My computer tells me that it’s 3:23am as I start typing this post. Sure, I’ve become a morning person as I’ve gotten older, but this is extreme. And the truth is, I’m not awake at this hour because I’m a morning person.
I’m awake at this hour because I have become a Missionary Dad.
My youngest daughter Minnie just texted me that after 23 hours of travel, she has arrived in France to start a 6-week internship as part of her Intercultural Studies major at Moody Bible Institute. She’ll be working with two missionary teams, one of which will have her living half an hour from the hospital where she was born, and 40 minutes from the town where she grew up. She is excited, and nervous, and tired, and scared, and thrilled.
I’m all of those things too, and more, because I am a Missionary Dad.
This is a new hat for me. I’ve been a Missionary, a Missionary Pastor, a Missionary Husband, and the father of two Missionary Kids on two different continents. I’ve loved much about those hats, and I’ve struggled with much about those hats. Overall, the missionary side of my life has been wonderful.
But I admit that I’ve been a little nervous about the Missionary Dad hat.
My parents struggled with it, especially after our first daughter, Minnie’s sister Amy, was born in France and we moved with her to Cameroon. My Dad was invited once to share at a Missions conference in his church about what it was like to have family serving overseas. When he finished, the pastor got up and said, “Thanks, Ralph, for sharing. But is there anything GOOD about being a Missionary Dad?”
I don’t expect my experience to be as difficult as his. I know what cross-cultural life is like. I’ve faced the challenges my daughter is facing, been to many of the places she will be seeing. I have advantages that my father didn’t have.
But still … I’m awake at 3:54 am – as I was yesterday when she was getting on the plane in Spokane. I pretended to work as I prayed her across the Atlantic on her first international flight alone. I’m wondering how she will connect with her hosts (she just texted me that she got to their home and likes them – yay!). I expect to agonize with her through culture shock, and language challenges, and loneliness. I can’t wait to celebrate with her as she embraces the culture, makes progress, learns that “home” is portable, and sees gospel breakthroughs in the hearts of people she has grown to love.
I will be doing all this at a distance, because I am a Missionary Dad.
I’m not sure yet how I feel about this new hat, which could be mine for a long time. I want to wear it well, because my daughter needs that from me. But this is only a 6-week trip, and I’m already seeing challenges after 24 hours. What if she thrives as a missionary? That’s what we’re praying for – but what if she decides to spend her life doing this?
I’ll be glad, of course. But to be honest, there will be mixed emotions – because I am a Missionary Dad.
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