by Peter Swann
We all know that there is a cost to missions for those who go. Spiritually, emotionally, physically… missions, for all the impact, takes something from you. That’s why long-term, international missions is such a helpful indicator of discipleship. It innately reflects a level of commitment and surrender in those who go.
What we rarely reflect on is the cost for those who stay. For those called to stay, that cost can include time, prayer, effort, and money. The mobilizing and sending of missionaries is a glorious but exhaustive enterprise. There is a sacrifice for those who stay, and perhaps the greatest cost is one we may not readily think of: the loss of the presence of friends.
I see it in increasing ways at Hope these days. With around 10% of our people in long-term international missions, we are missing the physical presence of more and more friends. God is moving in amazing ways and we hugely celebrate that, but we also have to be honest about the effect of the absence of our friends.
Our daughter, Allison, illustrated it so well this week. At eight years old, she started talking about how hard it was to have some friends overseas and others potentially going. She expressed what countless adults have said as well. We are in covenant community, and these are our closest friends who are heading out. For all our passion over missions, and for all the communication we still have while they are overseas, we deeply miss the presence of our friends.
Reflecting on all this has been meaningful in my own grief processing, while reminding me of two simple truths:
1. The gospel is worth it.
If the gospel is worth our lives, it is certainly worth missing our friends so more people can hear of our Savior.
2. Our depth of grief reflects our depth of community.
The deeper we love and the closer we journey together, the more we will miss our friends. Praise God for how deeply we grieve their absence… what a reflection on what our covenant community means to us.
Those living internationally obviously also know this pain, and in vastly greater ways. They had to leave almost all their friends at once, and that’s a completely different discussion. But while this is substantially less of an immediate loss to those at home, there is a real additional challenge in the ongoing strain of more and more friends constantly moving internationally.
At Hope we continually celebrate missions, and we should! It’s at the heart of the gospel, and we are here for the advance of our Lord’s Kingdom and the glory of His name. But let’s also be real with our grief. It’s good, it’s healthy, it natural, and it reminds us of the gift of our community.
Those who go sacrifice more, but also hear our thanks regularly. So for those called to stay, thank you. Thank you for faithfully living your calling at home. Thank you for supporting your friends as they go. And thank you for demonstrating that the gospel really is worth it.