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Saying goodbye to my only son

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 callin…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

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.

Comments (3)

  • Interesting to see you feeling the same angst we felt when our offspring left on the Race, even though your son has had far more experience than ours did.
    When I saw on the Web the plane crash in Thailand on Sunday morning, I knew Alli hadn’t been on the plane, but I still help my breath until I could reach her cell phone in Bangkok (thank God for Skype.) They had not heard about the crash at the point, but counted noses and all were well.
    The point of the Race, or one of them I guess, is to let our kids fly unfettered into new situations, while getting closer to God. In that regard, the results we see have been very positive. But the distance makes it hard for any parent to just let go. We check e-mail and blogs every morning to see what’s new on the Race. We may be obsessed, but we have to know how she is.
    Can you imagine 15 years ago when the Web was not ubiquitous, how parents of missionaries felt? I don’t know if I could have handled it.
    It will be interesting to see how the Barnes family deals with the same issues we do. If you ever want to put together a more comprehensive “Parents Guide” for WR families, I would be willing to help compose or edit it.
    Best wishes,
    Steve Johnston

  • Keith Uhles {WR Father}

    I do not think any parent wants to see their children go through difficulty but that is not really God’s point of view. The World Race provides trials and struggles that I, on a selfish level, would much rather my daughter not face. As contact is often limited, the ups and downs that are faced on a daily basis by the the racers can lead to parental ups and downs. Sometimes I have longing to set down with my daughter and talk things through and be an instrument in fixing the problems. This opportunity, however, is not available and will not be for quite some time. I am reminded of God’s admonition to take every thought captive. The truth is that through these struggles, God is growing my daughter in dependence on Him, which is of course for the good. Thus, by Godd’s grace, I trust that God’s bigger plan is fulfilled in my daughter.

  • Thanks, Seth.
    While our kids were in the air on Saturday, I was at the Women of Faith conference in Philadelphia. (It took 20,000 women to walk me through that day:) Sheila Walsh sang a song “Find Your Wings” (c.2005 New Spring Publ.) These are a few of the lines that spoke to me:

    “It’s only for a moment that you are mine to hold
    The plans that heaven has for you
    Will all too soon unfold.
    So many different prayers I’ll pray
    For all that you might do,
    But most of all I’ll want to know you’re walking in the Truth…”
    I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
    And that faith gives you the courage
    To dare to do great things
    I’m here for you whatever this life brings
    So let my love give you roots
    And help you find your wings…
    It’s not living if you don’t reach for the sky
    I’ll have tears as you take off
    But I’ll cheer you as you fly.”

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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