The Faithful Who Stay {The Grove: Parents}

I was one of the lucky ones, one of those who had parents who prayed for me and always prayed the will of God over me. When I left in 2010, my dad ‘knew.’ He knew it wasn’t going to be a temporary thing. But my mom, as supportive as she was, could not reconcile this news to the promise she felt God had made her.

My sister and I were raised far from family. Our grandparents and aunts and uncles were always a full day’s drive away. There were always people in our congregations who loved us as if we were theirs, but there was always an acute sense of other-ness when I saw other kids live in close proximity to extended family. It was never in the cards for us.

From when we were young, my mom’s bargain with God was that she would bear being far from family support if we could stay close. That was all she asked – that my sister and I would raise our families near her. So when I called her and told her I was planning to apply to be long-term, this was a direct hit to what she had trusted God for.

A few months after that phone call, my parents came to visit Paris for the first time. As we sat and talked about what career missions might look like for me, my mom, who had always been my biggest cheerleader, was reminding me of every potential obstacle. She counted off the hurdles to this life, the challenges of it, the awkwardness of asking for financial support. I was almost sure I was supposed to do this, but was finding my worst fears and hesitations confirmed.

She loved Paris. It was her first time to Europe and my mom was never one to play cool when she was excited about something. She wandered around the Notre Dame like a kid in a candy shop – sitting on the dark pew with tears streaming down her face, taking photo after photo, visiting the gift shop. (“Mom,” I said. “We don’t buy things in cathedrals. This is heresy.” “Be quiet and let me buy a nativity,” she said.) I took them to the Sacre Coeur, my favorite cathedral. I caught her lighting a candle (“Mom,” I said. “We are Pentecostal, we don’t light candles.” “Be quiet and leave me alone,” she said.) She sat there too, the tears streaming. She sat for a long time. I watched her from behind the seating area, letting her take time to drink it in, to pray in this gorgeous place.

After the Sacre Coeur, things were different. She never spoke again about what the challenges might be – from that point on, she was all confidence that I could do this, that I was made for it.

After they left, I received an email from her, composed in the darkness of the morning, amidst their jetlag. She confessed to me that from the phone call on, she had begged God to bring me home. In the Notre Dame, she had begged God again to bring me home. In the Sacre Coeur, as she lit that candle, she steeled herself to pray it one more time. But out of her mouth instead came Psalm 40:8 – “I desire to do your will, O God. Your law is within my heart.”

I was surprised to find that God didn’t just have to move on my heart for this calling – he had to move on the hearts of my parents as well. My dad got ‘notice’ from God when I was a child that this would be our reality. My mom heard from Him in a cathedral on a hilltop. But He called them just like He called me. He didn’t leave them without a word, without a promise. It’s easy to pray God’s will over your kids, but when that involves sobbing goodbyes and powerlessness to come at the first sign of heartache – it takes more than a simple prayer. It takes calling. It takes surrender and faith and radical obedience.

This life requires faith from so many. Not just those who sign the paper and buy the tickets – but from their parents, their children, their grandparents, their best friends. All of those who stand at the airport security check for too long, craning for the very last glimpse. All of those who are on the receiving end of text messages during the layover – “Am I making a mistake? Can we really do this?” All of those who desperately want to ask us to stay, but who instead offer us with an open hand to those to whom we are called.

God is faithful to speak to those who need to hear from Him. I am thankful He remembers those we are leaving behind, He speaks to them, He reminds them that He goes before us who are leaving, but He also holds those who are faithful in staying.

What were the reactions of your family members when you told them you were leaving? How has God spoken to those you ‘left behind’ who love you?

Photo by Katarzyna Grabowska on Unsplash


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  1. J February 7, 2019

    Thank you for sharing this. As someone who has been away for several years, recently returned to my home country (to the delight of my parents) and praying about moving again to a different country, this means a lot.

  2. Rhonda February 7, 2019

    Thank you for sharing. My mother was not the happiest on my leaving the first year and once she learned that this was a life-calling that I felt Father was calling me to, she definitely wasn’t happy. It has taken a long time and a lot of prayers from many to help change her heart. She still isn’t a 100% okay but she is a bit better after seven years. We keep praying for her. Definitely not easy for our parents.

  3. Linda Thomas February 7, 2019

    Your post brought back all kinds of memories and heartache. Saying goodbye to parents and taking their only grandchildren (age 4 and 6) to South America was terribly painful, especially for me and my mother. Years later, saying goodbye to our kids (newly graduated from college) and moving to Africa broke my heart, too. But somehow God comforts and confirms and sustains both those who go and those who stay. Thanks for sharing your lovely message and words.

  4. MaDonna February 8, 2019

    Like those above, I too, had memories flood my mind as I read your post. My parents were very supportive. My mom, in fact, told me that she always knew that I was not going to live near her. She had thought it was going to be another state, not another country. Ha. My siblings on the other hand, they were the ones that were against it. I’m the youngest of 5, so baby sister leaving by herself to a foreign country where they couldn’t come to my rescue scared them. I still have the little note from one of my sisters written over 20 years ago about how was scared, but was going to trust God in it all.
    My oldest has started boarding school this year. In a year he will be getting ready to either prep for university or his gap year…I have put on my mother’s shoes. Learning to trust God starts with me on my knees in prayer.

  5. Kathy Vaughan February 8, 2019

    My father had passed away by the time I became a full time missionary living on another continent. I knew it would be so hard for my mother to let me go, but I knew she would do it with her blessing, as she did. She was amazingly supportive, even though I knew that, as her only daughter, she really wanted me at home near her. But she wanted what God wanted even more. I just came home in May to care for her during her final months, and said goodbye to her, for now, in October. She was the most supportive one in my whole family, because she understood God’s mission and His call on my life. It meant the world to me to know that.

  6. David Delp February 8, 2019

    Sometimes, on lonely days, I wish I had taught my children that family is most important, and no matter what, we don’t leave family, but instead we modeled following Jesus wherever he would lead. The Christ life often involves things we think we would rather not do. Part of the journey is learning to trust God, learning that what seems like a bad idea to us, will actually turn out to be the thing that brings joy to our lives. Sometimes I get tired of the cost of following, of being obedient, of magnanimously yielding to God’s agenda as though I am fine with it, but I trust. My ‘bargain” with God (which, actually, from a place of full surrender we have no bargaining power at all) is that in eternity we will find that it was worth it and all is well. I do believe that… and my spirit and soul are at peace. — Kelly’s Dad

    1. Kathy Vaughan February 8, 2019

      When I read David’s comment, the angst and the honesty of it really touched my heart. When I realized it was Kelly’s dad who had written it – tears! Oh, the gift our parents give us when they support us in our journey to follow God’s call on our lives, in
      spite of their own desires, because Jesus matters more!

  7. Monica F February 8, 2019

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful post Kelly. Both sets of parents (mine and my husband’s) were very supportive when we went and stayed overseas for nearly 17 years (trips back of course). All of them visited, multiple times, and grew to love the people and places we served in. I feel eternally grateful for that. I know that is not everyone’s story, so I do not take mine for granted. They’ve been there for us through every transition, and we’ve been able to lean into all of them in unique ways because they knew what we were leaving behind when we returned to the States. As my kids grow into teenage-hood, I’m beginning to understand, for the first time, a little of what my parents experienced….anticipating the ‘letting go’, and seeing where my kids land. Your post was a timely reminder to thank my parents once again for their support when we were far, far away, and for their support now as we live close by.

  8. M'Lynn February 9, 2019

    Tear Jerker!!!! Thanks for this, Kelly. I love that the cathedrals of Paris are part of the story. Such beautiful places that bring our eyes and hearts heavenward! What a blessing to have those in a city (because I know what it’s like to live in a concrete jungle VOID of beautiful Christian artwork). I also know what it’s like when family isn’t totally on board with your calling. To avoid writing a blog post here, I’ll stop there and say that God uses our willingness to GO to work in the hearts of our family members as well as our own hearts!

    1. Shelly February 10, 2019

      God uses our willingness to GO to work in the hearts of our family members as well as our own hearts!
      Yes, M’Lynn!

  9. Shelly February 10, 2019

    Kelly, this is such a good point — “This life requires faith from so many. Not just those who sign the paper and buy the tickets – but from their parents, their children, their grandparents, their best friends…” That is not to say that we do not go until there is consensus. In my story, it was my mom who was on board; she had a sense that I was not her own and this was the moment to let me go. And she did this repeatedly as I returned and returned again to the field. My dad, however, needed several years to settle into the reality of his daughter serving overseas. But it has been a picture of God’s continual work in his heart. When a circumstance came that gave him the opportunity to keep me at home, he made it very clear that I had my life to live. That meant returning to the field.

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