Even though it was unexpected, I am surprised at how smoothly a trip home can pass by, even when emotions are filled with excitement and people are overwhelmed.
On June 18, I boarded a plane en route to Nassau, The Bahamas, where I grew up, departing Ecuador for the ﬁrst time in my 10 months of service here. During my visit, I got to see God use a seemingly simple, everyday experience to impact me in such a dynamic way.
Picture this: A family gathers in support of their son/nephew/cousin/godchild/friend as he is given his high school diploma. Years of investments, emotional and ﬁnancial, have led to this big moment. Everyone comes adorned with celebratory smiles and extravagant expectations for the young man of honor.
The church missions facilitator asks the graduate, “Omar, how do you feel on this special day?”.
He answers her, “I wish my brother, Katanga, were here to celebrate my big day. I just want him to know I miss him very much, and I love him.”
Now, as the ceremony nears its opening, a joyful ﬁgure, seemingly a bit familiar, yet particularly thin and faint after fighting dengue fever just weeks prior, emerges at the front of the church sanctuary.
Dancing, smiling—but mostly dancing—I yell, “Surprise!”
And what happens next begs to be savoured: My mother, gaping, with her head held in her hand, turns away and becomes mute for a total of five minutes.
Moments worth cherishing, indeed!
As the 4-day trip north from South America over the Caribbean Sea to my homestead brought much emotion for my family and myself alike, it also displayed the value of commitment I have to my family, despite the distance of my service abroad in Ecuador.
Even more, it emphasized the importance of an even more critical value: endurance. My trip was also to announce my desire to serve in Ecuador for an additional year, and with a formal function: the communications officer for the Andean Region.
In the world of missions, it is a rare privilege to travel from the field to one’s home for any other reason than support raising or a medical emergency or a demanding furlough. Even holidays can often be reserved as “emergency only.” For me, however, my special moment with my family had a mutual advantage: to re-connect my actual vision of missions with the perceived vision my family and friends had of my time with OM from my photo updates and stories.
While many understood my purpose of serving before I left for Ecuador, the measurable impact I consistently help to create while serving here was the most exciting narrative for my family. I believe it has much to do with connectivity in moments of celebration: my brother completed a milestone in his life as I was embarking toward my own milestone. We essentially connected with each other in a more tangible way than before, and it was intentional, in the moment and refreshing after such distances apart.
Sure, I’m aware that many other professions and callings beyond missions present hindrancesor demands that may pull us away from our responsibilities to family. However, the fact remains that families are extensions of ourselves, and they experience a deep form of connectivity to the impact that is created through our larger life’s work—a lasting impact that is created in the work we accomplish as leaders, entrepreneurs, pastors, politicians or civil servants, and as missionaries.
In these and many other areas, there is a seemingly resonant impact that is transferred through forms of service in general. And it is, indeed, possible for anyone to make family, above all else, a priority.