Parents Of Missionary Kids

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It’s Hard To Let Them Go

For most of my life, I have been a missionary.  That means my Mom and Dad were parents of a missionary kid.  I’m still a missionary kid who also happens to be a father of two great sons.  Both of them are launched out into life, but that does not mean that I don’t still worry for both of them and commit them and all their ways to God.

I read an excellent book recently by Will Hathaway called “What If God Is Like This?”  In this book, Hathaway presents some intriguing ideas and insights into what God might really be like, if we would take the time to really get to know Him.  Many times in the book, he states that he has such a better grasp of how great God is and how much He loves us, because now he is a father too.

    

There is just something that is very special that can exist between a parent and a child.  I do realize that not every parent is a good parent, but nevertheless, even the toughest and meanest person can have their hearts broken when they sense their child is in danger or just simply needs love and approval.

Back to the thought of me being a missionary kid, I’d have to admit that there have been many times in my life when I headed overseas (even as young as 16 years old) when all I could see was the adventure and the challenge that lay ahead.  It had to be hard on my parents to let me go at times (even when I was grown and had a family).

Then recently, I read a newsletter written by a colleague of mine that helped to remind me (and anyone who has read their newsletter) just how tough it can be to be a parent of a missionary kid.  It reminded me to be thankful for parents who worried about me, but still were okay with letting me go.  I pray that this letter below will help you too to appreciate your parents, even if you might not be a missionary kid.

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“My dad asked me jokingly the other day if he could take us to court to prevent us from taking his grandkids to Africa. I told him that if the judge were a grandfather, he would probably side with dad against us. We both spoke in jest, but we knew that the feelings involved in taking our family overseas are very real.

Most people know that packing up their children and moving to Africa involves some sacrifice. But what about the sacrifice of those we leave behind? We get all kinds of accolades for what we are doing. We get to go through the line first at church potlucks. People bring us up in front of crowds of kids and tell them to make us their role models.

One might say we have received our reward in full. But there are no awards for being the parent of a missionary. Yet what they give up to allow us to follow God’s calling are some of life’s most treasured moments – birthday parties, ball games, heart-to-heart chats, Sundays around the dinner table, and thousands of precious hugs.

    

They had little say in our decision, but just as with so many things over which one has no control, they got to decide how they would respond to it. Our parents would have had every right to be angry with us, to obsess over the perceived dangers we are exposing ourselves to and discourage us at every step, or to refuse to do anything to move us closer to our goal.

But they also have the option to offer us up as sacrifices willingly, to embrace and make the most of their position as long-distance grandparents, and to encourage us like no one else can when we face difficulties. What a blessing it is to us to have parents like that!

Our families have given of their time, their finances, and their talents to help us every step of the way. They have made plans for how to stay connected with us and our kids once we leave. They have said they would like to make the long trip across the Atlantic to visit us if they have the chance. And, perhaps most difficult of all, when faced with the opportunity to remind us of what we are asking of them and saddle us with guilt, they have refrained.

    

I hope that someday, if our children tell me that God is asking them to go to some place where I can’t follow, where I can’t keep them safe or get to hug and kiss them every day, that I will have the faith to give them my blessing and help them on their way. Our children are the most precious of God’s gifts, and nothing is more natural and right than to hold them close.

But at the same time we have to remember that they belong to God first of all. We have to raise them to be the kind of people who will love Him with their whole being and follow Him anywhere. And when they follow Him far away from us, we have to pray and give and speed them on their way, even when it breaks our hearts.

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I want to thank my colleague for the honesty shown in writing this message that should be a challenge to us all.  Let us all be thankful for our parents, and let us in turn do all we can to be the best parents possible to our own children.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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My Grandfather’s Legacy

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Who Am I?  Pt 2

My full name is Norman Craig Weatherhead.  In my last article about “Who Am I?”, I related how it was by God’s hand of providence that I was even born at all.  I also told the story of how I used to be called Craig as my primary given name, but due to some interesting sleight of hand, my given name of Craig got slipped into the middle of my name on the official documents that were signed at the hospital.  So that explains my middle name.  Now how about my first name of Norman.  Well, it has a story too.

Norman was the name of my Grandfather on my Mother’s side.  He was in the British military and right after World War 1, he joined the British Customs Services and was posted to China in 1921.  He had been living there for some time when a slight, attractive woman, who was quiet of speech but strong in will, caught his eye and in 1927 they were married in China.  An interesting piece of history here and a claim to fame is that Eric Liddel, the famous long distance runner in “The Chariot’s of Fire”, was the best man for my Grandfather in their wedding in China.

This marriage of Norman Knight to Violet Baty had an immense impact upon his life.  You see, my Grandmother was a missionary from Canada who worked for the United Church of Canada’s North China Mission in Tianjin, and when she married Norman, he quickly found himself employed by the mission to be the Business Manager and Director of the mission’s hospital further inland.  There is no doubt that his experience working as a Customs Officer prepared the way for him to serve well in this mission in this capacity.

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But to say that Norman Knight was just a Business Manager would greatly understate the valuable services that he provided for the Chinese people themselves.  When the Japanese forces invaded China in 1937 and up through 1941, for most of that time Norman was the liaison between the mission members and the compound as a whole, and the Japanese garrison leaders.  As he used delaying tactics, the staff would hide some of the local Chinese guerrilla fighters.

It was truly by the grace of God that Norman and his family made it out of China as Japan tightened more of their control over the country.  Unfortunately, after Pearl Harbor, the same cannot be said for Eric Liddel, who had become such a great friend to my grandparents.  Eric, for whom our son is named after, was interned by the Japanese and suffered malnutrition and terrible physical conditions in the Japanese POW camps.  Eric died just a few months before China was liberated in 1945.

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Back to Norman Knight, who returned alone to China after the war, was again recalled to Canada just before the complete takeover of the Communists in 1949.  Following his China years as a missionary, Norman was ordained by the United Church of Canada, and asked to minister to some small rural churches in Alberta.  And even though he had no formal theological training, his mission experience and skill sets were more than enough to help him be a good minister to a number of rural Albertan churches.

Now fast-forward a number of years until you come to 1960.  My mother was now pregnant with me and they had not made any firm choices on potential names for this fourth child of theirs.  But on September 27th, exactly two months before I was born, my grandfather Norman Knight died.  This motivated my parents to then give me his name of Norman, both as a memorial to him, and an inheritance for me.

Now jump forward again about 15 years.  Up until my middle teen years, I had always been known as Craig as I mentioned earlier.  But two things happened in the next two years that caused me to change that and go by my first name, Norman.

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The first thing that happened was that my names caused great confusion for the Navy of Canada.  (I bet that surprised you.)  You see, I had been part of the Sea Cadets for three years (ages 13-15) and in the summer of my 15th year, I attended a rigorous Navy Boot Camp.  And when it was over and I was back in Calgary, two packets came to me from the Navy Headquarters.

In one packet was the certificate of completion, the group picture of my squid mates, and my awards that I had won from some of the competitions.  These were all given to Able Seaman Norman Weatherhead.  But in the other packet, there was a certificate of completion of Boot Camp, but no group picture and no awards given.  This packet was sent to Able Seaman Craig Weatherhead.  : )  So Norman was outstanding, but Craig was missing.  This is the funny story about my two names.

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On the more serious side, I was wrestling with my own self-identity, and one aspect of that was trying to decide what I wanted to do in life.  The Navy really attracted me, and I will tell you a further Navy story in the next “Who Am I?” article.  But after accepting Christ as my Savior in 1972, then sensing in 1974 that God wanted me to be a servant-worker for him, and in 1976, being able to see Bible translation being done in the mountain town of Cuzco, Peru, I knew that God was calling me to be a missionary.

And that caused me to think about my grandfather, Norman Knight.  It would seem to me, that not only did I receive my grandfather’s name as an inheritance, I believe that I also received his vocation as part of that inheritance.  This thought has gone through my mind and my mother’s mind, and even my grandmother’s mind while she was still alive, that in some divine way, there was a connection between me and my grandfather.  And we have wondered, if it is possible, that during the two months since he passed away and before I was born, perhaps he and I had some very interesting conversations together in the spirit realm.  Maybe I’ll get to find out if this is true when it is my turn to graduate to heaven.

Whatever the case, thank you Granddad for your namesake and your legacy passed on to me.