|Image courtesy of artur84|
In late February of last year (2013) we said goodbye to the Norris Family and we still feel the deep loss. As we passed our first year without them, often things were said such as, last year we spent this day with the Norris'. Christmas was so sweet with them, more than one of my children mentioned it to me as we celebrated without them this year. Our hearts ached as little things they left behind reminded us of the sweet friendship we enjoyed and the deep loss we feel. Haden especially misses his friend, the sweet and amazing, Violet. We have spent much time in prayer this last year, as we know God has great plans for them. We just wish those plans would bring them close to us again.
Having our good friends the Norris family leave is not the first time we have seen missionaries leave the field. Some before they were even here a year. The reasons are varied and numerous, missionary attrition is very high. Often those returning from cross cultural work are met with questions and judgement. Often they feel they have failed their church, their supporters and even God. People back home have questions and it is hard to explain all they went through on the field and Americans in general are "optimistic" go-getters (just ask people from other cultures). Talking about the difficulties is sometimes considered whining.
But here is a little snippet from the Bible my husband showed me recently. I'll let the scriptures speak for themselves, but please note how Paul urges the church to receive the returning missionary, Epaphroditus.
25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. 26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
Things to remember and pray about for those you love that are serving cross culturally.
1. No matter how much they love their new/host culture, they still miss things and people that are familiar. "He longed after you all" v. 26
2. Missionaries are often exposed to illnesses and in some areas do not have adequate health care. Deceases such as malaria, typhoid fever, or TB just to name a few. These things are treatable, but they take a toll mentally and physically. "For indeed he was sick nigh unto death" v. 27
And I would just like to echo those same urgings Paul gave as we consider how to welcome soldiers back.
1. Rejoice and celebrate their journey. v. 28 They have been on an amazing journey, they need to share it and hear about your journey with the Lord while they were away.
2. Enjoy them. v. 29 You see, while the missionary had this crazy ordeal they went through, their friends and family continued on with their lives (as they should have). It takes effort to pause and incorporate those returning back into your circle. They may be a little different, they may need a listening, nonjudgemental ear. Make the effort.
3. And finally Paul urges us to "hold such in reputation". v. 29 I don't think I have to explain that this is the opposite of judging. I'll leave it at that.
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