When Parents Visit the Mission Field

Not every parent is able to make the long trip overseas to visit their grown missionary children, and grandchildren, but for those who can, it’s an eye-opening experience. Three couples who have been to the field share what it is like to see their “kids” in their element—making an impact through MAF.

Natalie’s parents, John and Deanna Beam, with their grandchildren during a visit to Papua.

Natalie’s parents, John and Deanna Beam, with their grandchildren during a visit to Papua.

Natalie Holsten is now serving in Papua, Indonesia, with her pilot-husband David, the regional director of Indonesia. Her parents, John and Deanna Beam, have visited her in Kalimantan and Papua.

At first, John and Deanna Beam were a little nervous knowing their daughter and her family would be serving on the other side of the world in a Muslim country. They were concerned about their safety and well-being. “I did not fully appreciate what parents go through when their children become missionaries!” said John. The Beams finally accepted the fact that their daughter Natalie, and son-in-law, David Holsten, were “doing what they believed God was calling them to do. And that is the way they’re going to be the happiest.”

John Beam’s antics amuse children during a visit to an interior village.

John Beam’s antics amuse children during a visit to an interior village.

The Beams are blessed to have been able to visit their daughter several times, first in Kalimantan, and more recently in Papua. They say the benefits include picking up some of the language, learning to love Indonesian food, and discovering a new culture. “We’ve also had the chance to establish friendships with other MAF missionaries, and even some local pastors,” said Deanna. “We do think MAF is out there doing a wonderful job, wonderful work, and we’re real proud of Natalie and David and all of the others that are there.”

“Natalie and David are doing a fantastic job working with other missionaries to bring the Gospel to these people who desperately need the Lord,” added John.

John describes the pilots as “brave and courageous.” He says they’re well trained, safe, but it can still be a nerve-wracking experience to fly into these little strips. “Once you’re on the ground, the people in the village just pour out onto the runway expecting the plane is bringing something,” said John. “Sometimes it’s Bibles, sometimes it’s pigs, sometimes rice… But to see the expression of excitement on their faces to meet the plane, then you know your child is doing something tremendous for these people.”

John with David in his MAF pilot's uniform

John with David in his MAF pilot’s uniform.

David Harms is a pilot-mechanic in Haiti and serves with his wife Christine. His parents, Kathy and John Harms, have visited multiple times.

For Kathy and John Harms, visiting their son David and his family in Haiti gave them a good picture of where they were living and what they were doing. It gave the couple a chance to experience life with them for a while.

John with kids in a makeshift church on a nearly-barren hillside above Port au Prince.

John with kids in a makeshift church on a nearly barren hillside above Port au Prince.

Kathy and Pete (as a baby) with those same kids, same location.

Kathy and Pete (as a baby) with those same kids and location.

“It was something I needed to do,” said Kathy. “Although, I have to admit, the first time we were there the poverty was overwhelming.”

Seeing David there confirmed in her mind that her son had chosen the right path. It was a dream he’d followed since he was in high school. “I always knew it was right but to see him there and to watch him interact with the people, see him flying… Oh, Lord, they are where they are supposed to be. And they love it there. They consider it home.”

John Harms had a unique opportunity to fly along with David. “It was a Sunday and they got a call for an emergency medevac. David needed someone to help him push airplanes around at the hangar, because the hangar crew doesn’t work on Sundays.

Kathy, Christine, Pete, and Ellie having lunch at the Mission Baptiste.

Kathy, Christine, Pete, and Ellie having lunch at the Mission Baptiste.

“It took me a nanosecond to respond … I can help. Pick me, pick me!” said John. “There was an aid worker doing a building project, and he ended up with a piece of metal filing in his eye. That was a very rewarding experience for me—to see him get the help he needed, saving his eyesight.”

John figured he would see David doing what he does best, but it was an extra bonus to see Christine in her element. “To see her teaching an English class to the Haitians or to see her lead them in a Bible study, I got to observe the depth of her spiritual insights,” John said. “I gained a whole new appreciation for my daughter-in-law.”

Linda and Lee Calhoun, Laura Persenarie’s parents, enjoy a tropical Thanksgiving feast with Laura’s family in Tarakan.

Linda and Lee Calhoun enjoy a Thanksgiving feast with Laura’s family in Tarakan.

Laura Persenaire is serving in Kalimantan, Indonesia, along with her pilot-husband Steve, who is the program manager. Laura’s parents, Lee and Linda Calhoun, MAF alumni, have visited many times.

Christmas in Singapore at the Calhoun’s condo: Laura and Steve Persenaire (right) with Laura’s brother (left), and Bible school students from the Calhoun’s church.

Christmas in Singapore at the Calhoun’s condo: Laura and Steve Persenaire (right) with Laura’s brother (left), and Bible school students from the Calhoun’s church.

Laura Persenaire’s parents, Lee and Linda Calhoun, have made several trips to visit her in Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, where her husband Steve manages the program. In fact, since their jobs have brought them to live in Singapore, they have the opportunity to visit more often. They’ve become somewhat of surrogate grandparents to the entire program, offering encouragement to the young families.

Linda says she’s gained an appreciation for what the MAF missionaries are doing. Her visits have allowed her to experience God’s protection and care, His presence. “And it helps to go and visit, attend a Thursday night study or ladies’ Bible study and see that the missionaries have a support system there,” said Linda.

Lee Calhoun helps install a weather station in Tarakan, Indonesia, for testing before the MAF team installs others at interior airstrips.

Lee Calhoun helps install a weather station in Tarakan, Indonesia, for testing before the MAF team installs others at interior airstrips.

Lee has experienced firsthand some of the impact MAF flights are having, while accompanying his son-in-law. There was the passenger injured in a motorcycle accident on New Year’s Eve day, for instance; or the pastor who needed to get from Point A to B. Someone even had a request for six dozen eggs. Lee explains, “MAF is the FedEx, UPS, and the postal service all wrapped up into one. It’s the little things that show God’s working and that mean so much to so many people. Not everybody gets to ride on the airplane, but they’ll get to eat the eggs and remember the airplane brought them.”

2 Comments

  • Avatar Chelsea says:

    So inspiring as a young woman teaching in Honduras and I have the heart to continue to go where The Lord sends me and eventually my family! Leaving family can be hard for them but when they can see you are where The Lord wants you is profoundly comforting 🙂

  • Avatar Audrey Neild says:

    We are parents, we have been to Papua Indonesia twice. It was so good to go and see how hard it really is, to see their day to day life and now we can pray for them more effectively and understand the need of all support. We also never realized how hard it would be to have our kids so far away and grandkids. The Internet in the village is not real good so communication is little. We are also so thankful for MAF and Heli Mission for all they do for our kids and we now send them support at least once a year. And seeing our daughter there we know she is where the Lord wants her. Her name is Amber Lynne Claussen, with World Team, her husband is Andrew and they have 3 small children.

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