Register for a Free Account
Choose Password
Confirm Password

Please login to continue
Having Trouble Logging In?
Reset your password
Don't have an account?
Family Losses and Gains for the Kingdom

Family Losses and Gains for the Kingdom

By Sue Eenigenburg

Moving to serve overseas with your family is one thing. We did that. We had four little children and we moved to a different corner of the world. We said goodbye to parents, siblings, extended family and good friends. We said hello to language study, cultural blunders and a team that became family. We met new friends. We were able to share the gospel with those who didn’t know about God’s grace through Jesus.

We spent about 12 years in the Middle East, then returned to live in America and served at the Christar U.S. mobilization center. We enjoyed training other cross-cultural workers and developed resources that would help them thrive in ministry overseas. But as our kids grew up, got married and settled down, we sensed that God might be leading us back overseas.

Serving overseas again excited me until I thought about leaving my kids and how much I would miss them. But what broke my heart was the idea of saying goodbye to my three little granddaughters. I began to grieve. It was fine to go overseas with our family but tougher to leave them behind. Tears flowed when we would sing songs in church about surrendering all to God. My heart didn’t feel ready to surrender everything.

Around that time, I attended the baby dedication of our youngest granddaughter. I couldn’t stop crying as I realized I would not be a part of her everyday life. When I was growing up, my grandma lived nearby. I played in her home, ate meals with her and spent many a New Year’s Eve with her. I would not be near my grandchildren. I felt guilty that compared to her, I would be a worse grandma.

I was afraid my grandchildren wouldn’t know me. What if they turned away in fear when I came to visit? How could I help my kids when more babies were born if I lived on a different continent? I felt as if I was leaving behind all I dreamed a grandma would be. I wrestled through the idea of leaving and being a terrible grandma.

But God broke through to my heart with the idea that I would not be a worse grandma: I would be a different one. They would have no memories of coming to my house. There would be no games or meals at my house because I would not have a house. But they could still have memories of me. I would still be their grandma.

We moved overseas one month after our youngest daughter got married. Our granddaughters were about 4, 2 and 1, and we stayed in touch as much as possible. We sent postcards from different countries we visited. Every Christmas we made a picture book to send to them. When we came to visit, we brought them little souvenirs from foreign places. We wanted them to know we thought of them as we traveled. As the grandkids got older, we could text with them. We and our kids were intentional about staying connected. We wanted them to know we loved them even though we lived far away.

It was a sacrifice to move far away from family. Sometimes connecting through Skype wasn’t enough; at times it amplified the anguish of separation even more. I remember crying after some video calls. Postcards seemed meaningless. I missed being with them so much! And when we did get to visit, the goodbyes were always draining. Leaving was hard, and as my body flew to its next destination, it took time for my breaking heart to catch up.

Looking back though, I also see God’s faithfulness and kindness. When nine of our 12 grandchildren were born, we were living across the ocean. Yet, God provided a way for me to visit and help our daughters when each of their babies were born, and we were able to see our other grandchildren soon after they were born. Our grandkids remember talking with us on Skype. They remember our visits to their house. We enjoyed tea parties under the dining room table and played hide and seek. Five of them came to visit us in South Asia and Europe for vacations. God surpassed my expectations with opportunities to connect with our grandchildren.

We love our roles in the Great Commission. We love our family. It has always been our hearts’ desire to honor and serve the Lord well in both spheres of ministry. After ministering overseas for the past 13 years, we returned last year to serve in our home country. We now live near two of our four kids and seven of our grandkids. We are settling into life and ministry back in America. God provided a home for us.

As I was sitting in my living room one day waiting for the grandkids to come over, the Lord gave me a sweet reminder. “Remember when you said goodbye to having a home where the grandkids could come play? Do you recall your fears that they would not know you?”

I experienced a holy moment. My soul honored the Lord for His compassion, goodness and faithfulness to me and my family. I considered all I thought I was going to lose and all that I had gained instead. Joy and gratitude fill my heart.

And now, every time the front door opens and family steps in, I celebrate the generosity of God.

Adapted from Sacred Siblings by Sue Eenigenburg and Suzy Grumelot, pages 142-145

Related Projects

Related Stories

Related Resources