feeling like the biggest hypocrite in the world. I don’t understand why we have so many commissioning services for our missionaries. I felt completely out of sync at these.

There also are people who have their pat “little sayings” they think are appropriate for any occasion. At one commissioning service a person told my husband, “Oh, four years, what’s that? It will pass before you know it.”

Our son served in the Persian Gulf War and six months was like eternity. Who was this man to tell us that four years would pass before we knew it? Maybe to him it wasn’t long, but for us it meant not seeing our granddaughter grow up and being part of all her events.

Despite people’s good intentions, sometimes it’s best not to say anything. At another commissioning service, a lady whom I had never seen and who knew nothing about me, made a comment that upsets me to this day. Her assignment, I guess, was to encourage the missionary parents. Her comment was, “Better there in the will of God than here out of God’s will.”

I knew that, but my daughter and her family were going to a foreign country, and I would not see them for four years. I turned to her and said, “I don’t want to hear that now.”

For several years after that, whenever something went wrong, I had a hard time not blaming it on the feelings I had about my daughter and her family leaving. Thank God for a Christian counselor in our church who helped me realize that this was a normal feeling for a mother.

He pointed out that I did not try to stop them, I didn’t object to them going and I was proud that they were following God’s leading for their lives. This would take time to work through, he said. I was a Christian and I knew God had plans for them.

I do not go to missionary parents’ meetings; they may be helpful for some, but my husband and I went to two or three and we both came away depressed.

While my daughter and her family were serving overseas, God gave us another wonderful granddaughter in the Philippines. We have missed out on her growing up and she has missed out on getting to know us as grandparents.

Even so, I am proud of my family, and I am thankful for the opportunities they have experienced. They are stateside now, but that doesn’t mean that when they return overseas I won’t go through all of these anxieties again.

But I know God will be watching over all of us.
Elnora Anderson’s daughter and son-in-law, along with two grandchildren, are serving as missionaries overseas. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Elnora Anderson