Peter starts off his first epistle (1:1) saying, “…to those who are the elect exiles…” and again in 2:11 exhorts them as “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh…” Implicit in the command of our Savior in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” is the reality that goodbyes are going to be a regular part of ‘going’. Saying “goodbye” is the bane of missionary life.
Beth’s and my lives of goodbyes began in 1979 when we first left our families and sending churches. Next, it was saying goodbye to our young kids (1983-1999) as they climbed into small planes that took them to boarding school. Years later we left them at LAX when we flew back to Papua New Guinea. Then (2004-present day), it was Beth and I being left behind in the states as they flew off to PNG. Separations have been a large part of our lives but throughout these separations we have found great comfort in Jesus’ response to Peter’s plea about having left everything… “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29,30) The promise of future recompense wasn’t actually an encouraging truth, but the reality is that the Lord understood and ENDORSED separations for the sake of the gospel.
When Radius International was just an idea, many of us spent months hashing over the academic and non-academic curriculum. We wanted the best mix of what we felt was needed to provide an intentionally stressful, nine-month course that would equip students with skill sets, spiritual strength/tenacity, and character awareness to give them a fighting chance in the hard places they were headed to. But we didn’t anticipate many things in those early days, the largest being how attached we would get to these 21-40 year old ‘kids’. Yes, Beth and I definitely qualify, age wise, in seeing them through that lens. We must continually fight the battle to not parent them (ESPECIALLY difficult for my wife) but prepare them. We come again to a bittersweet time of year. We are bone weary, but also feeling again the loss of little pieces of our hearts going out the gates via these graduates into truly difficult lives ahead.
It is a wonderful reality that God in His grace does not show us what is ahead of any of us, especially to those who are leaving us soon. He comforted Paul in II Cor. 12:9 with the words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We, as a staff, know that in these students’ darkest hours His grace will surround these ones we have come to love and thus we can send them off with assurance that His presence will be tangible during those tough times.
I was pretty young in the faith when we first went overseas; I still had not heard many of the common Christian ‘one-liners’. But I do remember being on our first furlough and hearing some saint say this phrase, “Even if Christianity isn’t true, it’s still a great way of life.” I was STUNNED! Believing that Christ alone was the way of life and that His resurrection validated His words had cost us much! All of our family by then had lived in prehistoric conditions for years, gotten malaria many times, and endured separations from parents to name a few. To consider that Christianity is a nice way of life, even if not true, in fact, was deeply offensive. We had staked everything that the resurrected Christ was mankind’s only hope of life, and to hear that some saint had a conscious foot in both worlds was painful. By that time I knew, appreciated, and identified with Paul’s words in I Cor. 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” And, again, in vs. 19, Paul would write, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” We had staked all that Christ alone was worth living for.
As we as a staff interact with these graduates (in 3 weeks they will leave us) we are humbled yet deeply encouraged to see them also staking all on the fact that Christ was raised from the grave (Acts 2:24,32, 3:15, 4:10), has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us (Jn. 14:2), and it will be worth it all (I Cor. 2:9,10). Our students have walked away from medical, engineering, educational, finance, and many other careers. They have pushed all their ‘chips in’ that He and Heaven are real. We believe they are right and wise to do this. Yet, we will miss them greatly; they sharpen any who spend time around them.
For Beth and I to have 10 of them in our home this weekend reminded us of who we are training. They are world changers. Not perfect, no Apostle Pauls or Virgin Marys attend Radius, but a consistent flow of sharp, diligent, godly young folks who desire to bring God’s message to hard places. The staff has grown to love them much, and thus it’s a painful time of year.
If heaven is real, and I truly believe it is, then all these separations we, and many of you have endured, will receive blessed reward and pleasure in the presence of our King in the near future. Thanks to each of you who support this endeavor. In a few short weeks, 63 pioneer church planters will leave here, each with the desire to take His message and life where it has not gone before. Pray for them. Pray for us as a staff as we ‘mend’ and trust Him for the energy to open our hearts to receive 65 more in August and give our hearts to them.
Founder of Radius International
Brad and his wife Beth planted a church among the