A Shepherd without his Sheep
by Gregory Kane 11/10/2008 / Missions
I am like a shepherd who has lost his sheep. I know where my little ones have gone, but that doesn't ease the heartache. How can I call myself a grandfather when I have no one to clamber up onto my knee and beg for a story?
I understand the unction of the call of God. Thirty-two years ago I sat on the bare wooden pews of our local chapel, listening to an earnest young man speak about his missionary activities in some far-off corner of Asia. His words touched a chord in my heart and from that day on I became a staunch supporter of overseas missions - even pledging a second tithe of my income to the Lord's work in other lands. So it was no surprise when my own son stood in that same chapel some five years ago and spoke of his imminent departure. God had called him and who was I to gainsay him?
The Scriptures say that anyone who leaves his father or mother for the Lord's sake will receive a hundred times as much in this present age. Roy has written warmly in his letters of the father figures that the Lord has sent into his life. I'm glad for him, but sometimes I have to fight back feelings of jealousy. I would much rather be the one giving my boy the godly counsel that he needs. But the Lord has sent others to stand in my place.
Words cannot express how much I miss my grandchildren. I yearn to hold them in my arms. I long to take the older boys fishing. My wife would dearly love to teach Rachel to bake our traditional cakes and biscuits. But my son's family lives thousands of miles away from our little home. So we must content ourselves instead with fond memories of their infrequent visits.
Roy brought his wife and children to see us after completing their first three years of missionary service. Their six-month furlough flew by in a whirlwind of outings, babysitting and family reunions. But then, all too soon, we were waving a tearful goodbye at the airport. Were I a younger man, I would fly out to see them and wrap my arms round the children. But my treacherous heart will not allow me to fly. So here I must remain - waiting, longing, pining for their return the year after next.
I went with my wife last week to see a favourite musical of ours: 'Fiddler on the Roof.' Although not Jewish myself, I appreciate the bewilderment Tevye felt as a father when confronted by the perplexing antics of his family. The tune to "If I were a rich man" is so catchy that I found myself singing along for several days afterwards. But somewhere along the way the words changed, reflecting my own inner sorrow: "Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a granddad man?"
Our kitchen wall is adorned with a montage of children's drawings. My favourite is one that little Rachel has sketched of her grandparents in thick crayon. My arms reach down to my toes and there's no way that my nose is quite that large! But what always moves me to tears is that Rachel has drawn 34 little red hearts surrounding the two of us. It's her way of saying that she knows how much we love her.
We write letters every week, about half of which actually reach Roy's post box; the rest are stolen en route. Getting birthday presents to the kids is never easy, as we have to rely on friends and colleagues carrying in parcels by hand. But somehow we always manage it. God is good to my son and his family. He honours them for their devoted service.
The Bible doesn't say anything about the sacrifice we grandparents have to make. It wouldn't be so bad if there were other children in our church, but our immediate area is full of other retirees. The children who appear miraculously on Saturday afternoons belong in the grateful arms of other grannies and grandpas. Our reward awaits us in Heaven. I know we'll be together for all eternity with those we love but for now we wait patiently and we pray.
(Matthew 19:29 NIV) "everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life."
Gregory Kane is a missionary from the UK who ministers in Mozambique, Africa. He can be contacted through his web site at http://kane.elim-moz.org/