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Losing a Loved One While Overseas

While we were traveling last week I got a text message from another Paraguayan missionary sending condolences for my loss. I had no idea what that message referred to, so I told my husband I better find a place where we could check our email.

Sure enough, we had gotten several messages from family informing us that grandpa Beam had passed away and his funeral had occurred that morning.  Even though Grandpa's health was declining for a few years now, I was so sad that I was unreachable and felt such guilt that I wasn't there. These are the times when the call to serve the Lord overseas gets tough.

I knew that when I signed on to be a missionary this would be part of the package.  I count myself extremely fortunate that after almost 10 years on the field, this is the first family member I've lost. Still, I felt so helpless, so hurt. I didn't get to say goodbye.

I also missed the celebration of his life; I wanted to laugh and cry with family as they shared funny stories.  I wish I could have been there to comfort Grandma and my Dad.  I was so excited to introduce Grandpa to his great-granddaughter in May and tell him first hand of God's faithfulness to bless us with such a treasure.  I wanted to hold his hand and tell him that I love him one more time.  I wanted to thank him for giving me such a legacy of steadfastness.  My comfort is that my grandfather loved the Lord and this won't be my final farewell.  I will see him again some day.

Grandpa was quite the drinker before he knew the Lord.  One day when he was in his early thirties he was watching television and was flipping through the channels.  He came across a televised Billy Graham crusade, and listened to Billy preach.  When he gave an altar call, Grandpa got on his knees in front of the tv in his living room and turned his life over to Christ.  He was transformed.  He began taking his wife and children to church and fell in love with the Word of God.

He was a Sunday School teacher and a Gideon.  He had no greater joy than distributing Bibles to prisons and schools.  He always had a Bible on him to be prepared to hand it out to someone who needed hope.  When I worked full-time in Michigan I would come and stop by on the weekends and just walk in without knocking.  Many times I would see him in his favorite lazy boy chair reading the Bible.

He and Grandma owned a cottage and he loved going fishing with his grandkids.  I have fond memories of playing cards with him while eating popcorn.  He had a sly kind of smile and loved to tease.  In their home they had unique relics from their years living in India.  Grandpa would tell me wild stories about their adventures overseas which helped opened my eyes toward world travel.

Two of his sons began serving the Lord through international ministry and two of his granddaughters are serving overseas as missionaries. I am so blessed to have a grandfather like I did.  He lived with Parkinson's disease for 22 years and I never once heard him complain about it. 

Our last time together August, 2009.

Personally, I pray that the family understand that I love them and care even though I am far away.  I ask God to comfort Grandma in a special and peaceful way.  I pray that God give me the strength and grace to handle loss in the distance.  Finally, I thank God for such a wonderful grandfather and I hope that I can be that kind of example to the generations that follow me.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. I too lost my grandfather and wasn't able to return for his funeral, so I will be praying for you lots for His comfort and grace as you grieve from afar. Hugs!

  2. Very sorry to hear about your grandpa, Julie. I know how hard it is to lose a grandparent suddenly and be unable to attend their funeral. Thank God for your wonderful memories of a faithful man, and the promise of seeing him again!

  3. Oh, Julie. I'm so sorry. I'm glad to read the happy memories you have though, and the assurance that he's with the Lord. I can't imagine how this must feel but I'm sure it's not easy. We will be praying for you....


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