Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Parents of Missionaries: Parenting and Grieving

I've been wanting to write on grieving for a while now, but words have escaped me. Not that I don't know how to describe my feelings, but that it's an area that God has so greatly redeemed, and is likely not the way the average person would think of dealing with such a strong emotion. 

A few weeks ago I was really depressed, having not seen my daughter or her family for over 18 months. We talk nearly weekly, but sometimes the time sneaks by, or the kids don't want to talk, or I can tell how exhausted everyone is. To be honest, I know the value of a good nap, and sometimes I would rather my daughter rest instead of take time to talk with me. No matter how old our kids are, we still feel like their mom. It can be hard for all of us. Maybe we all need naps sometimes. 

Those long days came and went, and we caught up on correspondence, but I felt a bit lost...we were out of sync and I was feeling disconnected from the life she lives there with her husband and our grandkids. It's bad enough to be 3,993 miles away, but to have a time difference, and a pandemic going on, it was as if different layers kept being added between us. Then the rainy season hit there, flooding ensues, mosquito season kicks in, airports shut down and we are all in lock-down, all over the world. 

It's bad enough when you can't go see your kids regularly, but when you can not go because the country's borders are closed, there's a different type of feeling that comes over me. I don't know that I have felt that before.

I have written about being a parent of a missionary (POM) before, and about how being involved with their work helps me to feel connected to their work. Even though it's a "support role" like praying, giving financially, or running a newsletter, you feel as if you are partnering with them. You are a part of their team. 

We have been a part of the work where they are, in the quiet things (prayer and giving) that are SO essential to the work they do there, but I wanted to do more. I was seeing photos of the areas they were working, places hit by tropical storms and flooding rains, and people losing their homes and all that was inside of them, and I wasn't sure how, but I wanted to help, more than giving and praying. I call this "putting wheels on my grief," meaning that I can DO SOMETHING to help, and that DOING helps the grief go away. It's investing more of me actively, not passively (although prayer and giving are not passive, they are still mental, and not physical). 

I remembered a woman I knew several years ago, who pops in and out of my Facebook feed, and how she had organized people to sew dresses for girls around the world. These are not fancy dresses, but sturdy dresses, in areas where poverty keeps them from having many clothes at all. I knew that these people who have been living below the poverty level in a very poor part of the world, and then lost everything to flooding, would benefit from a new dress for their daughters. As I reached out to her to find out more about the group she has put together, God began to put a plan together on how we could make dresses for the girls in my daughter's home country. I didn't know when the borders would open, but I knew that we could have dresses ready to go when they did open.

Oh, I forgot to mention...I can't sew. OK. I can sew by hand, but not a machine, and I'm not a fast sewer by hand, so I knew somehow that God didn't give me this burden for me to learn to sew, but that He would bring sewers together to sew for dresses for the girls there. I would do what He equipped me to do, administrate.

So a few Facebook posts later, and we've got people offering to sew from California, Missouri, Florida, and Kentucky! Oh, and the connection in Missouri has a "stash" of over 100 dresses that are ready to go to a country as soon as the borders are open! WOWZA!

Sometimes we don't know where our next step will lead, or when we will get to take it. As Stormie Omartian says, "He gives me just enough light for the step I'm on." That's all I knew to do, just take one step—just get people sewing dresses. Most of them are made from men's button-up shirts, but some are made from fabric. People were willing to donate both, and sew them as fast as they could, for some unknown time that we would need them. We didn't know when that day would come, but just knowing that there was a need, and that the need was great, and ongoing, was enough for these generous women to rally together. 

So God gave me my wheels, and although I still miss my kids and grands, it's a different feeling...not really grieving...but not easily defined.

And just how God is, as people are finishing dresses and getting them to me, in the midst of drop-offs and mailing things, the borders open, and their sending church has already put a travel time on their calendar...and they will be hand carrying these dresses to my daughter and her family, and helping to distribute them, along with food and bottled water, chlorine and soap, to these simple people who are slowly learning that Jesus loves them so very much.

In the past 6 months, as I've watched from afar as they go out and meet these people where they are, bring them supplies when they can not get to town (and don't have money to buy anything if they could get to town), I've learned one important thing; as Jesus told people who He was, He met their needs. He fed them. He healed them. He saved them from being stoned. He introduced himself to them and shared the truths of the Gospel, but He always met their needs. It's hard for hungry people to listen. 

I'm so glad God is helping them to be fed...spiritually and physically. And I'm grateful for those who are helping us dress them too...in Jesus' name.
If you want to learn more about dress-making endeavors for your loved one's mission field, check out the page at Official Page for Dress a Girl Around the World. 

If you would like to become a part of our ongoing dressmaking project, please email me at marinaskitchentable@gmail.com

Boxes of dresses being prayed for before they begin their long journey to me, then to my daughter...

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