We, all of us, have been called to go.
Image: First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas / Facebook
“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you’… He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had acquired and the people they had acquired in Harlan, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.” (Genesis 12: 1, 5).
As Christians, we believe that God has a plan for our lives, and we lean into that knowledge when we are asked to step outside of our comfort zones. We read the stories of Biblical heroes and understand that new adventures almost always include a change of scenery. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Jonah, even Jesus himself, all followed the call of God on their lives by GOING. The Great Commission calls us, not to stay and stagnant, but to GO into all the world.
My husband recently accepted a new job on the other side of the country. He has felt God’s call to Dallas for several years, and the door has now opened for us to move down to start the next chapter in our story. As I begin to pack boxes, however, I cannot help but intercede for my young children. Aubrey (6), Lily (3), and Wyatt (1), have never known a life apart from their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They are safe here, they are known and loved, and I know firsthand how difficult a
move can be on a child. When the head of a household is called to go, the rest of the family goes with them, regardless of their feelings on the matter.
For the first 13 years of my life, I lived in a bubble, surrounded by family, neighbors, a church, and a tiny Christian school that served to protect and nurture me. I spent my days practicing apologetics and evangelism in school, and my evenings playing Bible Trivia games with my youth group. I knew (and was scandalized by) exactly FOUR unsaved people in my life. But in October of 1997, my father, Glenn Herschberger, attended a Promise Keeper’s event called, “Stand in the Gap”, and felt a call on his life. Obediently, he listened, and followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to plant a church in a town far away from the home I loved. I grieved for the life I had known, and stubbornly resented the obligation to change my entire life based on a calling that I felt was not my own. As God began to work through my father in our new town, however, He softened my heart toward the community and ultimately used me to spread His love in a way that would not have been possible had we stayed in our hometown.
My parents did their utmost to make our transition to a new place as easy on my siblings and I as possible, and as I prepare to move my own children, I am thankful for the model they gave me. Here are a few things to consider when God calls you to go, and your family must follow suit:
1.Pray together. Cover your move in prayer, and allow your child to see you takeyour own concerns to the Lord. Lift up the new neighborhood, school, church, friendsthat you will meet, and pray blessings on those you will leave behind. Remind yourchildren that God has called your family for a reason, and He has a plan for theirtestimony as well.
2.Although God Himself must take first priority in your life, your family is moreimportant than your vocation. As my father began spending more time tending to hisgrowing congregation, it would have been easy to let our family run on autopilot. Mybrother, sister and I were good kids, and our parents certainly had their hands fullplanting a church, meeting with church members and community leaders, andorganizing outreach events for the community. Instead, my parents set asideSunday as a family day: a day of rest and restoration for us, individually and as afamily. My dad was intentional about regularly taking each of us kids on coffee datesbefore school, and scheduling those meetings with the same intentionality asmeetings with the elders. He made it clear to us that we were more precious thanthe job, so we never had to resent the church for monopolizing our father’s time.
3.Allow your children to grieve. Leaving friends and family behind is difficult. As Ipack up my house, I am mourning the loss of watching my nieces grow up, takingmy daughters to ballet lessons with their cousins, having those coffee dates with mydad (that we continue to this day). Twenty years ago, I struggled with sayinggoodbye to friends, to familiar surroundings, to a special hiding spot that I had mademy own. Starting a new life is difficult under the best of circumstances, but evenmore so if it wasn’t your idea in the first place. Although children are resilient, and I
have no doubt my daughters will make friends long before I do, we are asking them to give up everything they know. We have shared tears over saying goodbye to friends, and teachers, and beloved grandparents who play a part in our daily lives as they are now. Allow your children to go through all five stages of grief- even anger. This too, shall pass.
4.Sweeten the deal. There are great things about your new home- make sure youhighlight them to your children! For me, a new pet helped ease my transition fromold to new. For my children, a pool seems the most likely to excite and entertain inour new home (although my oldest daughter is asking for a pony). Find the thingthat will delight them, and help them to focus on the positive. As Philippians 4:8charges us, “… whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—ifanything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
5.Get involved. The more exposure to new people your child has, the more likelythey are to make new friends. Join a MOPS group, a family Bible study, sign them upfor a sport or enroll them in music lessons. Host a neighborhood BBQ or bring themto volunteer at a nursing home. Staying busy will help keep their focus off of thethings they miss, and help acclimate them to their new surroundings. Additionally,children are often an organic, non-threatening way to make connections with othersin your community, which will open the door for eternal conversations and enableyou to share the love of God with them.
6.Finally, and maybe most importantly, communicate. Don’t just speak, listen.Listen to what your child is saying, and to what they might not be saying.. Give thempermission to come to you about the things they miss about their old life and thethings they dislike about the new. Admit when you are struggling, so that they willfeel comfortable doing the same, and pray together about the best way toaccomplish the mission that God has set before you. Keep your child in the loop, asage appropriate- they can tell when you are stressed or frustrated, and might takeon some of those feelings themselves if you aren’t clear about the origins of yourattitude. They are on this mission with you, and have given up as much as you have,so do not keep the truth from them. They already know that this life change isdifficult- they are living it along with you.
7.Keep good records. Start a family prayer journal, miracle jar or even witnesscalendar. Write down when your child shares their faith, invites a friend to church, orstarts a Bible study before school. Let them see the tangible evidence of theirintangible work, so that they can feel joy in what they have done for the Kingdom.God’s call to missions is thrilling, and the chance to watch Him work from the frontlines is a gift. Share the journey with your children, and they will be an asset to yourministry.
I know that God has a plan for my family in Texas, and as we prepare ourselves for this new adventure, I am so thankful that we- all of us- have been called to go.
Heather Berg lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband of 12 years and their three beautiful children. She graduated from Bethel University with a degree in Communication Arts and Literature Education, which she currently uses to read Fancy Nancy books to her preschoolers and coach a competitive high school speech team.