Why I Am Taking My Kids Back to a Third World Country

Would I do it again?

This is the question people keep asking.

Would I travel across the world with my three young children again?

Yes.

I’m not a big traveler. I have neck and back issues that make flying and driving uncomfortable, plus I’m really a big homebody and a scaredy-cat. So there’s that.  And traveling with kids is never easy.

But I will do it again.

Here’s why:

  • Traveling is temporary. As long as flights and delays may be, you eventually get somewhere. It’s a necessary evil. Sometimes it’s disastrous with vomit and poop and no change of clothes, while other times it smooth. Either way, travel is not the destination.
  • Opening their eyes. I’ve lived a sheltered life and have been narrow-minded at times. Exposing myself and now my family to the vastness of the world can only improve and expand their world view. I think it’s healthy to remove ourselves from comfort at times.
  • Kids are resilient. The things that I thought would be the hardest for them–seeing extreme poverty, going without (showering) water for three days, adjusting to a foreign culture, etc. were actually taken in stride. I learned a lot from my kids: they accept things for the way they are and are naturally compassionate.
  • Living is a risk. Many people questioned our decision to put our children at risk in a third world country. But if I trust God with my kids going to public school, riding in cars, living in America, isn’t He the same God I trust while we visit another country? I don’t hold their little lives in my hands, God does.
  • Flexibility is key. When you travel 26 hours straight, sleeping and eating on an airplane, your body and mind are pushed to limits you didn’t know existed. My hubby and I constantly reminded each other that we needed super-sized patience and flexibility with our kids.
  • A careful plan. I think it’s extremely important to have a calculated plan with contacts and people on the ground to guide your journey into another country. I don’t think we should take our kids into knowingly dangerous places. It’s vital to use wisdom when we’re considering traveling overseas.
  • Kids will be kids. At one point on our trip, our youngest was having a full-blown meltdown. We were tucked away in our room, but the entire house could hear her. We were a little embarrassed and there was some tension between my hubby and I. But then he put it in perspective, “She would be doing the same thing at home if she didn’t get her way.” He was right. We disciplined her and moved on.
  • It’s only money. It is very expensive to travel overseas as a family. There are travel vaccinations, costly flights, rentals, etc. I’ve always been very tight-fisted with money…even a hoarder, trying to save as much as I can. But then God showed me the way the rest of the world lives. It just seemed wrong that I was piling it up for me and mine, when my brothers and sisters in Christ didn’t have enough for one day. When we were leaving Kenya, one of the sweet girls in the maternity home said, “Will you all come back?” I told her how expensive it was and she said, “But you have enough faith for God to provide all of this for us, won’t he also provide for you to come again?” Yes, I believe He will.

Updated to today: We are heading back to Kenya in a week!

What do you think? Will you ever (or have you) travel overseas with your kids?

Edited repost from 2011


Comments

  1. says

    My husband and I hope to make mission trips a family affair. What better way to teach your children how to live fully for the glory of God than to bring them along to see it first-hand? :)

  2. says

    I will absolutely take my son out of the country. I was the first person in my family to leave the country (except for those who left to go to war). I want my son to see the world and know where history comes from. I want him to look up at the pyramids just like I did and be in awe. I’ve mentioned on your blog before how my best friend was born and raised in Kenya until she was 12. She and I can’t wait to bring him to Kenya to visit her family.

  3. says

    Yes! We took our two oldest on our adoption trip to China. It was a great decision. It helped us all to grow and trust the Lord, and their new brother loves them and they were a big help. I think it put him at ease to see them trust and be attached to us. They are more fun and creative than I am… :) It was expensive, though.

  4. says

    Yes, Yes, Yes! We’ve actually just moved back to the States. We lived in Nicaragua/Central America for 9 years. Our children had never lived in the States until we returned. They knew of the vastness of culture and the vastness of the fast paced life when we’d come to visit family. They were never sheltered nor damaged because of their experiences. If I had it to do all over, we’d emphatically say YES again! There are families being born every day into 3rd world countries and as you said, our God is who holds our children’s lives. I believe leaving the blessings of the States, even once, will impact a child’s life forever. I encourage anyone to go, just once, even if it’s not Africa but somewhere, to just see the reality, the way the world truly is. It will impact your heart and change your family forever.
    I pray you all have an amazing trip!!

  5. says

    Took our kids to Germany for 2.5 yrs. Met Iranian refugees, saw the results of war in Croatia while at a three day long wedding, visited slums in Morocco with kids ages 8, 9, and 11. I’d do it again in a hot minute. Life in the States has felt nearly artificial ever since, and not just for the adults.

  6. Sarah says

    I PRAY that I get to!!!! What an awesome adventure and privilege – and to think what your kids will do for the Lord when it’s part of everyday life to travel just to spread the gospel and meet needs – the seeds you are planting in them – someday you will see some AWESOME fruit!

  7. says

    Oh, i love that little African kid’s comment.

    You are RIGHT: for adults + for kids: we MUST start learning that the world is bigger than the fave grocery store on one end of town ‘all the way to’ the new apartment buildings on the other end of town, and learn that we are all equal and can share.

  8. Siebrie says

    Yes, we took our 9-month-old daughter to Mali, to meet her father’s family (it was my first time, too). She did splendidly, it was me who fell sick because of dehydration :-(

  9. says

    We went to Europe to visit my husband’s hometown when our son was three. You are absolutely right about kids being resilient. He adapted with little problem to the long travel times and the changes in our usual schedule/routine. He was a little homesick as he was among strangers who spoke a language he didn’t understand, but kids can play with other kids without having to speak the same language. We hope to go again in a year or two.

  10. Kendra says

    We live overseas so it’s kind of strange for me to think about *not* traveling with kiddos overseas. We are about to head back to the states for 6 months with our 3 and 1 year old kiddos. Travel is temporary, travel is temporary…flexibility is key, flexibility is key…if you can’t tell, I’m gearing up for the long flights :). In December we flew across the ocean – they were 2 1/2 & 10 months – the 2 year old asked about 5 hours into the 11 hour flight if we could ‘please go outside mommy.’ Always an adventure, but, eventually you’ll arrive at your destination and it won’t seem like the end of the world that your baby wouldn’t stop screaming on the plane (a.k.a. that blasted enclosed space with no place to escape…). Oy. Wish us luck!

  11. says

    Absolutely. I am traveling to Kenya in August and my girls so want to go with me. It has been a desire of mine to take them on a trip overseas since they were born and I know that when it is God’s timing it will happen. Your story and life is such and inspiration to me. Thanks for sharing.

    Megan

  12. Crystal says

    We are a military family and will probably be moving overseas next tour….will let you know how that goes! :-)

  13. says

    My 8 year old daughter and I had the opportunity to travel to Zambia to visit my sister who works at a school for orphans there. It was an AMAZING opportunity. At one point in the trip my daughter looked up at me and said, “Mom, the world is a lot bigger place than I imagined it.”

    Hoping that we can give all our kids similar opportunities as they grow. It is important!!

  14. says

    Love what you are doing!! To answer your question, YES I WOULD! I was suppose to be in Ethiopia right now with my 11 year old son but God changed our plans and now I see why :-( I am still praying and hoping that we will travel later this year. I know God is in control. Kristen, keep speaking your mind/heart, I like what is in it!

  15. Tricia says

    I have been blessed to travel internationally a couple times and can’t wait to share the experience with our children. It truly changes you to see how the rest of the world lives.

  16. says

    I would love to travel when the kids are old enough to understand and remember what’s happening. I’m sure my husband and I will have some serious discussions before it happens, since he’s not as much a traveler as I am. Traveling and seeing the world has seriously affected my view on life and understanding of God.

  17. Cheri says

    Yes, yes, and absolutely. We took our two kids (they were 19 & 17) with us on a two-week mission trip to Central America several years ago, and went again (all 4 of us) two years later. It was the best investment of time and money I can imagine.

  18. Kim B. in AZ says

    Yes we have traveled to Brazil with our kids. They were 14, 13, 12, and 6 when we went. We were in northern Brazil. We went to visit my in laws who are missionaries there. When my oldest graduated from high school he went back to live with his grandparents for 9 months. The next oldest travel on mission trip to Europe, and my middle daughter went on a missions trip to Croatia and my oldest is going to Cambodia on a mission trip. Yes it is expensive but definitely worth it.

  19. Denise says

    My 9 year old daughter and I are headed to Rwanda in just 2 1/2 weeks!! We will be there for 16 days and we are so excited to see what God has planned! He has already been working and it is so evident in so many ways, and we haven’t even left yet! This has been a dream in the back of my head for many many years but I never thought it would actually happen. My daughter on the other hand, came home from Kindergarten four years ago and stated “I am going to be a missionary and go to Africa.” She has been waiting, wanting and praying for this trip from then.

    We have a ton of things that should potentially standing in our way. The $10,000 bill that came along with the trip and everything we had to do and get to even step foot on the plane (we are a one-income family with 5 kids and make under $30,000/year…talk about a God-ordained trip!!). The fact that my daughter still has $1500 to raise ($500 by Thursday!) to even go, the looming future which includes my husband bieng unemployed come July 31 and is currently searching for a job, we have 4 boys from the ages of 4-15 and their baseball, church and work schedules that will still be going full-force even when I’m gone. Funny thing, I am totally at peace with everything so far. I know that God’s plan and timing are miraculous and I am 100% sure this is what we should be doing and where we should be going right now.

    Talk about the ultimate mother-daughter trip…Serving the Lord Jesus side by side!!

    I think that serving next to and with your children is the ultimate way to serve. We have been doing it for years here in Texas pray that this will be just the first of many away from home.

  20. says

    I am looking forward to doing the same with my family at some point in the future. Our children are yet to meet extended family back home in Nigeria and I cant wait for us all to go.

    I will wait until they reach a certain age though. My last trip to UK wasnt so great with 2 toddlers, lesson learnt! I wont be subjecting my state of mind to that now that we have 3 children all under the age of 5.

    Have fun in Kenya and I pray your trip will bear fruits.

  21. says

    I went to Zambia, Africa last summer with my then 14 year old son on a missions trip. The experience was invaluable, expensive, thrilling, terrifying, exhausting, exhilarating…. I leave this Tues., 6/19 to go back with my 13 year old son. Looking forward to what God will do in both of our hearts.

  22. Beth says

    So I’m the first “no, I don’t really want to…”? Well, I have to say I won’t be surprised if God decides to send me. :) Our 16 year old son is flying to Thailand to see his missionary grandparents in a week and a half – with two of my uncles because I truly had no desire to fly there. I would say that it now makes sense that I didn’t want to go because we are moving, but, well, your house just sold…. Makes me smile. We shall see where the next 10 years find me. I’m learning about other people’s travels so much that I can see my mind opening…..

  23. jana says

    Absolutely! We are taking our girls (3, 7, 9) to Cameroon for 3 weeks in September. They have also been to Kenya and Papua New Guinea on family mission trips. It is the best thing in the world for them (and us, too).

  24. says

    My husband and I are missionary-minded and just returned from a few months in Italy. We brought along our then 6 month-old and loved every minute of it. Sure, she’s not really old enough to remember much, but it was a great learning time for our family, and we pray to have the opportunity time and time again to bring our children with us into the mission field. Enjoy your trip and happy packing, Kristen!

  25. Debra Stanley says

    YES!!!! I LOVE AFRICA!!! I have only been once but my husband has done mission work in Tanzania for about 17 years. We were not able to go last summer and without a miracle we will not be going again this year. It’s very hard when they call begging and asking for us to come! But God knows and in His timing we are hopeful to go back. I have a 12 year old and 8 year old. They are begging to go and I would take them without any hesitation. So we are praying for a miracle and that God will provide for us to go back.
    Best of luck with your trip and travels! You are simply amazing to me!!!

  26. says

    We took our (then) 2 kids to Kenya when they were 3.5 years and 20 months old for 3 weeks. Our family and friends thought we were nuts.

    I am now in Costa Rica with our (now) 3 kids ages 10, 8, and 5 for 2 months, while my husband is at home in the US working.

    So yes I did, do and will travel overseas with my kids for all the reasons you mentioned :)

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