With a tiny face buried in my chest and tears dripping onto my shirt I hear a quivering voice repeat the common words: “I don’t want to be a missionary anymore.” If that were all I ever heard then there would be a sense of confidence in the problem. At least then, in that case, I would know what the struggle was. However, there are other times when I hear statements like, “Dad, I’m so proud of you and mom for what you do.” These words came after a day when I was helping clean up the damage caused by a tornado in a nearby city. Coincidentally, all of these comments reflect a tornado, of sorts, that spins chaotically through the homes of missionary families tossing things around and stirring everyone into confusion.
The strong winds in missionary homes are caused by uncertainty, change, loss, inconsistency, etc. Our kids ask real questions about things that most kids never even wonder about. The lack of certainty and predictability in our future has a dramatic effect on the way we think and feel about the world. I remember a few months ago, in Uganda, we were leaving a community event with several families with whom we had become close. As we walked to the car one of our kids asked, “Will that be the last time I see my friend?” I was blown away. What a strange question for a child to have to wonder about! Already our kids have started to hold life loosely. Jade and I do the same thing. In one hand we see the value of a full and deep life with strong attachments and lasting relationships. In the other hand we see how frequently those lasting moments become passing moments and those deep friendships are pressed by the burden of miles and years.
Almost daily Jade and I run into someone who asks us the question, “So how are you adjusting?” The question is a loving one, compassionate and caring. We’re adjusting well if the adjustment refers to our transition to the year spent in America. However, there is a bigger adjustment we are much more concerned about. The bigger adjustment never ends. It’s the missionary life of constant inconstancy, permanent change, certain uncertainty. It’s the tornado of thoughts lost in wonder about what tomorrow will bring.
This is the life we live. It’s the way it works. I’ve turned this thing in my hand to look it over from every angle and I see no other way. The value of the ministry God has called us to, while staggering in its impact, it does not come for free. My kids know that. Jade and I know that. But the tornado spins. The winds blow and our hearts and emotions are sometimes fragile, our skin sometimes thin, our plans sometimes unmet, our kids sometimes uncertain, our home sometimes not a home but just another building. It’s the cost we gladly pay. It’s the price of the missionary life.