Can I be a missionary if my family member is sick?

You have a family member who is sick. It’s a chronic illness, but you feel called to be a missionary overseas.

Such a calling is a blessing, but it raises a problem.

chronic illness, watching and overseas mission #caregiver #struggle #chronicillness #writer #hope #chronic #faith #watching #prayer

I’ve been gone a while, and in the next few months I would love to do a few blog posts on what my life looks like after my mum’s diagnosis, and what God’s teaching me. For now though:

Is it right to leave your chronically ill family member behind?

Or are you bound to your home country to serve them as long as they live?

These are hard questions.  There are 4 areas we need to examine before we can make a decision:

1. Examine your ‘calling’ to be a missionary

Why do you want to go? It’s easy to be filled with a desire and hide behind the phrase ‘God is calling me’ – but are you sure He is?


Do you want to go overseas because it sounds more exciting than caring for your Loved One? Perhaps it seems like an escape or even a retreat!


Or do you see it as a chance to do something ‘great’ with your life,  something that for once is about you, rather than your Loved One?


Or do you want to go overseas because you feel a sense of obligation? Do you subconsciously believe that this will ‘fix’ your relationship with God, ‘secure’ your holiness or remove a sense of guilt?


Perhaps you’ve recently read an inspiring book, been to a camp or heard a talk where the speaker seemed to be preaching directly to you.

Is it possible your desire to go overseas is simply an emotional reaction to what you heard? There’s nothing wrong with emotions… but often it’s worth ‘waiting them out’ to see if they are there to stay.

A fresh start?

Or are you simply getting ‘itchy feet’ in your job, your church, your relationships or your spiritual life? Are you searching for the ‘next thing’ or for ‘greener pastures’?

If that’s the case, maybe it’s worth sticking around for the long haul, even if that’s just a few more years.

None of these are good reasons for overseas mission. If you’re not sure what are, turn to God, to other Christians, to your Bible and to prayer.

2. Examine your time-frame for mission

Do you need to go overseas now? Is the urgency of your desire coming from God or from somewhere else?

In the Bible God works out his plans over impossible stretches of time. We humans, on the other hand, tend to be a bit more impatient.

If your calling is genuine, you need to consider whether God is asking you to go immediately or later. It’s important to remember:

Just because you say ‘no’ now, doesn’t mean it’s ‘no’ forever – we don’t need to be over-hasty to slam doors.

Your Loved One’s health may not get better – but in the future they may be in a more stable place, and you will feel be free to go. Or perhaps the time for mission begins when the time of caring for your ageing parents is over.

am i called to be a missionary? chronic illness overseas mission _ #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #emotions #faith #God #Hope

3. Examine your duty to your sick family member

First things first: you are called as a Christian to love, and it is important to recognise that this starts at home.

Jesus is vocal about this in the gospels, and He himself cares for His mother as He died for the world.

Let us not belittle ‘domestic’ love. It would be a sin to serve people overseas yet neglect your Loved One at home.

You have a responsibility to love others – and that extends in all directions – but it starts right where you are in this moment.

4. Examine the response of your chronically ill family member

If you have a chronically ill family member, any decision you make will necessarily affect them in some capacity. So you need to talk to them!

Sensitivity is important, but so is truth. I think it’s only polite that we explain our desires, hopes and our plans for the future.

What is their opinion on your calling?

A word of warning: caring is not an excuse

Not all of us are passionate about missions (although we should be!) and not all of us feel called to go overseas (and that’s okay).

Still, it can be tempting to use our responsibility as Watchers to avoid our responsibility to the nations.

Being a missionary can be dangerous, humbling and generally inconvenient.

If you have a sick family member you have the perfect excuse to avoid these discomforts!

Yet that doesn’t change Jesus’ command to ‘bring the gospel to all nations’.

As with every other Christian we are called to consider mission, to love the people of the world, and to leave the ‘door’ to missions open.

Who knows when God will call us to walk through it? You might be twenty or you might be heading into retirement.

So, can you be a missionary if your family member is sick?

That’s a decision between you and Jesus.

However, don’t forget that ‘going’ is only one option. We are all commanded to love the nations, but are not all commanded to leave our own.

Sometimes, loving looks like praying and giving financial support, tying our hearts with overseas communities and walking alongside missionaries.

Sometimes it may mean mean considering regular short term missions.

These are not lesser tasks, my friends! They are just as urgent and sometimes require just as much commitment.

Remember: you are not saved by being a missionary. You are saved by God’s grace.

What a relief!

Thank you Lord that you are capable of saving the nations, and that you choose to do that through people. Help us to lay our plans and dreams and ‘callings’ at your feet. Use them to glorify your name.


// Have you ever felt ‘called’ to overseas mission? Did you go? Why/why not?

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

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