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Missionary Newsletters

May 1, 2021

Jim and Carol Sack’s May 2021 Newsletter

Dear Friends in Christ:

When Jim and I committed to missionary service in 1982, we did so with the assumption it would be a life-long commitment; and so it has been. Our marriage was young, our first child was 10 months old, and our life’s calling lay ahead of us. Our four parents were in their sixties, still vibrant, but even then I remember a still small voice asking, “What are we going to do when our folks become vulnerable with age?” I remember not being able to answer the question, and feeling grateful that my brother was living close by to our folks. Yet, the question remained unresolved, with a lingering twinge of something that felt akin to guilt.

Then, about twenty years down the lifeline, to my own surprise I ended up in a modality of palliative care—end-of-life ministry. At the center of this ministry is the idea of presence, what we sometimes call “with-ness” to persons who are in this very special time, the closing of their human story.

So, I could not help see the irony of leaving my own parents’ side while “lovingly caring” for God’s children on the other side of the world. A classic case, all too common in professional ministries, of “the shoemaker’s kids going barefoot.”

My Dad is now with the Lord. Mom, who just turned 104 on May 1, has said so many times, “I pray that when my time comes, you will be here to hold my hand.” Over the years I kept telling her, “I pray that, too, Mom.”

In January Mom had heart issues and was put into hospice care. Pandemic or not, I knew that THIS was the time to offer “with-ness” to my own mother- for my sake, if not for hers. So from the beginning of February I have been living with Mom in her Minneapolis seniors’ apartment. (Lo and behold this is largely doable because of the pandemic, some of my normal ministry activities having been put on hold ~~ and others possible by long-distance. What an unexpected confluence of events.)

A few weeks ago, Mom called for me. When I went in, it appeared that “This is it.” When I said I would call the nurse she said, “Oh, no need for that, I’m not afraid of dying!” Then she looked at a beloved prayer shawl she had recently received and said, “Oh, what a shame, I won’t be able to use this much longer now!” (I could not help chuckling just a little in spite of the adrenaline surge of the moment.) I called my brothers to FaceTime with them. Then, remembering Mom’s wish, I held her hand. I wanted to sing to her, wondering what to sing… and just then noticed a song book open on her bed. It was open to: “Precious Lord, TAKE MY HAND… lead me on, help me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, TAKE MY HAND, Precious Lord, lead me Home.”

Mom survived that episode. It was our practice session. But I now sing this song every night as the prayer the Lord gave for this gracious time. I’m not sure when the Lord will call Mom home, and I’m not even sure I will be here to be holding her hand. But that song has assured me that it’s OK because He, the Precious Lord, WILL be holding that hand at that time. It is enough.

We never know when our turn to leave this world and be with our Lord will come. However, we can trust in the promise that God made with us through Jesus:

 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In
my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I
have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I
am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

In Christ,

Carol (and Jim) Sack

Tokyo

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