Missionary parents reminded of importance of prayer

Dan and Carolyn Hanle remember when Joe Blandeburgo called and asked to meet with them.

Joe had been dating their daughter, Elizabeth, for a while, and the Hanles thought they knew the direction of this conversation with the college student.

Little did they know, he wouldn’t just be sharing his intentions to marry their daughter one day. He wanted to be completely honest with them. Joe felt called to missions, and marrying Elizabeth would mean taking her and any potential grandkids overseas.

The couple was impressed with how upfront the young man was, and they gave their blessing. Now as they’re watching the young couple live out this calling God placed on their lives, they’re so thankful.

Shelly Blandeburgo (speaking), Al Blandeburgo, Carolyn, and Dan Hanle (right to left) fellowship with Sharon Pumpelly (left) at the Missionary Parents Retreat near Richmond, Virginia. IMB Photo

The Hanles attended the Missionary Parents Retreat near Richmond, Virginia, Oct. 21-24, alongside Al and Shelly Blandeburgo, Joe’s parents. The event was hosted by the International Mission Board.

The couples enjoyed time to fellowship, since the Hanles recently moved to California and the Blandeburgos live in Delaware. Both sets of grandparents relished moments to video chat with the grandkids as a group of four and to draw encouragement from the myriad of other missionary parents who experience many of the same things.

The recurring theme of the Missionary Parents Retreat was prayer and its power. Attendees heard from Gordon Fort, IMB’s prayer ambassador, who reminded them of the importance of praying for their children as they take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Throughout the weekend, missionary parents in attendance shared ways they participate in their children’s ministries. Prayer is one powerful way, with parents in different regions coming together to form prayer groups for missionaries. Others have lent their marketplace skills to their children to help with logistics overseas and stateside as the missionaries and their colleagues return home.

Each parent was encouraged to consider their giftings and their unique position and to get creative in supporting the mission work of their missionary children.

Speakers for the weekend also included IMB President Paul Chitwood; Woman’s Missionary Union Executive Director Sandy Wisdom-Martin; Todd Lafferty, IMB’s executive vice president; John Brady, IMB’s vice president for global engagement; and a host of other IMB leadership and personnel. The event was hosted by Sharon Pumpelly, IMB’s alumni and parents’ networks associate.

Joe and Elizabeth Blandeburgo, with their children Elena and Benjamin. The Blandeburgos have been serving in serving in the Philippines for the last six months. The couple fell in love with the ministry there through Nehemiah Teams and Advanced Operation Training, a program designed to prepare young people to accept different leadership roles and assignments within Nehemiah Teams. They helped facilitate these programs as Journeyman under Jess and Wendy Jennings. Now as career missionaries, they train Filipino Christians to be leaders of Nehemiah Teams through Advanced Operations Training. IMB Photo

Al Blandeburgo doesn’t hesitate when asked the most rewarding part of having missionaries as kids.

“Seeing them be so faithful to the Great Commission – we can’t be any more thankful than that,” Al said. “To see our kids grow up as Christians and then become missionaries, it’s a praise that we thank God for daily.”

Physical distance is the hardest part, but both the Blandeburgos and the Hanles were encouraged when they heard a more seasoned missionary parent assure them that the grandkids won’t forget who they are, even if they only see them “every foot” of growth.

Through this process, the Blandeburgos have seen their faith deepened and have learned to “rely on God’s provision, knowing whether they’re in the Philippines or in Delaware, they’re going to be watched over by God,” Al shared.

They’re also learning how to follow what God says from their children’s willingness to go, Shelly added.

The Hanles and Blandeburgos heard stories of missionary parents who haven’t been so supportive of their kids, often being confused and angry that the grandkids would be taken to another continent. They were reminded that one of the most valuable things they can do for Joe and Elizabeth is show their support at every turn, while continuing to bathe the young family in prayer.

Carolyn joked, “I guess we should have taken it a little more serious when we dedicated Elizabeth, because clearly, the Lord took it serious.”