True Sacrifice

This is something I wrote about 4 years ago. As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I wanted to include this here. I am thankful for you who have come alongside me over these past years…

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I grew up in a fellowship that places special priority on sending out people to new lands. Of course we want to support the people working overseas. We realize that they are leaving all that is familiar and comfortable to live among a people whose warm smiles and hospitality does not conceal their hard hearts and closed ears—in a completely different language to boot. We realize that their entire like-minded support system consists of 4-10 people who they may or may not get along with. We think of these people and think, “oh, those poor m’s in China, giving up all that they have in America and scraping out an existence in order to reach foreign peoples.” We then talk about sacrifices that are made and hold them to some greater example. I look at this, surrounded by the joy of being here, and I get puzzled. What sacrifice? I’m realizing that the real sacrifice is made by the people at home, particularly mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. We don’t think about the sacrifice that the mothers, fathers, and grandparents make as they send their precious ones off to a foreign land where the details are fuzzy and things cannot be said in the way we wish to say them. They are left wondering if their child is okay because they can’t know everything, nor can they control anything from across a vast ocean.

When something happens in our regions where loved ones work and reside (for example, an earthquake), we intercede for these loved ones, yes, but also, and maybe more importantly, intercede for the parents and grandparents of these workers. Because when all is said and done, after more than five years in China I’m convinced that the sacrifice, the real sacrifice, is made by the people back home who are constantly on their knees in these situations.

Recently I saw a baby dedication at our fellowship. The parents were dedicating their child to the One who takes care of his people, for they are ultimately His. I don’t think we really contemplate what that means until that child grows up and feels called to the military or to the foreign lands or even make life decisions that we can’t reconcile with. We don’t really think about what that entails until our daughter moves to western China, a desert land, to live among a hesitant people in a place that no longer looks like Kansas, Toto.

I think of a family friend who at the same time her son returned from Iraq her second son joined the Navy Seals. I think of another couple who has seen their son, wife and grandchildren go to Russia, come back for treatment of their son’s cancer in which nobody would have blamed them if they stayed, only to see them prepare to go back to Russia again. I think of a family that is waiting on the news of their granddaughter who had to be evacuated from Papua New Guinea to Australia because of internal bleeding due to a bike accident. I think of my own parents who wished they could be here during a kidney attack I had several years ago and never felt more helpless. I think of the family who tried to adopt a little girl, brought her into their lives, and ended up having her taken away. THAT’S sacrifice.

Yet, in each of these situations they trust. They trust that we are His children on loan and that He cares more about us than they ever can. They trust Him with the most precious things in their lives.

Many days I don’t feel like I’m making this big sacrifice like everyone seems to be talking about. I love my job and the people around me. What’s the sacrifice? I think of David saying in the second part of Samuel section 24 who says, “I will not sacrifice to Him offerings that cost me nothing.” Yet, I think of my mom constantly on her knees for me. She’s the one who deserves the medal. (Will someone please give her a tissue now? ☺) I think of my grandmother who has lived in the same Florida town all her life and who doesn’t fully understand why I choose to do this, and yet she supports me in the best way she knows how. She doesn’t really understand, but she’s really trying to. That’s sacrifice. I think of friends who have been supporting my family for longer than I’ve been alive, people who struggle financially day-to-day and yet STILL trust in the Great Provider by giving from their meager incomes $25 or $50 to my support. It reminds me of the widow’s small offering that meant so much more because it was everything she had. That’s sacrifice! I think of the ones who have faithfully given every month, not just financially, but in upward thoughts. I think of a group of people who have met together every Wednesday night for the past 17 years to think of its field workers, both in the States and abroad. That’s sacrifice!

Yeah, I miss being in a place where I don’t have to struggle daily with the language. Sure, I miss eating pizza and hamburgers and going to Christmas Eve services. I miss family barbecues and college reunions at New Years. I miss singing with a few hundred others on Sundays and college basketball season. Any normal person would miss these things. But, sacrifice? No, that honor belongs to you. And I am deeply humbled.

At the end of the day, however, all this talk and examples of sacrifice should lead back to the Father who gave up his Son, “who for the joy set before him ENDURED…” For this reason and this reason alone we keep going back. We lay our lives and our resources at the altar. Maybe someday He will give it back, maybe He will not, but we love and trust because He first loved us.

Thanks for your sacrifice.

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