Today they mark another step as they will be commissioned by family and friends at Faith Missionary Church in Indianapolis. (Yes, that's the church where I was commissioned as I came to serve with Wycliffe almost seven years ago. They stood with me that morning.)
A life of obedience can be rich with relationships and experiences that are nearly impossible to measure in human terms, but it is not without challenge and sacrifice. One of the things they are experiencing these days is the sacrifice of saying "good bye" -- of relationships being redefined, to varying degrees, by the separation of miles.
With this comes the burden of knowing that their obedience impacts the very people they love most in ways that they would not choose except that the choice to follow Christ compels them to do so.
That may sound horrid to you if you have never followed Christ -- if you have never known his love and grace. The wonder of it all is that this One whom they are following in obedience has the capacity and the will to care for those they "leave behind" in ways that are beyond their caring. Mark and Charlene know (and they are not alone in this understanding) that it is Christ who has worked through them all along to extend love and grace to the people in their lives whom they have served so far -- that anything good that has come from them has really come through them from God.
That does not make the sadness vaporize into irrelevance -- but it does make it possible to endure the sadness for a season. To look forward to seeing, for instance, the way that God will provide.
And lest some of you start thinking otherwise, these are not things that "only missionaries" experience. Many of you who read this blog with some regularity have experienced this sacrifice of obedience -- you have had to place beloved family and friends into God's hands for care that you could not even be a part of providing. And you have found Him faithful beyond your imagining, yes? I know I have.
[I snagged these photos of the commissioning service off of Facebook this morning and thought I'd add them here. Gotta love this about Web 2.0.]