My wife Marcia and I have been looking forward to it and dreading it for years. How can an event we so cherish and for which we are so grateful hurt so badly?
We help my daughter Jenny* and her husband Kevin* haul their luggage -- all nine pieces of it -- into the airport terminal at 4 a.m. Those nine pieces contain what's left of their worldly possessions. They even gave away their two cats. Yet, their paucity of stuff does not seem to bother them.
Baby Amanda* is a little fussy this morning, but who can blame her. In her short 16 months of life, she has known no less than three homes in two states and is about to move to the other side of the world.
The check-in line is long. As we wait, my mind cannot help but wander to the past. Jenny, our youngest child, could not have been much more than 5 years old when she yielded her life to Jesus Christ. As her pastor, I had the privilege of baptizing her.
Not long after, Jenny confided to Marcia that she had settled on her life's direction. But she did not reveal that direction until she turned 14. Then one Sunday evening, she walked forward and announced to the congregation that the Lord had touched her heart for international missions.
Her aspirations led her to one of our Baptist seminaries where she worked in the library. While we looked upon her endeavors with admiration, I secretly prayed that God would allow her to go overseas as a missionary wife. But Jenny did not have any interest in dating or marriage -- until Kevin walked into the library.
Kevin was raised in a loving, stable home. Nevertheless, influenced by the wrong kind of friends, he proved to be a rebellious teenager. Then one day a customer left Kevin a Gospel tract at the restaurant where he waited tables. The Lord used that witness and other events to draw him to Jesus Christ. And like Jenny, Kevin's commitment to missions came almost from the start.
We prayed with Jenny and Kevin through the process of being appointed to southern Asia. In the city where they will serve, there are no established churches and few believers in Christ. Jenny and Kevin will be seeking out these Christians, befriending them and inviting them to Bible studies.
As we continue to wait in the check-in line, Kevin rummages through his carry-on bag and produces a large stack of Gospel tracts bound with a rubber band. "Will you take these?" he asks me. "They might cause some problems as I go through customs on the other end." I realize that Kevin is entrusting something precious to his father-in-law. For in taking the tracts, I am accepting the responsibility of handing them to individuals who do not know Christ.
With the luggage squared away, the inevitable has arrived. I hug Kevin's neck. "Take care of my baby girls," I entreat him, knowing he will. "Thanks for your unwavering support," he responds, knowing the reluctance of some parents to let their children go to the mission field.
Finally, Jenny turns to me. I tell her, "'He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty' (Psalm 91:1). Therefore, no matter where you go, you will always have a home in Him."
Kevin's parents and siblings exchange hugs with him. Considering the relatively short time they have known the Lord, they are accepting this endeavor remarkably well. But I can feel how his mother hurts as she hugs the baby goodbye.
Now it's my turn to hug Amanda, our only grandchild. I realize I have hugged Amanda as a baby for the last time. If Marcia and I are to see them at all in the next few years, we will have to go to them.
Despite the dull ache in my heart, I would not hold them back even if I could. Jenny and Kevin have been so sure of their direction for so long. They are in God's hands.
On the way back to the hotel, Marcia and I stop for breakfast. As we order, we converse with the friendly waiter.
As we leave, I pull out Kevin's tracts. "Thanks for the good service! God bless you!" I write on the back of one, leaving it on the table with a generous tip.
Kevin would be pleased I remembered the tracts. I am suddenly grateful my loved ones are finally on their way to where they want to be -- where God wants them.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to apply for passports.
*Names changed. Bill Horner is director of missions for Campbell County Baptist Association in Tennessee.
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