When Your Children Challenge and Stretch You

Our youngest daughter, Hayley, is currently serving with the International Mission Board in South Africa. As she’s been on this faith venture, it’s reminded me that it is easier to talk about missions than to do missions. When it hits home, when it is someone you love, it’s different. When you are a 16-hour flight away from your daughter, you are no longer in control. You can’t fix it. You can’t be there at a moment’s notice.

In the early 1990s I served on the IMB Board, then known as the Foreign Mission Board. For part of that time, I served on the Personnel Committee. I would listen to individuals and couples share about God’s call on their life. I would see bright young adults heading off to foreign lands away from home, comfort, and anything familiar. I never dreamed at that moment that one day one of those best and brightest would be one of mine.

Hayley has a heart for Africa. Everyone I’ve ever talked to says that Africa changes you. That makes sense. You see the poverty, sickness, living conditions, tension, AIDS epidemic, refugees, and you can’t be the same. I don’t know what God will do with Hayley in the coming years, but I do know this: I love the heart, the honesty, and the humility I see in her.

Below is a recent blog. I wanted you to get to know Hayley today.

Brokenness Behind the Smile

We visit the township of Alexandra every week and hear story after story of brokenness.

The pastor of that church down the street molested children, so they burned down the church.
Those siblings were locked in a closet for days by their alcoholic aunt.
That young girl was burned with scalding hot water by her uncle.
That six year old girl is now the head of her household, ever since their mother committed suicide.
That boy raped his little sister, because rape is all he knows.
That young woman was forced to get pregnant, to prove that she was fertile.
And the stories crash into one another in my mind and I cannot seem to comprehend.

How can such brokenness be hidden behind these smiling faces?
My heart hurts for the people of Alex, and I ask myself how God must feel.

In Africa, I tend to see people’s physical needs before I recognize their spiritual needs. But both must be addressed, and I don’t know what that balance looks like quite yet. Or if I will ever fully know.

I want to give everyone begging on the streets money, food and clothing… I want to hug every suffering child and tell them it will be okay… I want to rescue them all from their despair and give them better lives. But a shirt on their back, a full belly, and a hug will not be enough.

One day, I will leave this place. And I will ache to be back here. To hug on the babies at Lambano and laugh with the boys at Ratang Bana. And I will pray that they remember me. But I do not want to be known as the person who gave them biscuits or made valentines with them. I want to be known as the person who brought them Jesus. The only One who can rescue them.

So I am asking the Lord to fill me with a sense of urgency and to give me the courage to make hard decisions. My time here is short in comparison to eternity, and I long to make the most of it.

“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:16-17

One thought on “When Your Children Challenge and Stretch You

  1. I am thrilled by what I’ve just read, but not surprised. Michael, Haley has so much of your heart — but how could she not? What you’re seeing in her is exactly what I saw in you so many years ago — a heart for people. The heart cry of the lost world took you took Albany and now it’s taken Haley to Africa.

    Praise God the torch has been passed. You’re seeing in Haley what I saw in Jimmy, before God called him home. We’re both blessed beyond measure.
    I love you and yours, my Timothy.
    Your Paul — James V. Miller

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