First Day as a Missionary Dad

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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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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16 Responses to First Day as a Missionary Dad

  1. Lindakilker@aol.com says:

    Great post, Mike. I’ve been praying for you and Murph and Minnie. I remember having Minnie in Kids Time years ago. She was always sweet and kind and would often greet me with a hug. Now she is going on to Spirit lead adventures all her own. Take heart, Mike. You and Murph have raised her well. Now it’s time to trust her to the God who is always at work arranging life for each of us for His glory. You are a great dad and granddad. A model for me. GTYA, Steve

  2. Linda Olson says:

    Because you are a Missionary Dad, you will be prayed over to be the kind of Missionary Dad Minnie needs you to be and the kind God desires you to be! 🙏🙏

  3. Bill McNeil says:

    Mike, I know it’s difficult when you step out of your comfort zone and even harder when you see your children do the same. But, when you realize who is really in charge, it’s reassuring that she will be in her other fathers love and care.
    ps it is also good to see, in a small way, how many of my former students are choosing to be travelling down the path of being Global Partners. Sometimes, when I try to be something I’m not, I have to step back and realize that some paths are not meant to be traveled by everyone. But, some of us get to help them pack.

  4. Ken Royer says:

    Mike, what a great post. Thank you for sharing your Missionary Dad’s heart! My observation: it’s often easier to “go” than to “send.” We have huge respect for missionary parents and grandparents! Ken Royer

    • Amen to that, ken. I’ve often said that the missionaries get a new home, new friends, new experiences, new ministry, while the parents just have a hole where their kids and grand kids used to be. We’re just getting a taste of that truth.

  5. Charity says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I do sincerely ask for some clarification as to what’s the difference between being the father of 2 Missionary Kids which you were some time ago and what you say you are now – a Missionary Dad? And actually now that I have typed that out, I got it! Your children were MK’s when you were a missionary, but now your child is a missionary, making you an Missionary Dad! Wow, an MD! I was almost ready to delete this before posting it since I answered my own question, but I thought you would like to know you’re an MD now! I think it’s a special privilege for you to be an MD as it says a lot when a child pursues the vocation/calling of their parent! Minnie must have been inspired and impressed in a good way in order to follow in that direction.

  6. Faith says:

    Our love gives them roots, and yet we pray they find their wings… a line from a great song by Mark Schultz…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4NS7gChzvk this is the link to hear it….it is bittersweet to watch our kids grow up knowing we have to release them into God’s hands everyday to find their way to follow Him on their own. She has such a strong foundation having grown up in your home, with a Missionary Mom and Dad who modeled all she needed to know and now she gets to practice what you’ve taught her, she’s going to do great! …for me I always associate people with something so I am reminded to pray for them when I see that something….since her name is Minnie, from now on, when I see Minnie Mouse, I will be praying for her, and for you and Murph….Thanks for sharing your Missionary Dad heart!

    • Faith, those phrases have meant a lot to us. In our family, Murf has always been in charge of roots, and I’ve been handling the wings. But how that Minnie is actually using them, it’s … I don’t know exactly what it is. Bittersweet, I guess. Thanks for your encouragement.

  7. James L. says:

    We’re enjoying having Minnie with us! We’re too have gone through the joys and trials of releasing children into the adventures of young adulthood as the discover the calling that God has on their lives. We’ll be taking good care of your princess!

    • Thanks so much for chiming in, James, and I really appreciate your care for my girl. You guys made this come together so quickly, and I know it will demand a lot from you. Thank you so much. Oh, and please make sure she gets a chocolate-almond croissant. I’ve asked her to send me a picture before she eats it. 🙂

  8. Joann Adams says:

    Being a missionary is a great joy and privilege, but it does have costs. Your family is experiencing all of that from many angles. I especially appreciated Ken Royer’s comments and your response to him.

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