“Put them in God’s hands completely, and let go.”
This is a tough question. It’s as hard to leave behind any family who are not walking with the Lord, whether children, siblings, or parents. Jesus touched on this issue in Matthew 8:21-22, “Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.'” (ESV). While this may seem cold and heartless, what Jesus is saying is that following him does mean we give him our family responsibilities as well as our lives.
Whether they are walking with the Lord or not, are family members are in God’s hands, not ours. We can’t force them to follow Christ or make them agree with what we believe; we can only pray for them, love them, and model Christ to them in all we do. This may include leaving them behind while we seek to serve the Lord somewhere else.
If we leave behind children who aren’t following the Lord, we need to be effectively communicating with them, and sharing our lives with them, even long distance. We need to do that with all the family we leave behind. That is a lot easier in today’s world of internet communication than it was when all communication was paper “snail-mail.”
As we seek God’s leading in our own lives for overseas service, we need to put our children in God’s hands completely, and let go. While we minister and seek to be Jesus to those God sends us to somewhere else, we need to ask God to bring others to be Jesus to our children who aren’t walking with the Lord. It may be that someone else will be the right one to show them the value of following Christ.
Answer from Elizabeth, who has served with SEND International in multiple countries in Asia, for thirty-seven years.