This may seem obvious but when we sign up for long term missions work, we like to think that we will serve for a long term, perhaps for a career.  What a career means is up for debate and for another time, but still our intent is to serve for a long time.

Sometimes I think that God is more interested in our faithfulness than in the actual work we do. You may beg to differ with that statement but how many stories of past and current missionaries start with incredible faithfulness and energy and end quickly for a variety of reasons that leave us puzzled.

A few years ago, Nancy and I had the opportunity to visit the graveyard in Makeni, Sierra Leone where faithful men and women gave up all to move to a foreign land and die quickly from disease. If I remember correctly, one didn’t make it more than a couple of months. This leaves me puzzled and yet supports my faithfulness hypothesis.

Lately we have had examples of folks in our tribe who have sold it all and moved overseas to find their country of service implode, causing them to evacuate and move back home. This can leave us confused, disillusioned and questioning if we missed God’s direction in our lives.

Then there are those life events that all of us experience. When we take an overseas assignment, we often have to face the “what ifs” of family back in the states. What if Cousin Jane gets married? What if Grandpa Joe passes away?  What if it’s a sibling or a parent that is diagnosed with cancer? What if our family suddenly needs us to consider returning?

When we left for Indonesia, Nancy had lost both her parents and all her grandparents, and only my parents remained on my side.  We were quite young, and my parents were in their 50’s so health and death was not something we were worried about with folks at home. However, our oldest son, who was in boarding school for half of our time there had malaria about 10 times. We were 1000 miles away, with very difficult contact methods, HF radio mainly that was spotty at best, and hearts that were hurting. There were many times we were ready to pack it up and head home. 

Clearly, there are no easy answers, and the struggle between our call which screams sacrifice, and our family which screams loyalty are in conflict. We are called to honor our father and mother, and at the same time, to leave it all behind, pick up our cross and follow Jesus…

And then there is the question of staying or going during civil unrest….

None of the questions are easy, but here are a few to talk over with your family, manager, wellness team member, etc…

How long will I need to be gone? Is this for a season? Or forever…..

Have I talked to my family about “what happens if” ahead of time?

How is or will my work be affected in my place of service (what will be interrupted) if I suddenly leave for a season, or for good?

Am I needing to think about a transition off the field permanently, or will a sabbatical be adequate?

In an article provided by ABWE (yes, Baptist lol), the example from the Apostle Paul’s ministry clears up the decision to stay or go .. In Acts 14:9, Paul willingly faces stoning by an angry crowd, and another time, he fled via helicopter, or maybe it was just a basket over a city wall (Acts 9:23-31).  See, cleared it right up!

No matter what you decide, be prepared to deal with grief, loss, and often the accompanying doubt of whether you made the right choice… all collateral damage when your heart is in two places.

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