One morning this past spring, my five-year-old daughter, Ali, came down the stairs after listening to a Starting with Jesus podcast for her morning devotion and said, “Dad, in the Bible lesson this morning, they said that Jesus has delayed his coming.”
“Yes, He has,” I replied, mildly surprised by her eager inquisitiveness.
“Why has Jesus delayed his coming?” she asked. Before I had the chance to articulate a response to her penetrating question, she quickly hit me with another, “Is it because of COVID-19?” I couldn’t help but laugh before explaining some of the reasons why Jesus has not come back yet.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly caused many delays, cancellations, and changes of plans over the past year and a half. It makes sense that my daughter would make the connection that she did, especially since our family had initially planned to come back on furlough last summer but ended up postponing our trip by a year because of the pandemic. Thankfully, after a yearlong delay, we are back in our home country on furlough until November. Although long-term mission service poses challenges like not seeing friends and loved ones for long periods of time, the blessing is that when we do get to come back home, the reunion is especially sweet. I find that I savor my time in the States more than I otherwise would because I don’t know when I will get back home again or if I am seeing some people for the last time this side of eternity.
Our second daughter, Emma, was born in Thailand two years ago, and like any excited parents, Cindi and I eagerly wanted our family to meet our new little bundle of joy. We knew that we wouldn’t be home for another year after her birth but took consolation in the fact that my father and step-mother would be making their first visit to Thailand at the end of the year. From that point, it would only be a few more months until we could introduce her to the rest of our family members, or so we thought. Of course, the pandemic changed our plans, as I imagine it has changed yours.
I am not going to lie. It was very difficult for us when it became evident that it wouldn’t be wise to take our furlough when originally planned. Introducing the little one that we love so much to our loved ones back home would have to be put on hold indefinitely. How long would we have to wait? Would things in our world be significantly better in a year, or would we still be in limbo? The uncertainty, the waiting, the change of plans, the disappointment all took their toll. Ultimately, we were forced to lay our disappointment in the hands of God and trust Him, which is what He wants us to do at all times, no matter the circumstances.
While praying and preparing for this article, I remembered that God’s plans have been on hold for quite a long time. Contrary to Ali’s idea and our situation last year, the reason is not because of COVID-19. How Jesus must long to see His people face to face and introduce His disciples to God the Father in person. I am sure that His yearning is infinitely greater than was our desire to introduce sweet little Emma to our family. As I contemplate this, I am struck by the thought that the little disappointment that my family went through last year has given us a greater capacity to understand the heart of God more deeply and enter into His sorrow and longing more fully. Jesus desperately wants to bring us home, yet He patiently waits until the time is right, notwithstanding the pain and difficulty it brings to His heart.
We are incredibly excited to be back for this furlough and are looking forward to connecting or re-connecting with as many of you as possible. We look forward to sharing the many ways that we have seen God working in Thailand and how we sense His leading for the future. We greatly appreciate each support team member and realize that any success we experience in the mission field is due largely to your prayers and financial support. So let us continue to work together and invite as many as possible to take part in the greatest homecoming ever!