Yesterday, a jet crashed in Phuket, Thailand, one of the places where we currently have World Race teams. Many people were killed.
My daughter Talia is in Cambodia and my son Seth is flying to Thailand as I write this. Both are spending a year on the World Race. Parents are calling wanting to know if their kids are OK. We’ve been in touch with our team this morning and breathed a sigh of relief to hear that no one was on the plane.
This brings up a question: As parents, how do we say goodbye to our children and send them to the mission field? Pat Burrows, mother of World Racer Sarah Burrows put it to me this way: “I’d like to hear your perspective as a parent of World Racers. Even after the fear is released and the paperwork all signed, is it still a roller coaster of emotions for you?”
It’s a timely question. Before Seth’s team left for Thailand, I led a commissioning service for them. I was busy and hadn’t given it much thought, but God began to speak to me about the seriousness of the occasion. He brought to mind all the times over the years that Karen and I have sent our son to the mission field.
In 1990, when my son was five, Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina and devastated the coastal area south of Charleston. I took Seth on one of the first mission trips AIM sponsored. More than 70,000 people have followed since then. And every year since then we’ve sent Seth away on some mission trip knowing that God would use the experience to mold him as a young man.
As a family in 1994, we spent the summer in Mexico. I remember Seth talking to a Mexican kid and hearing about how the boy hadn’t eaten in a long time. Seth responded by giving him his lunch. In 2002, on a mission to Lima, Peru he learned to pray for healing and was amazed at the way God healed people. In 2004, he went with me to Swaziland for the summer to touch those devastated by the AIDS pandemic. Later, a trip to India gave him a heart for that country.
In each place, Seth grew in faith and in a sense of his calling. And while as parents we became well-versed in the process of sending him out, it didn’t make the sending process any easier. As these memories flooded my mind, I thought of all the parents, moms like Pat Burrows, who have gone through a similar process. For all of us, this has been a hard thing.
I stood before Seth’s team and recounted the process that we’d been through in raising him to be a young man who has Jesus’ heart for the world – all the goodbyes we’ve said. I’m not an emotional guy, but I was crying as I said the words – it was ripping at my heart. It’s so tough sending our children out, and you’d think that Karen and I would be better at it. But it still strikes us to the core. We do it out of obedience. We do it because God did it for us and the world needs to know.
As we prayed for the team and said goodbye, this time it seemed different, more permanent. Seth is going to the world as a man now. He has grabbed God’s vision for the world and made it his own. The thought came to me that the incarnation has become real in a new way for me this weekend. Just as God sent his only son to a dying and hurting world, so I was being given the privilege of doing the same thing. Yes, Pat, it is emotional. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.