Parents of international missionaries to gather for retreat at Shoccocomment (0)
April 12, 2012
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
Though 25 years have passed, Harrell Cushing still remembers the anxiety he felt as his daughter, son-in-law and 6-month-old grandson boarded the plane for their first international missions assignment in Africa.
“There were so many questions about the circumstances of where they would live and how they would survive,” said Cushing, who as a retired pastor and state missionary himself was no stranger to the demands that a call to full-time Christian service requires.
“No matter how much orientation you’ve been through, the fact is that you still have concerns,” he said.
Now Cushing helps other parents of Southern Baptist representatives cope with their concerns in his role as coordinator of the Alabama International Parents Fellowship (IPF), a group dedicated to meeting the emotional and practical needs of those with family members serving on the international missions field.
The first Missionary Parents Fellowship was organized in Mississippi in 1995. Alabama IPF (formerly Alabama Missionary Parents Fellowship) began in 1999 through the efforts of Allen and Laurelle Stoudenmire and Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).
Allen Stoudenmire said the greatest strengths of the IPF involve prayer support and sharing the concerns that all missionary parents feel. “It’s an opportunity to talk with people that you know understand your feelings,” he said.
He recalled an early meeting where a mother in attendance shared her grief that her daughter had left for the missions field. The mother continued to be part of the group. She eventually came to understand that most parents felt the same way at one point but had come to not only accept God’s call on the lives of their children but also to see it as an honor that God chose them for service, he said.
Candace McIntosh, executive director for Alabama WMU, said mixed emotions are common for the families of missionaries.
Parents miss their children, and grandparents may miss the birth of a grandchild or the milestones that mark the years in a child’s life, she said. Talking with others in the same situation can help them cope with both the sadness and the joy.
“The fellowship group gives parents and grandparents a place to share their hearts, to talk openly and safely about what their children are doing,” McIntosh said.
Alabama IPF meets in the fall and spring each year. Every two years, the National Missionary Parent Fellowship Retreat brings missionary parents from around the country together for a time of worship, celebration and support. This year, Alabama IPF is hosting the national event April 27–29 at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega.
The program for the retreat focuses on the needs and concerns of parents of missionaries, McIntosh said. The speakers include Tom Elliff, International Mission Board (IMB) president; Tom Williams, IMB vice president for global personnel; and Terri Willis, director of the IMB national relations office.
Willis said, “Gatherings like this for the parents of IMB field personnel are significant times for connecting with each other and strengthening the roles they have as they prayerfully support family members serving all over the world.”
The retreat program features several informational sessions and time for parents to meet with other parents who have children serving in the same area of the world as well as for state fellowship groups to meet.
The retreat also provides an opportunity for missionary parents to worship and pray together as well.
“Worshiping under the leadership of furloughing missionaries, spending time in prayer for our children and hearing IMB staff members talk about what God is doing in the world gives us all new awareness of what our missions support can be and ought to be,” Cushing said.
For more information, contact Alabama WMU at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 225, or visit www.alabamawmu.com/IPF.