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DEL CITY, Okla. (BP)--Recently our youngest daughter and her husband received notice that the International Mission Board had approved their application for missions service in Southeast Asia. In a few months they will be appointed and then go to the Missionary Learning Center near Richmond, Va., for their training. They and their four children will leave for the field just prior to the Thanksgiving holidays. Jeannie and I are excited about this new and exciting turn in their lives, having known for several years that their hearts were always sensitive to this possibility.
We already have a "family connection" in Southeast Asia. Another daughter, her husband and their five children currently serve with the IMB in that same region. The two families will have the privilege of living in neighboring countries, at least for awhile. It doesn't always work out that way. We're just happy that we can visit two of our children and nine of our 18 grandchildren by heading in the same general direction! And there is incredible joy in knowing that our children and their families who live here in the United States also share a similar passion for fulfilling the Great Commission.
Why am I writing about all this? Perhaps I can best answer that question by telling you of another question frequently asked of us: "Doesn't it grieve you to have your children and grandchildren so far away?" Our answer is always the same: "We love our children and grandchildren dearly! And it's true that being apart is naturally accompanied with some occasional moments of sadness. But isn't it for this that we rear our children? Shouldn't we be determined to plant in their hearts the unique joy that accompanies obedience to the Lord? And shouldn't they see the importance of investing their lives, whatever their calling or occupation, in fulfilling the Great Commission? Isn't it a blessing when your children do not consider their lives as their own, but the Lord's?"
There are two extremes we must learn to avoid. The first expresses itself in the notion that "missionaries and ministers reach and preach" and the rest of us are just not that significant in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. My friend Kent Humphreys, a businessman whose witness and compassion touches multitudes with the Gospel, is fond of reminding folks that the "Hall of Faith" (Hebrews 12) is comprised mostly of business people who simply shared their faith in the marketplaces of the world. The Great Commission is for all of us "since we are going anyway."
The other extreme we must avoid is the notion that ministry and missions is to be "settled for" or "forced into." Parents often brag on the recently graduated child who lands an overseas assignment. "What an adventure! Think what this will mean to your biographical portfolio. And look at the benefits!" But the tune often changes if that same child comes home from summer camp with the news that God has issued a call to missions. "Are you sure? Isn't it dangerous? You'll be so far away! And what possible benefit could there be to all this?"
We must learn to rear our children with eternity in view! It should be the rare individual among us who DOESN'T spend time focused on the importance of sharing the Gospel. Where better to learn this than in the home? And what better time than now? As missionary Amy Carmichael once said, "We each have all of eternity to celebrate our victories; but only a few minutes before sundown to win them!" Let's give our children the privilege of growing up with the Great Commission.
Elliff is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., and chairman of the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life, which is joining forces with LifeWay Christian Resources and the SBC Pastors' Conference in presenting Southern Baptists' first-ever Kingdom Family Rally the evening of June 16 in conjunction with the 2003 meeting of the SBC in Phoenix.