I was in a morning prayer meeting when the text arrived on my phone. After the meeting finished, I rushed home and called my dad. The next thing I knew I was trying to compose myself as I desperately searched for the words I knew would be the last I would ever speak to my grandma. On the other side of the world, Grandma lay quietly on her bed, unable to speak, eat or drink as she suffered through stage-four kidney failure.
Dad put the phone next to her ear as I sat speechless. “Are you still there, Kyle?” He asked after a few moments of silence.
“Yeah, just a little emotional right now,” I stammered through my tears. I finally pulled myself together and told Grandma how much she had meant to me through the years and how much I loved her. Then I finished with a prayer that God’s presence and peace would be with her.
“I don’t think she will live past Thursday,” Dad said as he elaborated more on her condition.
I felt torn. We had returned to Thailand only two weeks earlier after four and a half months of furlough. The jet lag had finally worn off, and we were just starting to get back into somewhat of a normal routine. Now I felt I needed to return home again and be with family.
“I think I’ll come back, but I’ll call you later tonight to confirm,” I told Dad.
Cindi and I discussed the situation and decided that I should go. After purchasing a plane ticket, I worked feverishly trying to tie up loose ends so I could be ready to catch an overnight train to Bangkok later that night.
After calling Dad to confirm that I had bought the ticket and would be arriving in Minneapolis on Friday evening, I began to pack my bags. However, after about 20 minutes I realized I had forgotten to tell Dad to be sure to bring a winter coat to the airport for me. I called home, and that’s when I heard the sad news—Grandma was dead. I didn’t have time to mourn. I needed to finish packing so I could catch my train.
My trip home turned out to be a real blessing. I even had the opportunity to have several meaningful conversations and witness to fellow passengers on the airlines. When I arrived at the Minneapolis airport, I was greeted by my great aunt who had flown in from Seattle to attend the funeral. Then Dad and my uncle arrived to take us home.
After spending a week in the States sharing memories of Grandma, visiting with family and reconnecting with loved ones, I flew back to Thailand anxious to get back into work and a normal routine. On Monday of the following week I was ready to get down to business and was looking forward to our weekly team meeting. During the meeting, my teammate Ricardo commented that the devil often attacks God’s workers through their families, and we shouldn’t view these things as separate from the work we are doing.
After the meeting, I sat down to check Facebook and email, and the first thing I saw was a message from my cousin saying that my aunt had just passed away! I sat there stunned as Ricardo’s words echoed in my mind. It felt like I had been knocked down again. After a good cry, I met with my teammates for another season of prayer and shared that I felt I just wasn’t able to get back into the work in Khon Kaen even though I wanted to. They encouraged me to take the time I needed to mourn and do what I needed to do.
This past month has been unlike any other. Never before have I felt circumstance fighting so intensely to prevent me from engaging in the work God has called me to do. As missionaries, we make our plans and feel a conscientious obligation to carry them out with integrity. But then life happens, and we must bow to the Almighty, acknowledging our humanity, that we are but dust in need of a pitying Father who understands our pain and weakness and is always there to comfort and sustain us.
As we move forward here in Thailand, I am confident that God is still in control and that the trials we face are only evidences that He has even greater things in store for the future. I also realize more keenly how human and frail I am and how much I need the power of grace in my life in order to accomplish anything of eternal value in Thailand or anywhere else. Please join me in prayer for God’s grace and strength.