What if We Had Said No? What Would We Have Missed?

This is an article I wrote that was published in this week’s Lookout magazine. If you have a minute to spare, you might enjoy reading it.

Two years ago, my daughter called from college and said she was thinking about going on a summer mission trip. “That sounds great, Lindsey,” I said, thinking of someplace nice, comfortable, and safe—like Malibu, California. I pictured her witnessing to the happy families on the beach by day and attending church services at night.

“Uh, not quite, Mom.” She explained that the mission trip she had chosen was in East Asia at an undisclosed location. “And we can’t tell anyone where we’re going because we’re not supposed to be in that country to evangelize. Instead, we’ll be taking language courses in the morning and sharing our faith, carefully, in the afternoons and evenings.”

“Um, what exactly do you mean by ‘carefully’?” I asked, as my stomach started tensing up.

“Well, we can’t be overt about our faith. Since it is illegal to evangelize, it might jeopardize the safety of those locals who want to know more about Christianity. Plus it could create problems for those ministry staffers who are living there. You’ll have to be very careful when you write letters, too, and not mention anything about Christianity. You can’t even write that you’re praying for me.”

“You mean, no phone calls? No
e-mails?” I gasped. “For eight weeks?”

“Nope. Nothing. But I’ll try to write now and then.”

“How do we communicate?” I asked, fearing the answer.

“Well, uh, actually, we can’t.” She paused, as if anticipating my next question. “But if there’s an emergency, there is a contact number.”

Gulp. “What exactly constitutes an emergency?” I asked, wondering if my birthday might qualify.

Stretching My Comfort Zone

Lindsey saw right through me. “Mom, I really feel led by God to do this. I’m going to be graduating soon and getting a full-time job. This is the right time for going on a summer mission. I just know it. I really want to do this.”

I winced, knowing where this was headed. “But do you know anyone going on this trip?”

“No, but we’ll have a lot of meetings ahead of time to get acquainted with each other. This organization really prepares us well. So,” she paused, “what do you think?”

What did I think? I thought God was putting me out on a limb again. I thought he was stretching my comfort zone and wanting me to trust him in a bigger, broader way. Was he really expecting me to let my daughter go to a Third World country for eight long weeks? As a missionary? As an undercover missionary?

I wasn’t overreacting to what she would be facing. We had lived in Asia for four years. I knew the area of the world she wanted to go to was polluted, overwhelmingly crowded, had poor medical care, and, as she noted, very little ability to communicate with the outside world.

Like, for example, with her mom.

I sighed. “What I think is that Dad and I need to pray about it.”

Deep inside, I could already sense the Lord’s leading to give her our heartfelt blessing. My husband and I discussed it, prayed about it, and told her we were fully supportive. And we were.

Sending out support letters was the first step of faith. It was easy to ask others for prayers—but financial support? Even though we have always tried to support other kids gutsy enough to go on a mission trip, it was more than a little uncomfortable to be on the receiving end. Yet it was a great blessing to receive such generous responses. One of the most touching moments of all came from a family who had very little materially, yet sent Lindsey a generous check because they were convinced she was answering God’s call.

But that didn’t mean it was easy to see her pack up and go. About halfway through the summer, I still hadn’t received a letter from her. We had received word from the ministry that the team had made it to its destination. But that was it. That was all the information I knew.

It was a rather uncomfortable feeling not to have heard a word from your child, your little girl, living in a Third World Country, in over four weeks. I prayed for her frequently, morning and night, but I struggled with a growing burden of anxiety about her. I would give my anxious feelings up to God, ask for his protection over Lindsey and her team, for his presence to be felt in their lives, for his blessings on their efforts. And for my worry to be taken away. But then I would snatch my worry back from God and have to start the process of relinquishment all over again.

Just the Information I Needed

One hot summer afternoon my 12-year-old son Tad invited his friend Bryan over to shoot some baskets on the sport court. After a while, the boys came inside, hot and sweaty. “Tad was telling me about his sister’s trip,” said Bryan, in between gulps of lemonade. He wiped his mouth. “You know, Mrs. Fisher, I’m pretty sure that my cousin is on that same trip.”

What?

Immediately I called Pattie, Bryan’s mom, and found out that her nephew Josh was indeed on that very mission trip. Even though they attended the same college, Lindsey and Josh hadn’t met prior to the trip. “Josh’s older sister had gone on the same trip a few years ago,” Pattie casually volunteered, as if she was talking about a trip to the beach.

Little did she realize that the Lord was, kindly and tenderly, giving me the information I needed to relax and trust in him.

What if we had said no to the trip? What would I have missed? An odd, well-timed, and wonderfully coincidental conversation that helped me to remember how sovereign our Lord is.

Finally one brief, cryptic letter arrived from Lindsey. She sounded happy. Excited. Fulfilled. Four weeks later, after she returned home and told us stories about the summer, I could see that Lindsey’s spiritual growth had made enormous strides as she learned to depend on God in new ways. She had many opportunities to share her faith that summer with locals who were eager to learn about Jesus Christ—people who might not otherwise have learned about him.

Ripples in a Pond

What if we had said no? What if we had let fear—even reasonable fear—drive away that opportunity? What if Lindsey had missed the experience of discovering for herself this eternal truth: “You have been my hope, O Sovereign lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5)?

That summer, seven individuals from that country began a relationship with the Lord, introduced to him through the team on Lindsey’s mission trip. Many others were exposed to Christianity and expressed interest in knowing more. What would those seven have missed, had we and other parents just like us said no to our children’s request to share their faith? And like a ripple in a pond, who knows how many other lives have since been touched by those seven?

Moments like those added up to create a trip that was more than Lindsey could ever have imagined. Actually, it ended up being more than we all could have imagined.

Lindsey and Josh did get to know each other on that trip. Quite well, it turned out. They started to spend more and more time together. By Christmas, what had begun as a friendship had evolved into a romance. Just last summer they were married in a beautiful, Christ-centered ceremony. They have a wonderful relationship, brought together on a Christian summer mission trip in a still-undisclosed location, by a desire to share their faith in a great God.

What would we have missed, had we said no?

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth M Thompson says:

    What a beautiful story. It would have been so easy to let fear determine your course, but you would have missed some great blessings. Thanks for sharing this.