guest post by Janel Breitenstein (This post had me saying YES. This *this* is what I want for my kids)
She was already cuddled up for the night beneath her comforter, pillows blooming around her olive skin. While I perched beside her, we spent a minute chatting about her favorite teacher.
“But Mom, he doesn’t know Jesus.” She looked down.
(Sometimes God does stuff in my kids’ hearts that only he could be creating, y’know?)
I looked back at her. “How do you know?”
“He says he doesn’t have any religion,” she shrugged.
“But I’m a kid,” she went on. “So I don’t really have a way to tell him.”
So we talked about that a bit. I knew that he truly seemed to enjoy my daughter in his class; he’d told me she was the only one who greeted him in the morning and thanked him at the end of the day. At one point I’d told him we were praying for him as a teacher, and I was pretty sure he knew she was a former missionary kid. So there was that.
But, I told her, you share Jesus with him even more than that. Through your papers, and your kindness to other kids. And what if you prayed for him regularly? I mean, who else might be praying for him? Pray he’ll have a soft heart. Pray an adult will come into his life who can talk to him about Jesus.
So together, we did.
When we arrived in Uganda, there was a visual reminder for my kids that they were missionaries. After all, everyone else was visibly, markedly different–from skin color to accent to clothing. We were there to create change in the name of Jesus.
Now that we’re back in the U.S., I admit to some feverish concern of whether or not my kids would be able to translate a life of compassion and Kingdom-focus to our lives here, where things are more comfortable. Where everyone looks like them; where they’re lulled by media and lives of so much…comfort.
Sometimes there’s success, like my conversation with my daughter. Sometimes there isn’t. (On the way home from youth group last night, I could practically hear my son’s eyeballs rolling as we talked about him showing Jesus to his peers. I softly mentioned, “What if you’re the only Jesus at all in their lives right now?” Not sure if that will go anywhere or not.)
Still, it doesn’t stop me from intentionally opening their eyes that direction. Lately, when praying over them before school (which I have spotty success in remembering to do), I thank God for sending them as missionaries to their schools. I pray–right along with them “doing their job” as students with excellence–that even more, they would love generously and well. That they’d make the most of opportunities to share Him.
I know this has roots in my own days with an overly-purple backpack strapped on. (I resonate strongly with Kristen’s rhinestone “Jesus” pin.) My dad used to send us out our farmhouse’s screen door to the bus with instructions to “Go MAD”–his code for “Make A Difference”. He was doing his best to create missional kids. And now that we’re adults, we’re missional, too, spread out on four continents until recently. (Missional peers help. Twice a week before school my senior year, a group of us met to pray for God to create opportunities to share him with our school. Wouldn’t it be cool if we prayed for friends like that for our kids?)
When I was in training with Cru back in the day, something their president mentioned stuck with me: The holes in people’s lives are often the best places for the Gospel to flow through. So I’ve talked with my kids about how to show other kids Jesus in their most painful areas: that friend’s parents’ divorce. That kid who sits alone at lunch. (You can find other ideas to help your kids share their faith–in ways less likely to weird other kids out-here.)
My daughter’s in fifth grade now. It’s her first year in public school. Still, I was mildly amazed last week as she articulated with clarity three basic social levels in her class…and the qualifications for each. I was encouraged by the ways she’d been reaching out from her “middle” level to kids securely fastened to the lower level, and even reconciling with a girl from the “top” who’d snubbed some people. She’s getting the idea, I thought. It’s so often insecurity that stops any of us, right? We get so concerned with our own social standing that we lack the confidence and purpose to think outside of ourselves. Radical obedience, radical passion for those living apart from Christ, risks losing social standing for the sake of love.
Our culture has a lot to say about successful kids. But what if we allow God to rewrite that definition of success–to include kids with an infectious love for him that can’t help but spill over into loving others?
I’d love to hear your ideas on raising kids…who are missionaries. Help us out in the comment section below!