Preparing Your Kids for Global Missions

When I crouched my head and entered her small home, I had two thoughts: 1. I have too much 2. My kids need to see this.

I watched as the young mom made charcoal bricks from mud and crumbles of coal, laying them in the sun to dry. Later she would leave her 8 year old son to watch her 1 year old baby, so she could go and sell the the roasted corn she’d made over the charcoal to passers-by walking home from work.

I’ve always loved missions. I sat rapt as an elementary girl, listening to missionaries tell stories at the annual Missions Convention our church hosted. My favorite memory: dressing up in clothes from different countries and tasting foods like baklava and curry. I remember driving home one evening telling my parents I wanted to be a missionary. My mom worried. My dad thrilled.

[I didn’t understand my mom’s reaction until I had kids of my own, now I completely get it].

As a teen I took trips with my youth group and then later with my youth pastor husband. I sort of lost my missions heart in the quest of the American Dream for a few years, finding it again when I began following the Compassion blogger trips several years ago.

I want my kids to love missions. I want them to have mental images of kids their age who live on the other side of the world. I want them to put God first, others second, themselves last.

We have spent the last year preparing our children’s hearts for global missions. And tomorrow when we leave for Africa, we prepare to expose them physically to a different culture. Even if you don’t plan to take your kids overseas immediately, you can begin to prepare them:

  1. Incorporate Window On The World into your dinner-time routine. This book is suitable for families and gives a glimpse into different cultures.
  2. Put a world map or globe in a heavy traffic area and talk about different parts of the world.
  3. Pray for different countries when you pray together as a family.
  4. Sponsor a child-hang their picture up, pray for them, write letters, make them a part of your family.
  5. Share stories from books like Voices of Martyrs and Jesus Freaks: Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus, the Ultimate Jesus Freaks. Often in an attempt to protect our kids, we shelter them too much. We can raise compassionate children by exposing them to a bit of grief in our world, while still protecting them from too much knowledge.
  6. Try different foods from different countries: my kids love Ethiopian and Mediterranean food and will “try” just about anything (still working on the 4 year old)
  7. Check out books from the library and teach them about different cultures.
  8. Pray for God to prepare your heart and your feet as you contemplate visiting another country as a family. Pray together about this, often.
  9. Be realistic: some kids (ages) do better than others. Don’t force things upon them.
  10. Explain to your kids that time and plans in other countries is much slower than our own fast-paced American culture. Talk about spiritual warfare and God’s will, protection, safety and trust (this was huge when we recently weren’t able to travel to Africa).

And lastly: Prepare your own parent heart: you might be raising a future missionary.

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    i love the last bit about preparing your own heart. several people in our church have jokingly told my parents that maybe they did “too good” of a job raising my sister and i and now they are having to pay for it by sending us overseas…

    although, i would totally argue with that. we’re just children of the King, trying to follow where He leads. :)

  2. 2

    says

    As a missionary in Peru with my 4 year old and 18 month old daughters, with a baby on the way by the end of the year, I can’t tell you how many people are shocked that we are okay with having our children living in a foreign country! Hello?! People around here raise kids all the time. There is nothing about other places in the world that makes them automatically inadvisable to take your kids. I am thrilled that my oldest daughter is learning the joy of a simpler life, being used to visiting the homes of very poor friends, not batting an eye at playing in the dirt or eating outdoors because that is the only place the table fits. The world is big and is mostly hurting and I agree wholeheartedly that our children aren’t harmed by realizing that, but can see themselves as healing agents from very young. I want my children to learn that their prayers, their hugs, their kind words make a difference every single day. Kids can’t learn that if they never see the need for it.

    One quick suggestion about helping kids understand global ideas would be to connect with the missionaries supported by your church, either as a family or through their Bible class. Learn about their life, their country, their friends, weird foods, etc. Start opening their eyes to ways that God has made people and places all across the world different in beautiful and wonderful ways.

  3. 3

    says

    I could write a whole post on that last point!!! It is a big one, especially when the world around you is intent on your child growing up and having a “career” – you know your child should be a doctor or a lawyer or something “real.” Sure they can but while they are being “real” they can really serve the Lord with all their hearts!!! We found a great way to teach our kids to have missionary hearts was to open our home to missionaries, and you may think you don’t know any firsthand, but as soon as we decided that this was “our project as a family” we have had missionaries from all over the world and every walk of life literally raining on us!!! It has been wonderful… I wrote a post on “How to Support a Missionary in Se7en Steps” (http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/01/26/sunday-snippet-how-to-support-a-missionary-in-se7en-steps) you may want to take a look… and I hope you are feeling well and your family can follow their dreams in Africa really soon.

  4. 4

    says

    We are lifting up your family in prayer as you make this journey. We continue to pray for your health… and we talk missions a lot in our household..Our heart as a family is local..As a family we have rebuilt a playroom at women’s center that houses women and children involved in domestic abuse and drug abuse. My kids see how blessed they are and in turn makes them want to give more.. We photograph less desirable areas of our town and country and bring knowledge to those areas through our work..SOmeday, our kids may go farther then our own backyard.. but right now we have people in our “backyard” and in our country starving for food, for compassion and for the salvation of Jesus Christ, and our heart longs for them.. I love how the great commision sent us to all areas, both globally and locally.. and we each find our place to serve!

  5. 5

    Emily says

    Trusting God’s wisdom as I raise up my little missionary toddler–thanks for the list.
    Many prayers for your family as your hearts are rearranged forever in this coming trip.

  6. 7

    Renee says

    I just took my 18 yr old daughter to the airport. She will be spending a month working at an orphanage in Zambia. She has been doing summer mission trips since she was 14 yrs old. While it was hard to see her go, I am humbled by her heart’s desire to reach out to people in far away lands. I can see long term missions in her future.

  7. 8

    says

    I would only add to pray for God to use your children. One of the best testimonies I have heard came from a missionary who raised her family in Brazil. Her mother had prayed from the time she was a child that God would use he as a missionary, time and time again, God closed those doors to that dream. When her daughter was born, she prayed that God would allow her to be a missionary, however, she kept this prayer between herself and God never telling her daughter. As her grown daughter packed to go to Brazil with her new husband to serve as a missionary. The mother shared her two generation prayer with her daughter. Chills ran down my arm as the retired missionary told this story. I thought of God’s design and of it needing to be His plan and not just a good plan. Blessings to you and your family as you travel to Africa!

  8. 9

    says

    Oh, Kristen. I am sooooo thrilled that you posted this. Today’s topic on my blog: mission trip or vacation? We’re taking our girls to Cambodia in December, and everything in this post resonates with my heart. I can’t wait to come back here tonight and read through all the amazing comments. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so looking forward to following you five on your journey!!

  9. 10

    says

    Kristen, I was sent here by a friend who told me, “This post was written for you.” She was so right! It’s 8am and I am sobbing at my keyboard. Sobbing, because God used you to solidify things in my heart.

    I’ll try to keep my story short…

    My hubs, Pat, has been to Haiti twice. A good year before he went the first time, we saw a video that put the nation and the people on our hearts. We knew that we’d somehow be connected with Haiti.

    Like you, we’ve been distracted by the “Canadian dream.” Climbing the ladder at work (Pat), keeping up with the other Mommies (me), and we’ve found ourselves living in one of the wealthiest counties in the entire country, trying to keep up and fit in, drowning under the weight of our poor financial decisions.

    God gave us a slap upside the head recently, and we know that we need to get ready. Because we’re going. We’re going to Haiti, as a family, for as long as He tells us to stay. But first, we have such a mess to clean up here. A financial mess, but also a mess in our hearts.

    I was focusing on the finances, trying to make a good Dave Ramsey plan to get rid of debt. But I (we) have been ignoring the spiritual mess we’ve got to clean up. We’re greedy, wealthy-saturated, self-absorbed – all 7 of us. And man have we got some spiritual preparation to do!

    We’re going to follow your family’s journey, because I have no doubt that we will learn a lot through you. And if you think of that family who’s a mess and wants to serve the Lord in Haiti, could you please pray for us?

    In Him,
    Tyler
    (& Pat, Braeden – 13, Abbey – 9, Megan – 8, Shea – 6 & Malakai – 3)

    P.S. Pat and I are going to Haiti at the end of January for two weeks, and I just know God’s got huge, terrifying, and glorious stuff to work out in my heart during that trip!

  10. 11

    says

    I am wholeheartedly with you about wanting my kids to see and experience the mission field! We took our girls to Panama two years ago and to Guatemala just last week. There is nothing like being on the field together serving the Lord.

  11. 12

    says

    Great stuff. I’m going to post this on my blog, Growing Godly Families. You might want to check it out. The book Mission As Life: Making the Kingdom of God your Family’s passion fits right in with what it is you are doing!

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