The Power of
Papa, I Don't Want You to Go
By Steve Lytle
It was late December 2008. We lived in Antioch, Tennessee, near Nashville. Judy and I both worked at International Missions, in the home office. It was my eighth year there, after 23 years as a career missionary in Panama (1977-2000). For months, Judy and I had sensed restlessness in our spirits and felt the Lord leading us in a different direction. Finally, we concluded we should go back overseas, at least part time. The Mission Board approved our return, and we planned to leave in January.
On that day in December, our son Michael, his wife Diane, and their two children Caia, age 6, and Elliot, age 3, came to visit. As they pulled into the neighborhood, Caia saw something in the yard she’d not seen before and asked her mom what it was. It was a “For Sale” sign. Her mom explained we were selling the house because we were going back overseas soon. Caia was very quiet. When she walked inside, she came over, climbed up into my lap, and spoke these words: “Papa, I don’t want you to go.”
I could easily have lost it at that moment, as that loving face with those beautiful eyes looked up at me. But God helped me give an appropriate response. I gently explained we loved God and felt He wanted us to go back to Panama and tell people about Him, as we’d done before. We loved Him. He loved us, and we really needed to do what He wanted us to do. I reassured her we would come home from time to time and see them, and we could talk on Skype. We would stay connected. She got up and went on to play. I think she was okay.
And you know what? God was good. Sure, it was hard to leave those four grandchildren who came along while we served in the States. But Mike and Diane and the children came to Panama in 2011 to see us. (Phil and Amy and their boys came in 2010.) We talked to all of our kids via Skype on a regular basis. Due to a number of factors, we came home every year, sometimes for several months, which was wonderful for these aging grandparents.
But even if Judy and I had left and never seen them again, it was something we had to do. Obeying the Lord. Doing His will for our lives. Following His leading. This is not just for missionaries; it is for every follower of Christ. The saying based on 1 John 2:17, popular in my youth, is still true today: “Only one life, will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Many have heard of Bill Borden, heir of the Borden dairy fortune. A young man in his early 20s, he was also a devoted Christian. As a college student, already wealthy, his burden for lost and hurting people grew. He felt God’s call upon his life to be a missionary. But before that, he served the Lord faithfully during his college years at Yale. He shared the gospel with fellow students and led the students in morning prayer time. By the time he was a senior, Bill Borden saw a thousand of Yale’s 1,300 students meet in prayer groups. He also reached out to widows, orphans, drunks, and the disabled near the college, and he founded the Yale Hope Mission.
Bill Borden completed graduate work at Princeton then sailed for China. He stopped in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis and died within a month, at the age of 25, without ever reaching his field of service. Later, his family discovered the following words written in his Bible: “No reserves, no retreats, no regrets.” Borden’s life was not wasted; he did the will of God.
It is said the Moravian missionaries (among others) packed all their belongings in a casket when they prepared to cross the ocean to go to Africa, Asia, or the Americas, knowing they would never come home. When we think of all Jesus did for us, through His incarnation, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection, how could we do less than give Him our all, no matter what the cost or how great the sacrifice?
I hope our words, and even more, our examples, have shown our children and grandchildren the importance of complete surrender to do the will of God.
About the writer: Steve Lytle and his wife Judy, now retired, still passionately participate in taking the gospel where it is unknown. Learn more: www.FWBGo.com. They have also welcomed five more grandchildren into the family.