Dear Student-Missionary parents, I can’t say I know exactly how you feel. After all, Daniel is barely a teenager, and Gabriel is still a couple of years away from college. I can still push the thought of them leaving home off into what I pretend is the distant future. I can’t say I know exactly how I would feel if they, like your children, decided to become student missionaries. I do, however, have a lively imagination, and when I venture to put myself in your shoes, the future rushes in with a flurry of questions and emotions.
Of course there is joy, pride and a sense of satisfaction in knowing that this young adult you raised is willing to serve, to give without financial compensation, to step off the race track leading to graduation and a promising career. But someone is bound to ask how this will affect their scholarships, loans or summer jobs. And how will it impact their important relationships and contributions at home and at school?
Please know that the education they receive as SMs working here in Thailand is something money cannot buy. Over the past four years we have watched your children prayerfully reassess their gifts and life callings. This kind of thing is never easy, but it does lead to confidence and a sense of purpose. It has been impressive to watch your children take what they know and learn how to apply it practically in new and fresh ways. With this experience, their transition into the workforce will be smoother, and the leadership skills they have learned will be put to good use wherever they go. Thank you for letting them start this process here with us. They have done a fantastic job and have expanded the work here in ways that only they could have done.
It is tricky being the parent of someone who is becoming their own person. You want to be there and make sure they are safe and remember all of the things you’ve taught them, but you know they need to make their own decisions and learn from experience. It is a bit like flying a kite. As best you can, you release them into the wind so they can soar, but you don’t entirely let go of that string, keeping them balanced between a nosedive and being carried away by the gusts. It’s hard to imagine that the string can stretch all the way across the Pacific Ocean, but it does! From what I can tell, your children are as concerned for your wellbeing as you are for theirs. And while this experience pushes them to more clearly define themselves as individuals, it also gives them a greater appreciation for you and the role you have played in helping them become who they are. And when it comes to the inevitable physical dangers and risks, if we are honest, there really isn’t any place on this planet that guarantees our children’s safety. Thank you for having the faith to trust that the best place for your children is in the center of God’s will.
No doubt your greatest desire is that being an SM will promote spiritual growth in your child’s heart. It has been inspiring to watch your children face temptations and challenges and turn to God, staying committed to Him. I have observed that the opportunity to see their faith and religious beliefs from a new perspective, and to share these in such a different cultural context, propels them to dig deep and to really think about their own faith foundations. This can be a bit scary, but it helps us remember that God isn’t scared, and He is weaving each experience together to perfect the good work He has begun in our children. Thanks to your children, there are people in Khon Kaen who have been introduced to their Savior. Thank you for sharing your children so that God can reach His children.
Finally, I just want to thank you for the impact your children have made on Gabriel’s and Daniel’s lives. Ricardo and I almost stayed in the States because we were concerned about how the missionary experience would impact our children. When it became clear that God was calling us to Thailand, we were able to trust that He would provide for their needs. Your children have been a very important part of that provision. They have helped to keep homeschool consistent and fun, and they have motivated Gabriel and Daniel musically. They have also provided a window on American culture that has been meaningful for our sons and will help them have a smoother transition back to the States when that time comes.
Thank you Perrys, Richters, Hoeffeckers, Thorntons, Sanadzes, Steinwegs and all of the other parents out there who have sacrificed so that your children could make an eternal difference in this world!
Alicia, Ricardo, Gabriel and Daniel Palacios