“Following Jesus is the most important.”
I think that is the wrong question. The first question should be: Did God direct me to go overseas as a missionary? Then ask: Will I obey God or not? Jesus stated that following him at times may entail “hating” your parents. I don’t suppose he was suggesting anyone should actively hate their parents. However, your willingness to obey God, rather than the desires of your parents, may seem to them like “hating” them. When Jesus called one person to follow him, he said he needed to first “bury” his parents, presumably meaning, wait until they have died and your obligation to them is carried out. Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury the dead.” It sounds harsh, but the inference was clear. Following Jesus is more important than carrying out parental obligations.
Answer from Sharon, missionary for over ten years based in Austria with Elim Fellowship.
“God can care for your parents as you obey him.”
Both my wife and I are first-generation Christians, so when we became interested in missions, we had opposition from both our families. In our case, we heard from the Lord an assurance that if we were about his business, then he would take care of ours.
Our four parents did come to Jesus, and we were in America when each died. They were happy we served in missions.
It may be helpful to know that many agencies allow their missionaries to take an extended leave of absence to care for aging parents at home.
Answer from David Smith, director of mobilization with WEC International. David has been a missionary in West Africa and at WEC USA headquarters.
“Remember the kindness of God, be encouraged, and be faithful.”
I don’t think you will be “abandoning” your parents if you go to obey a call from God. My wife and I asked this question of a missionary of twenty years whom we respect very much. He said that if the only thing keeping us from obeying God’s call was our family, then God could remove that barrier (take away our families so we would obey him). Since we don’t want that, obedience sounds a lot better! That was a hard word, but it put things in perspective for us.
Another aspect of this, though, is the kindness of God. I have seen God work in my wife’s family. She is an only child and most definitely her parents’ “treasure.” They were not Christians when we became Christians and started answering the call of God to missions. At first it seemed to them that we were nuts and in defiance to them. But, as they have watched our lives, and seen our conviction – and with much prayer on our part – they have become our supporters. One of them has come alive in Christ and now supports missions regularly financially and is excited about us going.
Be encouraged! If God is calling you, he will provide for you in your family relationships. Pray, persevere, and honor your parents, and most definitely obey God at all costs.
Answer from Jeremy, who has served short-term in Russia and Mexico.