Advice for Parents of Missionaries

It can be a difficult and emotional process to send a loved one to the mission field. It may require open and honest communication, prayer, and guidance from mentors or advisors. With faith, trust, and obedience to God, we can navigate these challenges as family members and parents of missionaries.

Be sure to subscribe to the Witness & Persecution Podcast on your favorite platform.

The Eldest Son in a Missionary Family

When Nik Ripken’s son asked to participate in missionary work, Nik felt both proud and protective of his son in this situation. On one hand, he admired his son’s passion for missionary work and desire to make a positive impact in Somalia. On the other hand, he worried about the dangers and challenges that come with working in a volatile and unpredictable environment:

I asked him, “You’re about to graduate in a couple months. You’ve got to let me know what you want for graduation.” And he looked at me, and said, “Dad, what I want for graduation is I want you to change your mind. I want to start going into Somalia and start doing projects with you in Somalia.”

My wife began to sob. There were tears in my eyes.

Half of me was so proud that my son wanted to do this. The other half was saying, “God, I’ve done this for our family for seven years. Now keep your hands off my son.”

For a brief moment, Nik Ripken experienced empathy for the parents of missionaries who worry about the safety and well-being of their children while they are working in challenging environments.

Parents of Successful Missionaries Bless Their Children

Fear is a common feeling among parents of missionaries based on the risks and challenges that come with missionary work in certain parts of the world. It is important for parents and their children to have open and honest communication about the risks and challenges involved in the work and to have a plan in place for staying safe and healthy while in the field.

Family members must respect the autonomy and passion of the missionaries themselves, who have a desire to teach others who Christ is. Empathy, communication, and mutual respect are key in navigating the complex emotions and decisions involved in missionary work and the impact it can have on families.

Obedience to God vs. Obedience to Parents

Nik discusses the tension that can arise between obedience to God and to parents when serving as a missionary:

Within a week or two, Ruth and I can tell whether new people who come to the mission field have been blessed by their family to come or whether they have not been blessed by their family to come.

One of the horrible truths that our listeners are going to struggle with is that non-believers bless their children to work overseas for the Kingdom of God a lot easier and quicker than Christian people do.

You’ve got moms and dads that are trying to bring people off the mission field.

Missionaries may feel obligated to honor and respect their parents. However, our ultimate allegiance should be to God and His calling on our lives. This can create a difficult situation when parents may not understand or support their child’s decision to become a missionary. They may even actively oppose it.

Nik remarks that non-believers are often supportive of their child’s decision to serve as a missionary. Non-believing parents may not have the same religious convictions or concerns about safety and well-being on the mission field. On the other hand, Christian parents may struggle with the idea of their child going into a potentially dangerous or challenging environment. Often they worry about the impact on their family relationships.

It is harder to send than to go, Nik concludes.