Missions: A Family Affair

Dr. Don Sisk

Joshua was a mighty warrior. He was used of God to lead the nation of Israel from the wilderness into the Promised Land. By listening to God, Joshua led Israel to capture the Promised Land. In addition to being a greatly used man of God, he was conscious of his responsibility to his family. In Joshua 24:15, he challenges the people to follow Jehovah God. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The children of Israel had been rebellious and stubborn. However, with a new leader and most of the rebellious generation that left Egypt now dead, Joshua challenges them to serve God. Joshua gave a great testimony. He said with confidence, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” He spoke not only for himself, but for his wife and his children. Evidently he had not neglected his family even though he was very busy and had many important duties.

Someone has well said, “We do not get what we want. We get what we emphasize.” Therefore, it is not unusual for missionaries to come from a family where missions is emphasized, and the same can be said of a church.

I was saved and baptized in 1949. My pastor at Nortonville Baptist Church was Pastor Jack Ratliff. He and his wife were seminary students preparing to go to Peru as missionaries. Therefore, early in my Christian life I was exposed to missions. Pastor Ratliff insisted that I go to Bible summer camp in 1950. In fact, he paid my camp fee. At that camp I met Dr. Jerome Williams, who had been a missionary in Africa for more than forty years. His teaching and personality impressed me. I won some kind of contest in his class and he gave me a copy of a book he had authored. After pastoring in Kentucky for years, God made it very plain to me that I was to go to Japan as a missionary.

From the very beginning, our mission to Japan was a family affair. My wife, Virginia, was very supportive of my decision. Our daughter, Renee, said she would love to go to Japan as a missionary after she had heard a missionary lady from Japan speak in her class at school. Tim, our son, was too young to know what was going on. No one in our extended families had ever been in full-time Christian ministry, but Virginia’s and my parents were supportive of our decision.

I do not remember Virginia or I ever saying to Renee or Tim, “We hope and pray that you will be missionaries.” Did we have that kind of aspiration for them? I think so. But we always emphasized that our desire was for them to follow the leading of the Lord, whatever that might be. We tried to refrain from statements such as, “Because we are missionaries, you have to do this” or “we can’t do that because we are missionaries.” Instead, we gave them biblical reasons why we did or refused to do certain things.

We involved our children in the ministry from the start. From our first Sunday in Japan we attended a Japanese speaking church, and our children learned to love Japanese young people. We did not force them to be involved in the ministry, but we did provide opportunities for them to serve. My son would go visiting with me, and he would do all that he could to help set up the meeting rooms. Renee became our pianist at age thirteen—she was the only one at our church who could play. My wife and Renee taught English and worked with the Sunday school teachers. My wife provided meals for guests and set a wonderful example of what a Christian wife should be. These things were never a burden, but a privilege.

It was not a surprise when Tim made a commitment as a high school student to go to Japan as a missionary. Neither was it a surprise when my son-in-law, Tom, and Renee made a decision to leave Florida and go to Japan as missionaries. When Virginia and I committed ourselves to the Lord as missionaries, it started a chain reaction. Obedience to the Lord always brings forth good results.

Nearly fifty years after our decision to go to Japan as missionaries, we can look back with great joy. I am reminded of Simon Peter’s response after being challenged by Jesus to “Thrust out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” He said, “Master we have toiled all the night and taken nothing, nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5). Peter did not understand how this was going to work, but he still obeyed because the Lord told him. The result was a great catch of fish.

When we went to Japan in 1965, we did not understand all that God was doing. We were confident that He had told us to go, and after forty-five years we can look back and see that He has given us far more than we could have ever hoped for. Just a few days ago, Virginia had the privilege of going to a Japanese ladies Bible study in Troy, Ohio, with Renee. About fifteen Japanese ladies gathered to do a craft—making a centerpiece for the table—and Renee led a Bible study from the book of Ruth. They had a meal together and fellowshipped for over an hour.

In their home, Tom and Renee regularly minister to Japanese people. She has three other Japanese Bible study groups that meet regularly in other areas in Southern Ohio. They served for fourteen years as resident missionaries in Japan where they established a church that was greatly used of God.

My son Tim and his wife served in Japan for twelve years where they established a church.Afterwards, God moved them to Bolivia. There they not only started the Bible college, but also helped establish two churches. Tim is now pastoring a church and serves as the chairman of the missions department at a Bible college.

Missions is a family affair. You never know what God might do when you are obedient to His leading. I often think what I would have missed had I refused to follow the calling of God to go to Japan. I shall be eternally thankful to a wonderful wife and two great children who have made missions such a wonderful experience.

A Son’s Reasons to Return to the Field

Dr. Sisk’s son, Tim, was once asked why he went back to Japan as a missionary. Here are five reasons why he returned:

1. My parents made the field our home. This made Japan a place I liked living in and a place I wanted to return to.

2. They never pushed missions on us. They created an atmosphere of positiveness that made missions a bright possibility for us in our lives.

3. They never complained. I never remember hearing them grumble about circumstances on the mission field or at home.

4. They had a genuine burden. The sincerity of their burden encouraged me to share that burden and love for the Japanese people.

5. They took time out for us. With all that was going on, our parents still had time to be with us.