On of the most difficult aspects of being on the mission field is that we are half a world away (literally) from family. If you fly from Thailand to New Hampshire, USA you can't get any further apart without starting to go back around the globe again.
When our family made the choice to go half way across the world to make known the truth and grace of Christ, we knew that separation from family was one of the costs. It is a cost we are willing to live with because the proclamation of Christ to those who do not know him is extremely important. We want other families in spiritually dark parts of the world to have the same hope and comfort of Christ that we do. However, despite the importance of the task and our commitment to it, it doesn't make the distance and separation any easier. We praise God for technologies like Skype and blogs that make staying in touch somewhat easier but it is never the same as being there.
It has been particularly difficult for my Mom to be separated from her only grandchild, Joshua, whom she knows almost exclusively through the pictures that we post on the Joshua blog and the stories that we tell her in phone calls and emails. When she was rediagnosed with cancer a few months ago, she really wanted us to come home. We weren't due for home assignment until the end of 2010 but as it became obvious that Mom's condition was much more tenuous than
any of us had thought, we made plans to come home to spend time with her while it was still possible. We arrived in NH on Tuesday, May 20th and it seems that we were none too early. If we had come even sooner, it would have been even better but we didn't know that Mom's condition was going to deteriorate this quickly. On Wednesday, we went to see her in the hospital and were able to talk with her and had a good time together although she was fairly tired and barely mobile. She got to see us and more importantly, she got to see Joshua and interact with him some, sitting on her bed, waving to her, and driving his red toy cars up and down the rail of the bed and over her feet. I read some Scripture to her (John 14, Romans 8), we prayed together, and we all visited together as a family.
It was a good afternoon on Wednesday and we praise God for that time together, especially because she has been much more tired and much less responsive since then. We are visiting each day, talking with her, hoping she can still listen and understand although she is too exhausted to reply. We praise God that we did not come home any later than we did because her time in this world seems to be dwindling fast. It is good to be here with my Dad and brother as well, so that we can all be together as a family.
Two hundred years ago, missionaries packed their trunks and got on the boat to the other side of the world, not knowing if they would ever see family again because it was almost impossible for them to come home when family members were sick or near death, and indeed many did not even receive word that people had passed away until months after it happened. We praise God that we live in a time when communication is quick and modern technology allows us to jump on a plane and to be home within a day or two. There are difficult times ahead for our family here, but we thank God that he has granted us the grace to be here to walk through these times together.
"God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling."
- Psalm 46:1-3