Recently I posted the introduction of a series called “How to Stand when your World is Turned Upside Down“. Today I would like to tell you about my friends Steve and Adam. I grew up with these two in church. Adam and I are pretty close to the same age so we went on all of the youth trips together. As most parents of youth, Adam’s dad, Mr. Steve, accompanied us on many trips as a chaperone. After college Adam was accepted in the International Missionary Board as a journeyman who will travel abroad. Mr. Steve and Adam were as tight as a father and son could be, so you can imagine the hurt, questions, and sacrifice that soon followed once Adam got his assignment. I’ll let Mr. Steve layout these events in his own words……
Driving from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Branson, Missouri isn’t much fun—especially when you are driving alone—especially in the middle of August with temperatures approaching the century mark. August 05, I was traveling to Branson to pick up Adam at K-Kountry.
His last summer working for Kanakuk Kamps was completed, and he had no ride home. Two weeks earlier he sold his beloved Jeep Wrangler he had driven since his junior year of high school. He had no need of a vehicle for the next two years, since he had just been accepted by the International Mission Board to serve as a Journeyman. He had also just received confirmation of his overseas assignment.
Peru, Nepal, and South East Asia were the three possibilities of locations for assignment, and Adam had interviewed for each during his screening conference with the IMB earlier in the summer. Journeymen are allowed to list their preferences for service (based on need) and Adam’s choices were 1) South East Asia, 2) Nepal, and 3) Peru. Some choices! Why on earth would anyone want to go to these places? There are plenty of places in the Americas, Canada, or even Europe that need good missionaries. During his senior year of college, Adam spent a semester studying in Salzburg, Austria. Since he was already familiar with Europe, and spoke a little German, it seemed like a logical choice. But God wanted him elsewhere.
From our discussions with Adam, Peru seemed to be the safest choice. Parents like safety. Lots of hiking, camping, and sharing the gospel with the people in remote areas there sounded like a noble calling to me. Plus, the government there welcomes missionaries. I could live with that. So that was what I prayed for. I knew God needed a servant like Adam for those lost Peruvians.
Nepal sounded okay, although I didn’t know a lot about that area, other than the fact that Mt. Everest is there, and it is extremely cold. South East Asia was definitely my last choice for Adam. It is rated by the IMB as a security level three, the highest rating they publish for measuring the danger level. A Communist government, people watching your every move, laws against assembly or even sharing the gospel—this was definitely not where I wanted my son to serve. Someone could get hurt!
So I had prayed and prayed for God to send Adam to Peru, and have a nice two-year sabbatical in the jungle, doing God’s work there. After all, we ARE supposed to pray for specific things, so I prayed very specifically for Adam to receive this assignment. I was a bit shocked when God did not answer MY prayer.
Just before this trip to Branson, MO, Adam’s assignment arrived in the mail from IMB. His assignment was South East Asia. He was thrilled. He had been praying for God’s call to this area, and God said yes. I was not nearly so thrilled. This couldn’t be happening. Why didn’t God answer MY prayer? This trip to Branson turned out to be a good time to have this discussion with God.
I do some of my best praying while driving alone. Each morning, I pray all the way to work. Doesn’t sound very spiritual, I know, but it works for me. No interruptions, (other than the other idiot drivers), I don’t have to worry about falling asleep in the middle of a really important one, and surely God wouldn’t allow me to wreck while talking to him!
After all, Scripture instructs us to “Pray without ceasing”. The ten-hour drive to Branson was the perfect opportunity to do this, to set God straight, and convince him to change Adam’s assignment.
I started out thanking God for having a son so willing to answer his call. I thanked and praised him over and over for blessing us with two children who were strong Christians. My daughter, Allison is a missionary as well, although not in the traditional sense. She teaches high school English at a large public school—an environment as hostile as some missionaries might encounter in a foreign land. She has a heart for teenagers and has opportunities every day to lead them by her Christian example. She is an incredibly gifted, Godly young woman. We are so proud of the adults both of our children have become, and I probably traveled a hundred miles or so praising and thanking God for this blessing.
I thanked God for special memories, from cotton diapers to college diplomas. I could write a book of Father/Son memories I have had with Adam. I watched him grow physically and spiritually. He accepted Christ as a young boy and grew up active in our local Baptist church. I know he had some peaks and valleys along the way in his spiritual life, but watching him grow into a Godly man has been one of my greatest joys. I thanked and praised God for Adam’s life and for his witness. Today, he is more than a son to me; he is my best male friend on earth—someone whose opinions and advice I treasure, a brother in the faith.
Other memories hold so strong to me. Helping him with homework, throwing baseballs, shooting hoops in the driveway. Serving as referee at times, between him and his sister, and watching them become best friends as they grew up.
There were birthday parties, watching sports movies like Hoosiers (an annual event), going to his baseball games from early childhood through his high school years. Sitting on the sidewalk at USA Stadium after his last game as a senior, crying together. Throwing a baseball in the front yard with him one last time the day before he left for college. On that particular day, I really struggled. The sun was going down that afternoon as we threw to one another. Not just on that day, but on that chapter of his life, (and mine, as he was our youngest). He was ready to begin a new chapter at college, and I had to let him go. I didn’t want to. It all went too quickly for me. But God’s grace helped me through that time, and it would be sufficient again, (I think). Once again, as I prayed, I thanked God for these memories.
Next, I began talking to God about his call for Adam. Adam has a real gift with kids; he absolutely loved working at K-Kountry each summer. Every summer for five years, he worked with boys age 7-11. He regularly shared with us God’s good works there, and how he worked in the lives of the boys at camp. Adam had the opportunity to lead boys to Christ every week, and these experiences had a huge impact on his life. Kids love Adam; in fact he is like a magnet around kids. They flock around him like he is the Pied Piper! Surely God has a ministry in mind for him as a children’s minister. A ministry that will utilize this gift He has given Adam. Somewhere in the states! C’mon God, you can do better than South East Asia!
I really started pouring in on now. I began to remind God of how I had tried to be a good Dad to my kids, a good husband to my wife. I thanked him again for helping us raise such great kids. Surely with enough thanks and praise, God would see things my way, and send Adam somewhere safer.
But as I drove through the flat rice fields of Eastern Arkansas, it didn’t seem as though God was listening. It seemed as though my prayers were just bouncing off the top of the car, right back down on top of me. I wasn’t feeling any better about this, I wasn’t feeling any peace about this. Why wasn’t God listening?
I was becoming agitated. My emotions were starting to show. My eyes were blurred with tears. I kept wiping them, and asking God. Why? Why does he have to go for 2 years?
Why does he have to go so far away? Why South East Asia? It’s not safe there, God! That’s no place to send my son! Something could happen! He could get hurt, and I wouldn’t be there to take care of him. He could be arrested or thrown in prison by the communist government! There would be nothing I could do to help. How could he serve you then? Why South East Asia? Don’t send him, please, please don’t send him! He could even die over there! Who would be there for him if something terrible happened?
God, you just don’t understand, he can’t go to South East Asia. Why would you ask this of me? After all, he’s my only son!! I just don’t think I can …………………………………….
I had to pull the car over. Something strange was coming over me—a very strange calmness.
I didn’t audibly hear God’s voice, but I heard the Holy Spirit speak this in such a real and powerful way:
“I gave you mine.”
OK, God. I will shut up now. He is yours.
Your grace IS sufficient.