King David said: “The share of those who remain with the baggage shall be the same as the share of those who go down to battle; they shall share alike.”
God’s record of missions will show many individuals who stayed behind to make it possible for others to go down to the battle. The lot of those who went and the portion of those who stayed behind have not been the same; however, what we each receive at the end of the day will be of equal value. Then, the portion of those who stayed will be adjusted fairly. The lot for those of us who went “out” has often been more than generous: we received prayer support, encouragement, frequently became objects of unwarranted attention, and sometimes even shared in the glory that should belong to God alone.
Those who served with us by staying behind received very little encouragement, little or no prayer support, little attention, and no acclaim. The ones who had to stay are usually forgotten, neglected, unknown, and unrecognized. Members of my family went to different parts of the world in missionary service. Even though God called us to leave aging family members, He did not expect us to abandon them. We could not have left these we loved and then focused on our assignment if there had not been family or friends who freely gave themselves to stay behind and care for the ones we were called to leave.
What is the portion of those who stay behind? If it were mine to choose, I have to admit that my going out was easier in many ways than was the share of my family members who stayed behind to care. Often siblings step in to care for those we leave. My father felt he could participate financially in his parents’ care and comfort, so he suggested that he would pay for their expenses while his sister and brother-in-law gave their time and energy. His offer was refused. The reason: “This is our part in what you are doing for God overseas.”
One family member took three months’ unpaid leave from her profession to care for our dying parent. Some have resigned from their work or profession completely, literally giving up their own lives and plans so someone else could go out. Others have selflessly spent their time and energy to give love and care to parents who can no longer live at home. When it was not possible to keep an aging parent at home, our family who stayed behind visited every day, bringing small treats to make the days more pleasant and interesting.
Friends loved and cared for my mother while her own children were on opposite sides of the world. These friends visited her, took her shopping, involved her in serving the Lord where she could. I kept a note from her, written on her wedding anniversary after my father’s death, in which she mentioned that one of the ladies took her out for ice cream after church. Mom observed rather wistfully, “Wasn’t the Lord good to remember this day?” God is good, but He needs willing people through whom to channel His goodness.
Spending hours of one’s own precious time to fill lonely days with cheer, to take someone shopping, to share a small treat, or just to take a pleasant ride to admire the glory of autumn leaves, these are the more pleasant tasks of those who stayed behind and patiently supported a shuffling gait. But they also faced the exacting commitments of being on call twenty-four hours a day to meet the needs, demands, and whims of confused and frustrated adults.
They had to clean wasted bodies, to wipe up drools and spilled food, to cajole their parents to eat the food or to take the medication, to patiently explain the same thing ten times, knowing that even twenty times would not settle the agitation. These are the ministries of those who stayed behind while we went down to the battle, learned new cultures and their languages, adapted our life-style, adopted their ways, tried to be the gospel. We could never have done this without the partnership of those who stayed behind and took responsibility for those we had to leave.
When the King returns with those who went to the battle, He will insist on equal shares for everyone. Until then, we honor, and we thank, those who stayed behind so we could go.