The first “Dear MK…” post I wrote centered on the topic of identity. The second post focused on the idea of home and belonging, and this post is about family. All of them are intended for MK’s who have left their mission field for school, work, or life in their “passport country,” but they hit on broad topics that I pray will be helpful and encouraging to many people.
My family is very close knit. I think it’s probably the same for many missionary kids–our families travel together, move together to another country, make a new home with no friends at first except ourselves, have our siblings for our classmates, and in general have no one else who’s been with us through all the changes and experiences and cultures of our childhood.
So when it’s time to leave, it’s hard. It’s not just saying bye to Dad and Mom until Christmas; it’s starting a new life in a whole different country without your best friends, confidantes, counselors, and those who fully understand you. And many times, you don’t know when you’ll see them again.
I remember one evening when I was a teenager, I think it was during my last couple years on the field as an MK, several missionary families had gathered for fellowship and testimonies. One lady I had known my whole time there got up and quoted Matthew 19:29:
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
She talked about how close she was with her parents and siblings in the States, and how she had claimed this promise by faith when she and her husband moved across the ocean 15 years earlier. Now, after 15 years on the mission field, she stood before us to tearfully and joyfully testify that God had more than fulfilled His word. She spoke of the dear friends who were now like family to them, of those who through their witness had joined God’s family, and her heart was full. She hadn’t severed ties with her family in the States, but God had stretched her heart to stuff in “a hundredfold” more precious relationships.
Dear MK, that promise applies to you, too! God called you to the mission field when He called your parents; He has now called you back to your “native land” for this time. You have followed Him, and you are right where He wants you. You are separated from the people and place you love, but if you’re doing it to follow what God has called you do to, then you have forsaken your home and parents and siblings in order to serve Him, and this promise is for you! Rest in it, and live in it.
What does it look like to live in God’s promise? It starts with believing Him. God doesn’t always fulfill His word immediately (see Hebrews 11:7-13), but we can be sure He will do what He has said (Psalm 119:89-90). 1 Peter has a lot to say about living this life, with its sorrows and struggles and trials, in the light of the hope we have in Christ (see 1 Peter 1:1-9). Because of this hope, we are free from the fear and the selfish desires connected with a merely earthly existence (see 3:6, 3:14, 1:13-16). In 2:16, God urges us through Peter to live in our freedom and use it to serve God.
If you believe that God is with you and will give you a family, then don’t live as an orphan. Use the time first to draw closer to your Heavenly Father; He longs to share with you His “secrets” and hear your heart! (Psalm 25:14, 62:8) You’re hurting–He longs to heal you. You’re sad–He wants to comfort you. He wants to give you the life and joy and peace that is found only in Himself (John 10:10). Delight in your God.
Then reach out to others. Take that love and comfort God gives you, and share it with those around you who are hurting (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). I can say from experience that it works! In college, when I felt homesick, I looked for others who were struggling and tried to be a friend and help to them. The result was less time to think about myself and my sadness, encouragement from God’s Word as I shared it with others, and a friend! You may not be able to think of any needs to meet, but keep your eyes open and ask God to show you who you can serve; He will certainly answer that prayer!
Finally, realize that God has given the church to be our family. This is something that so amazes and stirs me that I think I’ll have to do a whole separate post on it, but for now allow me just to urge you to embrace Christ’s church. They are our family, our people whom God is calling from every tribe and tongue and nation (1 Peter 2:9-10, Revelation 7:9-10). The church is His fulfillment of the hundredfold promise. So attend services, get involved in ministry, and then hang around. Linger. Get to know people. Kids, adults, families, the elderly–whoever God has placed in your church, serve them and let them serve you! (1 Peter 2:4-5, 4:8-11). When you spend time with the people that are a part of your forever family, your heart will begin to find its forever home.