Saying goodbye is never easy
Published: February 21, 2018
Read more articles like this in the spring 2018 issue of Advance magazine. 

By Rachel Whitman, who serves in Italy with her husband, Fred

During October and November 2017, I had the privilege of being with my dear mother for almost a month. What a joy each morning to listen to her prayer of thanksgiving and supplication for each of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren! At 93 she had remained faithful to her Savior and desired for her family to love and serve Him with their lives. I left Mom knowing she was probably heading to heaven soon, where she would join my dad, but I thanked God for the joy of having this time with her. God took her home December 26, 2017.

How can you describe what it meant to have a Mom and Dad who constantly encouraged us to obey God's call to minister in Italy and who lovingly opened their home to a family of six for our yearlong furloughs?

Sacrifice with gladness

In 1970 God led Fred and me to commit our lives to missions. When we were married in June of 1971, our parents knew we would live our lives far from them, but they never doubted our call. In fact, they would have never encouraged us to give up on serving God where He called us.

Our trip to our new home in Italy began on January 1, 1973, and those first months were super hard. I was a young country girl who had never been far from home and family. Every week, Mother wrote us and kept us up on life at home, and once a year we talked by phone. These were the years before Skype, cell phones, Facebook, or Facetime. 

A home across the ocean

In 1975, after finishing our final language school exams, we headed to the States for a six-month furlough and the arrival of our firstborn, Jonathan. Mom and Dad invited us to live with them for those months. Their home was always open to us, and we knew we could come back there any time, but they did not encourage us to quit and move close to home.

We based out of Mom and Dad’s home on at least six furloughs, and they never complained about giving up their entire upstairs to a family of six or having to eat Italian for an entire year. Often, they kept the children on weekends while Fred and I were out speaking in our supporting churches. We knew we could count on their help.

My parents, Mom and Dad Richmond, as well as Fred’s, Pastor and Mrs. Whitman, have gone to glory, and we have lost our strongest prayer support.  May God fill in the void to help hold the line as Fred and I continue to serve God in the land He called us to so many years ago.

To Grandma and Grandpa

(Written when Fred and Rachel’s son Jonathan was in college. Jonathan and his wife, Melodee, along with the Whitmans’ son-in-law and daughter, Daniel and Elizabeth Ransom, now serve with BMM in Italy.)

Before I was born,

your love welcomed me.

Before I could walk,

you were ready to spoil me.

Before I could say your name,

you had soothed me with loving words.

Before I could miss you,

you had let me go far away;

Though the tears of your eyes,

made for difficult goodbyes.

Through years of loving me,

you have taught me to love God.

Through years of sacrifices,

you have taught me to love others.

The bond that we share,

is not just features and hair.

It’s our love for one another

That keeps us close anywhere.


Photos: (Left) Rachel and her mother, Ruth Richmond;  Jonathan and Grandma Richmond