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What about the grandchildren? Missionary life as a grandparent

There were times in my missionary career when I couldn’t understand why fellow missionaries returned home for the sake of their children or grandchildren. However, this all changed when we had our own children and I appreciated why workers left, and even more so when we became grandparents.

Missing Milestones

To miss a birth of a grandchild, a first tooth or steps, or some first words, hurts every time. Thankfully, today with Skype and other modern technology this has become much less painful. We can now see our grandchildren run around, show us their new toy or tell us stories of what is happening in their lives. Well, that is on a good day. Mostly they do not have the patience yet to just sit still and talk with their grandparents far away.

Guilt sometimes creeps in when I think that we have deprived our children of time with their grandparents. Of course we did not have the same opportunities to keep up relationships as we have these days either. And now that all of our parents have passed away, we can’t give our kids time with their grandparents. I am sure our parents missed their grandkids just as much as we do.

Only by Grace

So I can’t judge anyone if they decide to return home for family reasons. That we remained in Japan is solely through God’s mercy and strength and the many friends and supporters he has provided who faithfully pray for us and especially for this area. We are also thankful that we had our kids with us until they turned 18. When we became grandparents, we decided to travel home almost every year to see the grandchildren. Of course, we love it when they come out to visit us too.

I am also thankful that the mission agencies have changed immensely in the last few decades and are open to all kinds of new options that allow children to stay with their parents as long as possible, or, if educated at boarding schools, allow regular visits. They also support grandparents to travel home for the birth of grandchildren if possible.

Still a Sacrifice

In many ways, things have become easier, but there are still a lot of sacrifices and difficult situations. This is especially true when it comes to schooling options for missionaries’ children.

Whatever mission agencies do, it will always be hard for families to stay on the mission field until retirement. Missionary life and work needs a lot of prayer. I want to thank anyone who prays specifically for missionary families.

As parents, our hearts are overflowing with thankfulness that our children and grandchildren are a huge joy to others and us. To see that, despite all the challenges, they have become wonderful children of our heavenly Father, is more that we could have asked for.

Max and his wife Reiko have three children and five grandchildren. They have worked in Japan as missionaries since 1983 and joined OMF in 2009.

Will you pray for OMF Workers and their families?  

  • Pray for the education of missionaries’ children. It can be a huge challenge, time-wise, financially and the location of international schools can often be far from their parents.
  • Pray that Third Culture Kids (TCKs) will in the end find their situation is a blessing to them and not a sacrifice that they were forced into.
  • Pray for the relationship with grandkids, that the distance will not have an advert effect and that the faith of the grandparents will have an impact on the grandchildren.

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