The last time I drove back from the airport after having seen the Coffeys off to South Africa, my mind and heart became occupied with thoughts and questions about “what must it be like for the parents of missionaries?” I wrote an “Open Letter to Parents” shortly after that experience. It was not an “open letter” in the sense that I think people are sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to hear my thoughts on the subject. I know that is not the case, but I have been blessed to know some pretty awesome parents of teenagers through the years. I wanted to encourage those who had kids who were planning to head to the mission field in the coming years.
As I drove away from the airport this time, I realized I was going the wrong way. Not in a symbolic way. I was headed south and lost 20 minutes turning around. I digress. This time I couldn’t help but try to put myself in the shoes of the “missionary kids.” I know that is impossible for me. Especially with Tyler, Chase, Emilee, and even Luke because their feet are bigger than mine.
This time at the airport seemed different. I didn’t see a bunch of little kids who were just happy to be along for the ride. I saw young men and a young lady who was feeling deep emotions and were making a choice to trust God. Honestly, outside of the preaching of God’s Word, I think there are few things that move me more in my spirit than the “airport experience.”
This time there were new dynamics that I was not used to seeing. Tyler was telling his siblings good-bye. It is was especially hard for Addison. Watching Tyler hug Mark and Amy made my eyes sweat profusely. It was the start of another chapter in an incredible story God has been writing in his life.
In watching all of this, I wanted to reach out and hug every one of those missionary kids and tell them how proud I was of them. In this case, I was able to do it. But I have some teenage friends around the world; I pray will read this, who I wish I could have spoken to face to face on that day. I have some things I want to say to you. This may apply to all missionary kids. But I am certain it applies to the teenage, missionary kids from Vision Baptist Church which I love and know very well.
You are not extra-baggage in God’s plan for your family. More than any group of people I know, missionary kids understand the whole baggage process. You know what it is like to have a pile of things you are not sure if they are going to make the cut to go back with you. You make that decision at the last minute because they aren’t the important things. That is not you.
Our all-knowing and all-loving God knew all about you when He led your family to the mission field. He molded your mom and dads life to prepare them for work there. God has done the same with your life. You are on a mission from God; you are not just flying on a buddy pass. Some of you have already seen it. Some of you have already had that “God has me here for a reason” moment.
Your experiences and opportunities put you in a league of your own. No, I don’t think I am overstating this. You may have grown up and the foreign field and don’t even realize the incredibly cool things you have learned and the experiences you have had. At my kid’s school, they are looking at having a bi-lingual track for kids. There has been a ton of research that shows all the great things that happen if you are bi-lingual and have been exposed to multiple cultures. I am sure there are times you might desire the “typical, American teenage experience.” I can tell you that most people only dream of the adventure that you are getting to live out.
What is lost in quantity is often made up in the quality of time. I am not trying to trivialize the loss of time you have with your family and friends here in the states, but I have seen something first hand. The time I get to spend with my missionary family and friends is always so special. I think part of that is that we all recognize the time together is limited and a gift from God. When you are not around, we often do not see life through this filter. You add incredible value to every event you attend.
Your life is a constant reminder to me of the worthiness of the Gospel. As people who love God and want Him to be known around the world, you should be pumped about this. Wherever you go, people can look at your life and be reminded that something of huge importance has altered your life. On the mission field, people ask “why are they here?” on this side we ask “why do they have to go?”. As I watched my family, on both sides of the missionary line, shed tears at the airport the other day, I kept reminding myself that the Gospel is worthy of this level of commitment! You guys are walking posters for the worthiness of the Gospel! That is super cool!
I pray you know that we love you guys very much. We are here for you and thank God for you and what you are doing. Right now there is just a handful of you, that I know personally, that have become teenagers on the mission field. Soon there will be 15 passenger loads of you! I am asking my friends who are teenage-missionary kids to help me learn how to be the best youth pastor I can be to students who live on the mission field. Any feedback on how we could be an encouragment to you would be appreciate.
Thank you for reading this.