When loved ones are called to serve overseas
By Jeanelle Reider
Jake and Ada Breugem had no doubt God had called their daughter and her family to serve with MAF in the South American country of Suriname. But that didn’t make it easy to let them go.
As they thought about the moment when they would have to say goodbye to Miriam and Peter De Winkle and their five children, a sea of emotions crashed up against their bedrock faith. What do we do? We love them so much, and we will miss the grandchildren so much! How can we do this?
At the age of nine, Miriam had told her mom and dad that God had called her to be a missionary overseas. They had been delighted.
But years later, Miriam fell in love with Peter. He, like Miriam, had a strong heart for missions, but he believed God’s plan for him was to marry, have kids, and run a dairy, as his parents, Bert and Tina, had done.
Peter and Miriam got married, and Miriam and her parents concluded that God must be asking them to adjust their understanding of His call on Miriam’s life.
Peter continued to be heavily involved in the operations of his parents’ dairy farm, fully expecting that he would remain a farmer for the rest of his life. But then, in Peter’s words, “God just turned that on its head.”
Through a series of events, God surprised Peter with a new calling: serve with MAF as a pilot/mechanic. Now it was Peter’s parents who were being asked to release a dearly-held hope for one of their children and to trust God for a new direction.
On October 25, 2019, Jake, Ada, Bert, and Tina were seated in an auditorium at MAF headquarters in Nampa, Idaho. They had joined other families and friends who were there to see their loved ones commissioned for service with MAF.
Ada was overcome with a sense of peace. She thought to herself, “It cannot be better.”
It’s likely, however, that there were others in the room who did not share that same peace.
As MAF president David Holsten reminds families and friends during these send-offs, “There can be a sort of heaviness that surrounds it as well. Maybe you’re bringing some anxiety, some fear. I just want you to know if that’s what you’re experiencing, it’s really normal. We’ve all felt that mix of emotions at times.”
Ada herself admits, “We can talk easily about it now. But it was really not easy to bid them farewell.”
Shortly after Peter and Miriam and their five children arrived in Suriname, the entire family came down with Dengue fever. Barely settled in an unfamiliar country, they suffered through high fevers, rashes, and muscle and joint pain—unable, for a while, to even communicate with their parents.
Bert and Tina had learned years earlier, when one of their sons had suffered a severe brain injury, that their children belonged to God, not to them. Now, they had to remind themselves of this truth again.
Because, in spite of the faith that God had built up in them through the years, they—as well as Jake and Ada—felt so far away. So powerless to help.
A special calling?
The struggle is real for those whose loved ones are called to serve overseas. They miss them more than words can express. They worry about their safety and well-being. They hope they will stay in touch. They wonder if their loved ones are giving up too much.
Some wrestle with why their loved ones would travel around the world to serve people they’ve never met. As Peter explained, “It’s not because we want to go over there and have an adventure. It’s because we want to help God’s kingdom grow around the world.”
When asked if sending their daughter and family overseas is a special calling from God, Jake and Ada weren’t sure they would put it quite that way.
“I think a calling from God is your life,” Ada explained. “You only want to do what He wants you to do.”
Jake added, “It should be for every Christian.”
“When you see that your children are obeying God’s call on their life, and you have a peace about letting them go—is that a calling?” Ada asked.
Then she thought for a moment …
“I think it’s a joy.”
This story appeared in FlightWatch Vol. 1, 2022. Read the full issue here: