In American culture we have days in our calendar that are set apart to remember the sacrifice of service men and women. Those days are often marked with parades, remembrance services at memorials, and prayers for our country. In other words, our country is a country that admires and appreciates the sacrifice of others.
We see this appreciation for sacrifice in our churches as well. Rightfully, we make much about the sacrifice of another type of soldier – the missionary. Our family has been the recipients of much love in this manner of the last few years and especially over the last few months as we prepare to leave for our first term abroad in just a few days. Surrounding us and other missionaries is talk of all that missionaries sacrifice for those whom they do not yet know in cultures and languages they do not yet understand. We often talk about the sacrifice churches make in sending out some of their best people to the mission field. It goes without saying that there is a lot of sacrifice that happens when missionaries are sent to the field.
However, we often forget about one group of people who make a large sacrifice when missionaries leave – the extended family. Grandparents give up their grandchildren; aunts and uncles give up their nieces and nephews; cousins give up cousins. Needless to say this is hard. But, perhaps, the hardest part of the extended family’s sacrifice is that they usually feel no calling to give up their loved ones. Instead, they are often told, albeit in a loving way, of the sacrifice they will be making.
Therefore, the range of emotions that extended family members must feel while their loved ones are away is often wide-ranging and turbulent. These feelings can range from joy – to sorrow – to being proud – to bitterness – to loss – to peace – to many other variations of these emotions. It is truly a hard sacrifice to make.
So, what are we as the body of Christ to do to honor the sacrifice of extended families of missionaries? First, we must pray for them. Pray for unconverted family members because they will never have true peace apart from Christ and the enemy certainly loves to pounce on this opportunity for disunity. Pray for peace and joy that is in Christ for the believing family members. Second, rather than asking the family members how their missionary relatives are doing, find out for yourself and then encourage the family member with how the Lord is using their loved one for the Kingdom. Tell them how much you appreciate their (the family member) sacrifice in all of this. Finally, if the family does not have the means to visit the missionary on the field perhaps you could lead the charge in the church to raise some funds for them to do so.
After reading the above let us remember to honor the sacrifice being made by the extended family of missionaries. Let us pray for them and encourage them. Finally, may this sacrifice no longer be forgotten but may it be appreciated and celebrated.