Thursday, November 13, 2014

28 Reasons--George's Post

Our family now includes, in addition to Carole and myself, 28 members—six children, six in-laws, and 16 grandchildren.   Here is a recent picture of the extended family, taken when Abby (our third daughter) and Billy Edwards were married in March of this year.   Prior to that, the last time the family gathered en masse was in July of 2009 for Catherine and Mike's wedding. 


This photo has only 26 children, in-laws and grandchildren.  At the time it was taken, Sarah and Catherine were both expecting.  Below are the two new additions. 

Here is Catherine and Mike's new baby, Henry; he is a month older than his cousin Isaiah.  Henry, with his red hair, is certainly Mike's boy.

Grandma and Grandpa Beal greet Baby Isaiah in Falls Church, Virginia, at Sarah and Tomicah's Home Shortly Before our Departure to Africa
 Over the years Carole has kept in close contact with the kids and their families and we, like most parents, take enormous delight in the lives and accomplishments of our family members.  The family, of course, has its trials as well.   Unfortunately, our family is now far flung—three families on the East Coast (New York City (actually Brooklyn), Washington, D.C. (Falls Church, Va), and Atlanta (Alpharetta)—and three families on the West Coast (two close to Palo Alto) and one in Los Angeles.  No one lives within 800 miles of Seattle, which now doesn't make any difference, since we are not there anyway.   Carole’s visits to the kids have, in and of themselves, been sufficient to keep several airways financially solvent.  Not being able to visit them during the next 18 months will be painful.   
While some of our kids may visit us in Africa, we are not counting on seeing them.  It is so expensive and time consuming to make the trip—there is no such time as a short extended weekend trips.Telephone calls, email messages and skype calls will have to serve as our family life line.  It's not ideally, but the communication options are much better today than it would have been just a few years ago.  Our daughter Catherine had to travel about two hours to an Internet café when she was living in Tanzania about ten years ago to communicate us.

There are two radically different ways to view leaving family behind.  One way is to think of us having 28 reasons not to go on a mission.  It is will be hard not to see the kids and their families--we will miss seeing our grandchildren grew up--for the next 18 months there will be no success games, cross country meets, Halloweens, family get-togethers, or summer excursions to the San Juans.  But painful as this may be, there is another face to our missionary service.  President Fox, when setting us apart as missionaries, had the wisdom to say that we had in fact 28 reasons to go on a mission.  He assured us that our families would be richly blessed by our missionary service.  We trust this will be the case.   Carole and I remember how close we felt to our three missionary children (Seth while serving in France and Switzerland, Sarah in Hong Kong, and Joel in San Francisco).  Hopefully, our children will experience some of the same spirit of comfort as we felt in the past.

We know our children understand our reasons for going on a mission and trust that our grandchildren will be able to understand them as well.  For some time, Carole and I have felt the need to expand our circle of care to go beyond the members of our immediate family.  Of course, we have had friends and acquaintances, and have tried to be helpful to them.  Carole has been especially good in extending herself, I less so.  But nonetheless, we have always known that we could do more.   When the kids were small and in need of constant attention, the struggles of raising our own family seemed to be all that we could handle, consuming our energy and time.   It was a real struggle to do much more than manage our own family, get through the work week, and try to be a good citizen, in the community and at Church.   But now our children are grown and on their own, living independently with their families, and recently, my schedule freed up with my retirement for practicing law.    

Our desire to serve also grows out of an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude.  We are mindful of our rich blessings—indeed we have lived a largely charmed life.  Many of our friends, neighbors, and work colleagues have had much harder challenges.   We have watched, with great admiration, the courage and grace they have demonstrated in bearing their burdens.  At the same time, we have wondered whether we would have found the same wells of strength to deal with problems if similarly challenged.  We do not see our blessings to be blessings to which we are entitled; instead, they are surely gifts of God, bestowed upon us, without claim of right or entitlement.   Our mission call will be an opportunity to express gratitude and to help others, some of whom have great physical needs.  We appreciate the good cheer and support we feel from our children and their families and trust they will be blessed in our absence, and will understand how hard it is for us to leave.