Sunday, December 09, 2007

missionary life. and loss.

i sat at the kitchen table slowly sipping my coffee. next to me, sat my dear friend carrie also sipping her coffee, it was our second cup each that morning. across the room from us, on the counter that divided the dining room from the kitchen sat a dell computer, with a webcam on top of it. in the kitchen, behind the computer, an entire family huddled in to see the image in the computer screen. they took turns allowing themselves to be visible to the webcam. there were smiles, and there were tears as the family spoke to the computer. but they spoke not just to the computer, their voices and their images reached on the other side of the world, where the daughter of this family and her husband and two children live as missionaries. they were speaking via skype. i sat, silently watching and admiring as loving a loving aunt and uncle spoke gently to their two-year-old niece. "nana" stood back, longing to speak with her daughter and granddaughter in a less "mechanical" fashion.

on the one hand, i was thankful for skype and such technology that can connect families who are scatterered around the world. on the hand, i could sense the longing and the love which also spanned across the ocean. what must it be like for a grandmother to see her grandchildren grow up, on a computer screen? what does it feel like to be planning a wedding having your older sister on the other side of the world? and as the missionary, how hard is it to miss your sister's college graduation?

in a class i recently took called gender and cultural issues of counseling, our professor (who grew up a missionary kid in japan) shared with us the losses involved into assimilateing to a new culture: loss of stability, family, culture, the familiar, friends, habits, home, support...

in each situation, i have wondered to myself - i say that i want to be a missionary. am i willing to take that risk and handle that loss?

Jesus says, "...whoever wishes to save his life, will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it...." (matt. 16:25)

it's a loss, on both ends: for the family going to another culture and for the family and people who send them.