The farewell

Speaking of the day they left for Africa in 1958 to do mission work, my mother described seeing my little head bobbing up and down on my father’s shoulder as he entered the plane in Kansas City.

“Once a friend remarked, ‘I could never go to another land because our family is very close.’ I wanted to cry out, ‘Our family is very close, too!’” (Donna Mitchell, Among the People of the Sun: Our Years in Africa, page 6).

As it turns out, missionaries have parents, siblings and a desire for the comforts of home, too. One missionary told me when he left for the mission field that his father told his mother, “I will never see my son again.” Happily, this sorrowing father was wrong; he saw his son and grandchildren numerous times, though he could not have known that.

When I returned to the United States for college, a timid seventeen-year-old, my mother slipped a note into my suitcase quoting Laban’s words to his daughters: “Mizpah: The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another” (Genesis 31:49). I found it as I opened the case in a dingy Paris hotel on the way to the United States.

“Back in the day,” as the saying goes, missionaries were referred to as “missionaries of the one-way ticket.” They would board a ship, take a month to reach Australia, the Philippines, or Africa, and would generally spend their lives there.

My parents were more fortunate in that they were able to return several times to the US to see family and supporting congregations. It was a deep sacrifice, but one well worth the taking in terms of souls saved, churches established, and hearts mended.

If you are looking for heroes for your children, instead of empty-headed celebrities or arrogant athletes, what about those who served the Lord in other lands?

Do you want some good reading? There are a number of excellent biographies of missionaries who have made a permanent – no – an eternal difference.

The Dew Breakers, Dow Merrit.
On the Wings of the Morning, Eldred Echols.
They Called Him Muluti, Georgia Hobby.
Among the People of the Sun, Donna Mitchell
Meanwhile, Back in the Jungle, Donna Horne.

Beware. Reading such material might damage half-hearted Christianity and lead to greater commitment to God.

PHOTO: courtesy of World Evangelism.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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