The Bittersweet Blessing of a Missionary’s Parents

by J.D. Greear

“The more our vision of church planting catches on around the Summit, the more young people are going to find themselves in an all-too-common dilemma—feeling God’s call to missions while facing parents who are opposed to the idea. I still remember the difficult conversation I had with my parents soon after I graduated college; thankfully, they gave me their heartfelt, if sorrowful, blessing.

One of our key staff members recently went through a situation like this. He felt the prodding of God to join our mission team in Serbia, but his mother wasn’t thrilled about it. Seeing the two of them work through this together has been an encouraging process for both of them, as well as for those of us watching.

The following is a summary of their conversation (shared with their permission), and a reminder—for parents and children alike—that Christ is worth it.”


The Lord has used your spiritual journey over the past several months to show me how much I’ve struggled with letting go of my children. It’s easy to imagine you always being nearby, especially since many of my friends have grown adult children who live close to them. The prospect of you leaving the country for a couple years really heightened that entire struggle.

More than anything, I want you to do God’s will. But I also need you to have certainty that this is exactly what God is calling you to do. Of course I don’t want to worry about you for two years. What mother would? But I also feel the Spirit telling me that this isn’t about me. It’s about faithfulness to God and sacrifice for the Great Commission. So as difficult as this is for your dad and me, you have our blessing.




Thanks for challenging me last night. You were absolutely right that I need to find confidence in the Lord that this is what Christ is calling me to do. That reminder really humbled me and made me seek the Lord more intensely. Is this what Christ wants me to do, or am I doing this from my own ambitions and ideas?

After praying this morning, the Lord gave me a few verses to put my confidence in that this is what Christ is calling me to do.

Matthew 9:35-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Christ’s desire is to send out laborers into the harvest field.

Hebrews 13:12-13, “Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore, let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach that he endured. For hear [sic] we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” If we obey Jesus by going outside the camp, he has promised to be there waiting for us.

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” Jesus left home, the true home, in order to preach peace to me. How could I not leave “home” and go preach peace to Serbians?

To be honest, I’ve been struggling with timidity about this decision—not because it doesn’t seem like Christ is calling me to do it, but just because of personal weakness. I realize it’s a decision that Jesus has given me, a choice I have to make. Having that kind of responsibility can make me want to shrink back in timidity and not make a decision. But as I was praying, I remember Christ, who at the cross, like Abraham, “went out into the void, not knowing where he was going.” Christ left home, suffered for me, so that I could live. I feel compelled by this love to do the same for others. He’s allowed me to experience the greatest joy—knowing Christ. And if I can help people know Christ too, I think the Lord would be honored, and I’d be happy to know that my life has counted. That’s my confidence.

Thank you for your investment in my life. The Lord has really brought to mind all of those times growing up when you told me to lift up my head, not be discouraged, and run the race for the prize. Yesterday, I felt the Lord saying that to me: “Run your race.” Thank you for training me to persevere, knowing that Christ is always with me. He’s done that for me here in Durham, which means I can have confidence he will do the same for me in Serbia. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Love you mom!




Thank you, son. I needed this to hear your confidence. Please know how very proud I am of you and humbled by your obedience. All I truly want for you is total obedience to God’s call on your life.

I will grow through this journey with you on my knees and in prayer every day.

I have been listening to Henry Blackaby’s CD on Experiencing God where he said that sometimes obedience brings crisis into your life . . . and the lives of others around you.

He noted that Jesus’ obedience was conflict not only for him but also for his mother.  I wept thinking about Mary’s broken heart as she witnessed her son’s sacrifice. This humbled me. It puts life into perspective, that it is not about the individual or a mother’s wants.  It is about the greater call, the greater picture.

I love you and celebrate your call.

I love you very much.


-Posted by J.D. Greear at

Contextualizing on the Mission Field

“My wife and I were missionaries in Papua New Guinea where we spent two years learning the Myu language and culture before teaching the scriptures and presenting the gospel. Our culture studies were so we could properly understand how they would hear what we taught.

Rather than changing the scriptures we took time to teach about sheep and shepherding and other Old and New Testament practices. One of the ways we did this was during our literacy program. The Myu language had never been learned by an outsider or written down prior to our arrival. Along with teaching and translating the scriptures was a priority to teach the adults and children how to read and write their own language.

In one of our primers we focused on the main biblical cultural topics that would come up in our gospel teaching. We showed them pictures of sheep and pictures of ourselves in the snow back home in Upper Michigan. They did not have words in their language for sheep or snow so we used the common trade language (Melanesian English) words for them. The isolated Myu people are very intelligent and had no trouble understanding foreign biblical culture when it was properly explained.

It would be dangerous to try to find a Myu cultural equivalent to replace the biblical account because none of them are exact representations of scripture. And the Myu Bible teachers are now able to articulate biblical culture in teaching the culture rather than coming up with some local example that falls short. Once you localize the scriptures you would be stuck trying to find “equivalents” that would constantly fall short. This is very dangerous.

There is absolutely no need to change the inspired word of God. It is no different than how we are to teach here at home. Explain the biblical culture so we can truly understand God’s intended meaning. For “All scripture (graphe, written biblical text) is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:16).”

-Tim Spanton, former missionary in Papua New Guinea, as quoted by Travis Allen at: