…you must not swerve from the engagements God offers you. These will occur in the most unlikely places, and with people for whom your first instinct may be aversion. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that Christ is always stronger in our brother’s heart than in our own, which is to say, first, that we depend on others for our faith, and second, that the love of Christ is not something you can ever hoard. Human love catalyzes the love of Christ. And this explains why that love seems at once so forceful and so fugitive, and why “while we speak of this, and yearn toward it,” as Augustine says, “we barely touch it in a quick shudder of the heart.”
~Christian Wiman from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
This young couple and their unborn child leave for Asia today to serve as long term missionaries to strife-filled Myanmar. I’ve known them both for over a decade and for the last several months they have stayed at our farm waiting for this day when they had enough funding and support to leave for a place few people visit, and where even fewer would choose to live and raise a family. Yet off they go, with so many hugs and hopes accompanying them.
Breanna’s family had arrived at our church over ten years ago with three very blonde daughters in tow — Breanna the oldest. I have watched her grow through her teens into a determined woman of faith, seeking where she might best serve and never leaving a doubt in any of our minds that God would direct her to where she was needed most, whether it was to use her writing or cooking skills, or to share her entrepreneurial spirit to help others plan and execute their own business.
Jim knows Myanmar well, having served as a missionary there for much of the last seven years, learning the language and working on an updated translation of the Burmese Bible. He first came to our church as part of a small group of local university students who sought a worship home that was steeped in scripture and dedicated to mutual support of the church body, both here and abroad. He sat at our kitchen table ten years ago and talked about his computer programming major and how he hoped somehow to make a difference in the world with the skills he was learning. We (and he) could not have imagined his hope would lead him to a rural village in Burma and the challenging itinerant life of a missionary. He would return to the States occasionally to report on what he was seeing and experiencing, and on his most recent visit home two years ago, there was Breanna in the front row, all grown up and full of questions for him about life in missions.
Ten years ago no one expected these two would find each other. Yet God has plans for His people that we can never guess at, swerve from nor try to circumvent. Their love for each other catalyzes the love of Christ in people they reach out to — never hoarding, never shrinking from a call to go to a place unlikely and unappealing.
For those of us they leave behind, it has been a time of farewells and tears and no few “shudders of the heart” as we bid them Godspeed to their new home far away.
For Jim and Breanna, the seemingly endless goodbyes now become hellos as they bring a love so yearned for to new brothers and sisters on the other side of the earth.