“Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” Mark 10:28-30
This past weekend my church had its annual missions conference where we come together to support our beloved brothers and sisters who have gone out from us to the fields. It’s always a wonderful weekend. We have many “far flung friends” who have gone to the far reaches of the planet. The church sets up booths with information about the missionaries’ work and how we can join in their efforts to help people with their physical and spiritual needs. Over the course of the weekend we have a prayer vigil, an international dinner, an auction, and a wonderful worship service on Sunday morning.
It was an emotional weekend for me. As I went to all the booths with pictures of my friends it brought back the reality of just how many dear ones I have sent off to various regions of the earth over the years. I practically have friends on every continent. It’s such a privilege to know these warriors for the Gospel and be able to join their efforts through prayer. My job at a Great Commission focused seminary and my nearby church give me ample opportunity to get to know amazing men and women who have been called by God to take His Gospel to the nations. I am so grateful to know them, to pray for them, encourage them and, as often as I can, make them feel loved and well-fed in my home. And then, the hard part comes of sending them out to the cruel, desperate, hurting, needy world.
It’s tough knowing that the friends that I am getting attached to now will soon be headed wherever the Lord takes them (which could be Raleigh or Timbuktu). But that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to go. I want them to serve and follow the Lord Jesus with abandon, forsaking all for the sake of the Gospel, because Jesus is worth it. But each time I hug a friend goodbye for now, my heart breaks into a million tiny pieces. You never really get used to being the one left behind when the ones you love move on to other things. I’ve been through this cycle often. Every three years or so another group of my friends graduate and leave. But then other amazing friends come in. The Lord is raising up an army of believers to charge in, defeat the enemy and set the captives free. I’m seeing them trained firsthand. My small sacrificial part in all of this is to let them go, to not grow bitter, to continue to pray, to love and serve them, and to encourage them to continue, not turning back but pressing on toward the Prize and our Great Reward, Jesus Himself.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:13-14