Today Lisa is sharing a heartrending, inspiring story of restoration and faith. May it bless and encourage your heart, especially if you are struggling to stay close to God…
I was just six the first time I met Verner and his wife, Hanna. When I look at the picture from their visit in our home more than sixty-five years ago, tears come to my eyes. How did they experience their life just then? My parents had five healthy kids, despite us having gone through illness, poverty and many trials in a war-torn China recently, just as they had done on their mission field, Siam (now Thailand).
Verner and Hanna had buried three children on their first mission period. They were on their way for their vacation to their homeland. Their youngest child, Martti was with them. The boy had been ill for a few days, but according to a doctor, he seemed well enough to travel. A small boat took the little family to their ship. The sea was rough. As they climbed on board, little Martti drew his last breath. The captain, a Christian, buried the small child on a neighboring island.
One year earlier, just days before Martti was born, cerebral malaria snatched away their two-year-old daughter, Lea, within 48 hours of her first symptoms. They never had a chance to hold their first child. He died in his mother’s womb.
They were back on the mission field, and a few years later they had two healthy boys. Travel to the capital from their mission was grueling and took several days. Hanna was expecting another child. A missionary colleague who was a registered midwife helped with the delivery. There were severe complications. Both Hanna and the baby died.
As the years went by, Verner proved the truth and depth of the words of James and of Apostle Peter:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold,which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:6-9
After his first wife’s death, Verner remarried and had two more children. His life was a great blessing to many, as he never let bitterness take over. He said towards the end of his life: “God has been good to me.” Verner belonged to the same generation of missionaries as my father who, like the apostle Paul, said:
“My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love.”
Acts 20:24 – Living Bible (TLB)
Our story does not end there. The children live on, after the pioneer parents have gone to receive their reward. I know that various early experiences in life has wounded the children. Though they also have received healing, the scars remain.
The two older boys were left in the parents’ home country for several years during their childhood, as their father was afraid they too might die in Thailand. One of the younger children wrote to me recently about his pioneer father whom he admired:
“Dad was a pioneer. He was a stranger to me. You might appreciate this.”
–“I certainly do. Similar experiences.”–
“Dad had no time for family. God was his love.”
—“I know. But I believe God has compensated the loss – and continues to do so in your life and ours.”— His answer was a thumbs-up. 👍
His other timeline posts show a deep faith in a God whose love is beyond anything we go through in our lives… “God is awesome, and always in control. Forgiveness. The best gift of all.
We can’t blame anyone else for our decisions.”
This missionary son called me across the globe and said, “I’ve never been angry with my father. I just never knew him. Whatever wrong decisions I ever made in my life were my own fault.”
He never had reason to blame his parents for those decisions. Now he has peace with God and realizes that God has blessed him even when he turned his back on God for a time. God has always been faithful.
I have read numerous stories about missionary children who have been hurt by their experiences in the past. Some, like the two older boys in this story, were left behind in the parent’s home country.
For other post-WWII families, there was no school for the children. The possibility of Homeschooling was not yet available as it is today. Some areas were regarded to be too dangerous due to war, hazardous journeys, and the risk of life-threatening diseases. Other children, though they were with their parents, met with different challenges.
Some missionaries’ kids and even pastor’s children sadly have never been able to see the love of God’s love behind their wounds. The physical challenges may not have been the hardest to face.
“Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.” Proverbs 12:18
No one’s life needs to end in bitterness. No one needs to be tied to negative thoughts or feelings whatever has happened in the past. God himself promises restoration.
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.” – Joel 2:25
Let the words of Psalm 80 be our heartfelt prayer for each member of our families who has experienced the pain of separations, the death of loved ones, illness, or poverty.
“Turn us again to yourself, O God. Look down on us in joy and love; only then shall we be saved. Turn us again to yourself, O God of Hosts. Look down on us in joy and love; only then shall we be saved.Turn us again to yourself, O God of the armies of heaven. Look down on us, your face aglow with joy and love—only then shall we be saved.” – Psalm 80
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” – 1 Peter 5:10
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13