Parting is Bittersweet

To all my missionary friends who were privileged to spend the holidays with family, this post is for you.

Blessed were we for spending time with our loved ones, hearing their laughter, watching their joy, visiting with friends, sitting through English church services, and being personally reminded of the prayers of the saints.

But then, once again…

…we saw our parents cry, hugged college kids goodbye, listened to the lamentations of our children as we flew away, and are re-adjusting to life in our host country after having re-adjusted a few weeks ago to stateside living.

And again we put our hand to the plow without looking back.

It’s never easy, but easy is not what life is about.

Hudson Taylor, missionary extraordinaire, shares his own sorrow:

My beloved mother came to see me off from Liverpool. Never shall I forget that day…we had to say goodbye, never expecting to meet on earth again.

For my sake she restrained her feelings as much as possible. I stood alone on deck, and she followed the ship as we moved towards the dock gates.

As we passed through, and the separation really commenced, I shall never forget the cry of anguish wrung from that mothers heart.

It went through me like a knife.

Even heroes hurt.

What was your greatest sorrow?

Maybe you are a missionary who wasn’t able to return to your home country for the holidays but remember all to well the pain of that first leaving.

What is your greatest sorrow?

Hudson continues:

I never knew so fully, until then, what God so loved the world meant. And I am quite sure that my precious mother learned more of the love of God to the perishing in that hour than in all her life before.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. I wonder, did God hurt too?


quotes from “A Retrospect” by Hudson Taylor


12 thoughts on “Parting is Bittersweet

  1. …and the day will come when no one can come “home” for Christmas or Thanksgiving. You remember back when they at least came (from college or school) for a few days to share some special hours,… and the struggle to not cry at the airport… I feel with all of you the challenges of God’s Lordship of Motherhood. It goes on for a lifetime. As I read through the comments I send you all love. We are all part of God’s continual sending into the world to keep the message of His love touching another and another generation, until then…

    1. Jeanette, I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to not have them come anymore…or not to go to them. What pain you must experience year after year. I try to represent us all when I write, but then realize there are those like you whose stories are so deep and long, that anything else falls short of your reality. Great is your reward…

  2. Thanks for sharing that Ilona…it really spoke to this mother’s heart. I am feeling more and more the separation from my family…now great grandbabies…who do not even know us. It is truly “Bittersweet” and I thank you for reminding me that maybe God cried too as HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY…Love you ❤

    1. Wilma, yours is a story “from the other side”. Leaving your grown kids and grandkids…then great-grandkids is something so bravely bittersweet. You and John continue to be shining examples to this world and many younger generations. I’m proud to call you “friend”.

  3. And then there’s boarding school… We just dropped off our kids at their dorms in Germany after Christmas break at home in Italy – 3 weeks of trying to get a handle on how much they’ve grown and wondering, “where did the years go? So reading this post tonight touched a tender spot. And with tears I thought, “But God is everywhere, He didn’t really have to separate from Jesus…” And then the reminder, “yes, I am everywhere and I am with Libby and AJ whether you are or not.” Most of all I want them to truly believe that. Next year they will live at home, God knows why this was best for a season. It is preparation I guess for them being in college across the Atlantic ocean some day. Thanks Ilona for sharing, and for listening!

    1. Aww Laura, I didn’t know they were in boarding school. I’m glad you had time with them over the holidays. May God see your tears and soothe your heart with His manifold blessings and numerous promises!

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post, Thank you for sharing. How are you guys doing? I hope all is well! I try to keep up with you on facebook as much as possible. Since we have seen eachother Wes and I have moved to Wilmington, NC and have had a beautiful son he is now 18 months old. We still feel Gods call on our lives to be missionaries someday. This year I really feel as though he wants me to try to learn spanish. So I get on Youtube and and I doing my best. I am having a hard time with waiting on the right time, I am not sure if you have ever been there. But I feel so anxious to go and be the hands and feet and help in whatever way I can. But I know it is not the right time. Well I hope you are doing well. Miss you guys! -Jeanell Mankin

    1. Jeanell, Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. We are well, thanks. And I’ve seen photos of your lil’ cutie on FB! God is blessing you guys. As for your calling, God sees your heart and knows your will. The best advice I can give is to keep loving God with everything, keep in step with the Spirit, continue forming your character to reflect His, and at the right time He will lead you to the right door to walk through. Remember, seek first His kingdom, and all these things will be given to you. It’s almost too simple, but it is truth. Also, be sure to share these things with your pastor, who knows how to pray for you and can give you wise counsel. Hugs to you.


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