Why I Will Not Say “I Never Made a Sacrifice”

Hudson Taylor said it, David Livingstone said it. “I never made a sacrifice.” A life spent as a foreigner, away from traditional comforts, away from family and home country, a life of talking about Jesus, in these men’s opinions was no sacrifice.

While I understand the sentiment and the faith-filled valor behind it, I respectfully disagree. What these men did with their lives in China and on the African continent is the very definition of sacrifice.

A sacrifice is a giving up of something loved, something precious in order to gain something better.

I heard a young woman working in Uganda say that her life doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. In the next sentence she talked about hardships and how some days she doesn’t know how she will get through the day. That is sacrifice. I’m not sure what people expect a sacrifice to feel like but I think it feels hard sometimes. I think it feels like not being sure you will get through the day.

Every step of obedience, every life choice, every risk taken, whether it is getting married or not, having children or not, living overseas or not…brings with it a gain and a loss. Negating the reality of the sacrifice cheapens the reward, the sense of joy, fulfillment, purpose, the God-honoring obedience.

One of the problems with saying ‘it is no sacrifice’ is that it leads people to put international workers on pedestals. Have you ever had someone say something like:

“You are so holy because you don’t care when your hair falls out from the brackish water and searing heat.”

“You are so much more spiritual because you don’t struggle when you aren’t able to attend your grandfather’s funeral.”

“I could never do what you are doing because I couldn’t send my kids to boarding school.”

No and NO! We are not all so different, we simply live in different time zones. I cry when I see handfuls of hair in the drain and when I watched my grandfather’s funeral three months later on a DVD and I weep with a physical pain in my chest over the miles between here and my kids at school. I am not more holy or spiritual or stronger than anyone, I feel the sacrifice.

And feeling the sacrifice makes the privilege, the reward, so deeply precious, so treasured, so urgently prayed for.

Livingstone said (emphasis mine),

It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”

Not a sacrifice, but rather a privilege.

Can this life not be both? Are sacrifice and privilege juxtaposed against one another or could they perhaps go hand in hand? It is a privilege to sacrifice.

Living with hair in the drain instead of my head, away from loved ones during a crisis and on everyday days, international borders between me and my kids, living like this is a sacrifice. It hurts, it tears, it might leave you weeping on the couch some nights, snortling into your husband’s shoulder. But it is not in vain. It is not without joy. It is not without faith. Feel the pain and the joy of it and then render everything sacrificed as rubbish and count the privilege as gain.

I will not say that I have never made a sacrifice.

I will say that I have never made a sacrifice in vain. I have never made a sacrifice that didn’t bring with it a deep, residing joy. I have never made a sacrifice without faith that there is a reward coming which will, like Livingston said, far outweigh these present sufferings.

With my eyes steady on the prize, I sacrifice. Never in vain, (almost) never without joy. Always with faith.

In what ways do you feel the sacrifice? Experience the privilege?

                                                                                                                       -Rachel Pieh Jones, development worker, Djibouti

                         Blog: Djibouti Jones, Twitter: @RachelPiehJones, Facebook: Rachel Pieh Jones

When Your Missionary Teen Struggles

Today’s guest post comes from missionary mom Colleen Mitchell. Here, Colleen talks honestly about the struggle of watching a teenager battle isolation overseas.

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I have often written about how one of my greatest struggles in living life as a missionary is a battle with loneliness. After nearly a year in our current mission, I find that some hard growing up over the last couple of years has helped me to accept the burden of loneliness that comes with this life. But I’m facing a new struggle this time around, one that pains my heart worse than my own loneliness ever did. It is watching my teenage son adjust to the reality of life in this place, battle the unavoidable loneliness it brings.

In our past mission posts, I was always a mom to little guys, little enough that being with their mom and dad was all they needed to be content. This time around, we headed into the field with a much different dynamic. Our five boys are now fourteen, eleven, nine, seven and five. The middle two boys tend to pair into a nice friendship (when they’re not trying to kill each other) and the two youngest boys form such an adventurous little pair that we’ve affectionately labeled them our little hobbits.

My oldest is the one who is left without a built-in companion among his brothers. He also happens to be my most reserved kid when it comes to meeting new people and trying new things. Not so much an introvert, but a thinker and a reader who is a little slow to jump in.

This child has spent most of his life surrounded by a large and exuberantly loving extended family, a lively faith community and lots of like-minded families. Friends were built in to his life without much effort required. As he headed toward his teen years, we encouraged his participation in activities that allowed him to initiate new friendships and relate to a variety of people.

And just when he’d hit a social groove that I firmly believe would have carried him through his teen years with rewarding friendships, we made the decision to head back into the mission field. And I sometimes struggle with the cost this young man has had to pay. 

Making friends in a different culture is more than challenging. It seems impossible at times. And the majority of his life-long friends at home have gone on with lives that now seem exactly as they are, a world away.

I try to remember that fourteen was probably going to be hard and fraught with social issues wherever he found himself. I try to remember that there is much good to be learned in a slow, intentional and somewhat lonely life. But, this Mama Bear wants all to be well for her cubs. And watching this man-cub’s transition has been hard.

I find my heart constantly crying out for him, begging God to give him a friend at his side. I remind myself that if this life was God’s calling for our family, then it is God’s calling for this child as well, part of God’s plan for his life. And I cling to the notion that His plan is undoubtedly for this young man’s welfare and not for his woe.

He is noble and strong in this walk. He is learning. He is growing. Now for my mother’s heart to find the courage to let her son be the man he is meant to be.

Maybe that is the real challenge here.

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Do you have teens living abroad with you? How have you helped them make the adjustment to life in a foreign culture? What are some ways to help them find friendships? 

Colleen Mitchell is a wife, mother to five sons walking this side of heaven and one already home, and foreign missionary serving in the Chirripo mountains of Costa Rica. She has heeded her mother’s command to use her words when she needs to express something and blogs her missionary heart at Blessed Are The Feet.  She is actively engaged in the work of her family’s non-profit foundation St.Bryce Missions (www.saintbryce.org) and in founding the Mercy Covers initiative, a micro-enterprise cooperative for women reaching out to orphans and trafficking victims through its work.

On Finding Community

I had hardly been in Kenya a month when friends came to volunteer at the children’s home where I was working. They hand-carried a care package from a lady at our home church: Some notes from her Sunday school class. Some Christmas treats. And a little green guy: an M&M character whom we promptly named Kiptoo [kip-‘toe], the Kalenjin name for a boy born at a time when visitors are at your home.

It was 2005, and the cross-Atlantic trip from the US to Kenya was officially Kiptoo’s first as a stowaway. Since then, Kiptoo has listened to the songs of the Dinka in Sudan, slipped around on muddy trails in the D.R. Congo, and marveled at sunsets in South Africa. He has also walked on the Great Wall of China, cringed at critters in a market in Hong Kong, and sunbathed in St. Thomas.

Fear not: Kiptoo is not Wilson. We’re not planning on building a raft anytime soon, and I definitely don’t talk to him. Despite ascribing responses to various experiences to Kiptoo, he is very much simply a 2-inch-tall plastic container.

So why bother lugging the little stowaway around the world in my camera bag? Kiptoo really is a means to an end. He’s a fun way to share with friends the places I go, the food I try (or won’t try), the things that I see. He’s a way to connect my friends to my world without seeming narcissistic. And he’s plain fun.

‘Cause when you’re single and get to travel a lot for work, traveling isn’t always exciting. Long layovers at airports, well, they’re long, regardless of how many books you carry with you. And thus, you create fun Facebook updates and blog posts. And when you see something breathtaking and you’d really like to take a photo but it would be fun to have a person in the picture, too, Kiptoo is usually keen to crawl out from under the passport pouch and pose. Or when you’re moving to yet another new country where you know no-one, it’s fun to say, “Kiptoo and I are exploring today. We’ve discovered this road up the mountain from where you can see the entire city…”

If I lugged my little M&M all around town with me, though, and if, after a few months in my new city he was all I had to show in terms of someone with whom to explore, well, it would be fair to say that I’m on a downhill slope. Someone throw me a lifeline, quickly!

Dare I ask, What if Kiptoo was like some of our other tools for survival? Would being content with Kiptoo’s company be anything like settling for virtual community rather than going through the hard work of nurturing new friendships? Maybe not. At least friends on Facebook talk back, right? And a good Skype call with a friend back home can be the best medicine to a weary soul any day—but especially when you’re new to a new to an area.

Virtual community should never take the place of real friends, though. It doesn’t matter how many readers subscribe to your blog, how many friends you have on Facebook, or how many followers you have on Twitter: None of that compares to real friendship, to walking off with a smile in your heart (and on your face) after connecting with a new friend and seeing new relationships bud. As my (real-life, long-term) friend Idelette from shelovesmagazine recently pointed out:

“There are some nights when you simply put away the phone [I’d add laptop and iPad, too] and you savor the now of conversation and the gift of Presence.”

I learned that the hard way. Years ago in Kenya, I went through one of the hardest seasons in my life and I discovered what donning the heavy boots of depression felt like. The main reason was that I did not have close friends around me. I was surrounded by dear Kenyan colleagues who were kind to the core, by 100 orphans whom I loved dearly and who gave the tightest hugs imaginable. I even had regular calls with friends back home. But there was no-one right there with me who would ask me tough questions, no-one with whom I process “stuff,” whether important or insignificant.

Some dive buddies from work and I in Boracay, Philippines

Around that time, I explained my state of mind to supporters, equating the experience to scuba diving. As a diver, you are required to have a dive buddy. Your dive buddy checks that your gear is in order, and keeps an eye on your under water. As I’ve become a more experienced diver, I have found that the most enjoyable dives are with buddies that also marvel at the little things, like watching how an anemone moves when you swim by, or how a goby stands guard at the entrance to its burrow, disappearing abruptly, leaving you wondering if you had imagined seeing it. In my world, a good buddy is someone who enjoys the dive as much as I do, all while keeping an eye out for my safety.

On a recent dive in the Philippines, two colleagues and I teamed up as buddies, and having two buddies, not just one, was an even better experience. One of them was always close enough to share a discovery, or close enough for me to share in the joy of what they had just seen.

Life overseas is very much the same way. Though one friend is great, community, by its very nature, is plural. Just one friend cannot meet all your needs. In fact, I have seen (and experienced) how unhealthy that is.

But I’ve also experienced how hard it can be to forge life-giving community when you live in remote parts of the world. There’s no denying that.

To withdraw into a world with only virtual community, though, can be a slippery slope. While I pray that what we have here grows into a place where you can come back and learn from others, where you can meet people who are in a similar situation as yours, people who can pray with you and challenge you to think differently about your circumstances, in the end, this community is just a means to an end. It’s a tool to help you connect with your own real-life community, right where you are. 

It’s true that Intentional Community = Greater Joy. And the joy and the benefits of community are things that must be actively pursued.

“Joy is not something you find when the circumstances change. It’s something that changes the circumstances,” says Erwin McManus.

So, I’d like to challenge you:

  • What can you do to connect to community right where you are?
  • What can you do to bless someone else today? Might it be time to turn off your phone, close your laptop, and be intentional about connecting to people around you?
  • What can you do this week that’s simply fun and would make you smile from the depths of your soul?

Wherever you find yourself today, may God fill you with joy. And may that joy open up doors to rich soil of community, to a place where you can thrive and live in such a way that others will find Hope through you, so your work and ministry is more than a means to an end, but Christ in you would become both the means and the end.

Adele Booysen – Currently oversees the leadership development program with Compassion International in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Happily single, Adele appreciates the company of wonderful friends around the world, while she practices her Thai cooking and taekwondo. You can read more about her adventures at www.adelebooysen.com.

Are you Succeeding As a Missionary?

Missionary success is difficult to measure. People are our job, so what is the measuring stick of success?

Salvations?
Newsletter Headline Inspiring Events?
Good Conversations?

While it is nice (and often true) to say if one person believes,  it is worth it;  will the missions committee or our financial backers agree?

We define success in missions through three main components:

1. Faithfulness

Of all the long-term workers I respect, this is the common trait which makes people my missionary heroes. Miracles and massive numbers are cause for rejoicing, but nothing make me want to emulate someone like faithfulness. Hearing stories of the sacrifices people make or the way they engage with the culture, inspires my heart.

I recently spoke to an international leader in my mission who was still riding buses to his various training appointments in Africa. This man has the respect of a continent because he is willing to pay the price to live as they do.

When we moved to Africa, we set out for as long as was necessary to see something established which would outlast us. This goal cannot be measured by numbers or statistics. We will only be able to declare “Mission Accomplished” through being faithful.

Point to ponder: Are we simply being faithful to what God has called us to?

2. Obedience

Faithfulness cannot be our only measuring stick or ministry becomes our god. To truly be submitted to the right thing, we must include obedience as a measure.

  • Obedience causes us to adjust for different seasons in our lives. Seasons may involve pulling back in your children’s younger years.
  • Obedience may call you to walk away from a success with no plan as to the future, much like Abraham.
  • Obedience tells you when it is time to move on, passing off leadership at the right time.

Merely focussing on faithfulness brings a sense of endurance and no retreat. This can easily turn into self-guided ambition. Obedience enhances a desire to never give up, shaping it with wisdom from above.

Point to ponder: More than success, financial provision, or even happiness; are we being obedient?

Some rights reserved by Maxfear ® via Flckr CC

3. Sphere

Imagine if I could gain an agreement for a large donor to support us provided I engage in the creative arts? I would be way outside of my sphere. (folks who know me around the world are laughing at this thought.)

I am not called to dance or art, I am a teacher. My life message is the grace of God. If I am not engaging in this sphere, I am failing as a person and thereby a missionary.

When my family moved to South Africa, we had a desire to work on a smaller missions campus. God brought massive growth, so we needed to adjust our expectations. He was calling more workers into the field. Who were we to argue over personal preferences?

The same is true if God has called and gifted some to work in small groups. This is their definition of success, rather than large crusade-like numbers. They’re effectiveness, and resulting measure of success, comes through many one-on-one relationships.

Point to ponder: Are we doing the ministry God has gifted us uniquely to do regardless of what brings in the finances?

If we have peace in answering these three question several things are accomplished:

  • It takes away guilt when we are called to an “easier” or even a beautiful, scenic field.
  • It relieves the pressure of performance carried with the stereotype of being a missionary.
  • It allows us to enjoy the “ordinariness” of missionary life as much as the “miracles.”
  • It helps us be real people, sharing not only the joys of life, but also the struggles and frustrations.

Missionaries are real people.

We define success by faithfulness and obedience in the sphere of our gifting, not numbers or newsletters.

How do you define success? What elements would you add to this discussion?

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog:  NoSuperHeroes  Twitter: @lautsbaugh  Facebook:  NoSuperHeroes

When my child is sick: Missing the promise and illusion of safety

On Friday my fifteen-month old baby, Dominic, started running a fever for the first time in his life. We live in Northern Laos. The hospital beds here are full of dengue fever patients at the moment, and fevers of any kind aren’t to be taken lightly.

I did what any worried mama living out of reach of good medical care does nowadays … I googled. And after 24 hours of fever and fussiness, my husband and I put Dominic in his stroller and set out for the doctor who runs an after-hours clinic out of her house down at the end of the little dirt lane we live on.

Going to the doctor here is a little different than going to a doctor at home. There is no such thing as an appointment. The clinic opens when the doctor comes home from her work at the hospital at about 5:30pm, and she sees patients on a first come first served basis.

When you arrive at the clinic you take off your shoes and pick up a number outside the door. Then you wait your turn on a bench in the front of the room while Dr Payang sees people in the back of the room where she has set up a desk, a chair and a camp bed. Only a large dresser that acts as a partial screen separates the waiting room and the consultation area.

We waited our turn with half a dozen other families, and exhaled in relief when the tired doctor peered into Dominic’s mouth with a small flashlight and then showed us the source of all that heat – a throat infection. She handed over some antibiotics, wrote down the dosage instructions on a sheet of paper to make sure that we had the details right, and we headed home.

Living outside the reach of carpeted, colorful pediatricians’ offices is possibly my least favorite aspect of our life in Laos. I miss ambulances with their purposeful sirens and English speaking paramedics. I miss emergency hotlines. I miss gleaming hospitals with their bright lights and shiny instruments and reliable X-ray machines. I look at my baby when he’s running a fever and I really miss the promise and illusion of safety that all provides.

I say promise because, let’s face it, medically-speaking, Dominic would be safer if we were living in the more developed world. Malaria, dengue fever, and the tropical parasites that thrive in our garden here don’t even exist in most of Australia. And some of the more globally equitable childhood maladies, like meningitis, you really want to catch and address fast. As we learned the hard way when Dominic broke his femur at five months of age, you can’t address things fast when you live in a small town in Northern Laos.

But I say illusion because living right next door to the best hospital in the world can’t guarantee you safety or grant you total control. It just can’t. No matter how much we might want to shield our children from catastrophic injury or illness, we never erase those risks entirely. In fact, Dominic would be more at risk of experiencing something like a car accident in that situation. We don’t own a car here in Laos, so he rarely rides in one. The same could not be said if we were still living in our previous home, Los Angeles.

So the questions that I must continually confront are these: How do we calculate risk? How much risk are we willing to tolerate, and to what end? What do I do about fear? We are living in Laos because my husband is doing work we both believe makes an important, tangible difference in the lives of people poorer and much more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life than we are. Is that a good enough reason to have my baby risk dengue fever? On average, the answer to that question so far has been yes. On average.

Now, three days after starting antibiotics, Dominic’s fever is gone. He had seemed to be much improved, but two hours after going to bed last night we woke to the sounds of retching and screaming. It heralded the start of Dominic’s first all-night vomiting marathon. This morning has brought more vomiting for him and more questions for me.

So now I’m off to consult google again, this time about oral rehydration. If only I could search out answers to all of my questions so easily.

Do you feel any tension over how your choices impact your children?
How do you resolve that tension?

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Lisa McKayauthor, psychologist, sojourner in Laos

Blog: www.lisamckaywriting.com      Books: Love At The Speed Of Email and My Hands Came Away Red

5 Mistakes I Made My First Year on the Mission Field

Just last year, I was a culture-shocked newbie stumbling through my first months living overseas.  And we came as independents {we still are}, brought three small children with us, and probably arrived before we had technically raised enough money to sustainably stay. You could say we’ve done a lot wrong in regards to our transition into full-time missions.

But you could say we’ve gotten a lot wrong about a lot of things.

Regardless, here are a few pieces of advice I wish I had been given {and then been humble enough to listen to} during our first year overseas:

1. Learn the Language, First and Only. When we got here in April of 2010, we hit the ground in a full-out sprint. We gave ourselves very little time to adjust or get culturally-acclimated. Instead, we dove into ministry in a panicked frenzy. And while much may have been accomplished at the girls home we worked for, our long-term ministry and effectiveness have suffered because it has taken us so. much. longer to learn to communicate.  We’ve had individual tutors, we’ve done 6-week long classes for tourists, we’ve promised {and then re-promised} to do Rosetta Stone daily, we’ve made flashcards and more flashcards. And we still only have a workably-mild grasp of the language. I assumed we would be fluent by now, honestly, and it frustrates me that I still have to pre-plan my Thai phone calls.

Learning the language while you are in the thick of ministry is like trying to get your Masters when you have small children and a full-time job. You can still do it, but it is much harder and much slower and much more frustrating. Trust me, the three months or six months {or more?} you devote to simply learning the language and adjusting to your new culture will pay off dividends in your long-term effectiveness. 

2. Sandwich Vacation. I wish our family would have taken a vacation between when we left the States and when we showed up in Asia. The stress and emotional weight of the goodbyes at the airport are brutal, for you and for the kids. And the stress and emotional weight of diving in to your new culture are equally as brutal. I wish we would have given ourselves a breather between the two— a few days at some nice hotel or some beach somewhere to process the leaving, to rest from the moving process, to collect ourselves.  I think for the kids that would have made the “adventure” of moving overseas more enjoyable, right from the start. {I think it would probably be an equally great idea as a family transitions from living overseas back to home, too, for the same reasons.}

3. Do Not Dive In. Really, Stay on the Dock for a While. The tendency for go-getters is to go-get-some-ministry-on — especially if your term overseas is two years or less. Your plane lands, and the Great Clock of your missionary life seems to start its countdown.  And so you give yourself a week to get settled, and then you attack whatever ministry it was you came to do. I get this tendency. I’ve lived this tendency. However, I wish I wouldn’t have. Because it takes more time than you think to find housing and food and the closest place to buy lightbulbs. It takes time to begin to learn the culture, to figure out your role in ministry, and to look realistically at the effectiveness of your/your organization’s work. People that jump in too quickly tend to either A) Burn Out or B) Make a Mess of Things. It’s better to avoid both of those, I am thinking.

4. Beware of Going Solo. We did not come with a missions organization. We did not come with a team. We lived out in a rural area, where we didn’t know the language, at all. {Because, obviously, I hadn’t listened to the advice of other missionaries to learn it first.} The kids didn’t have a school to make friends at, and on so many levels we felt very alone. And while I’m not a big fan of some of the hoops missionaries have to jump through because of missions organizations and while I understand the risk of your team “not working out,” I do know that community is essentialAnywhere. 

5. Expect Disappointment. From yourself. From your marriage. From the ministry you came to serve. From the culture. From your finances. From the nationals and other missionaries. From your walk with God. From your kids. And while I am typically a sunshine-daily optimist, I know I would have done better during our first year if I had lower expectations. When you are gearing up to go, you can feel a bit like you are attending a perpetual pep-rally of sorts. And in some ways, you need this inspiration to just get on that plane.

However, when you expect to walk into your new very-foreign land with the guts of Hudson Taylor, making converts like Billy Graham, while toting kids around as well-behaved as the Duggars, well, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Grace, grace, and more grace. I guess that’s advice that translates anywhere.

* Adapted from original post on LauraParkerBlog, 2011

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All right, let’s play a game. Pretend you have the ear of a new missionary, heading to the field. Assuming they want advice, what would you tell them to do or not do? Is my advice off?

– Laura Parker, freelance writer and former missionary in SE Asia 

 

Bloom Where You’re Planted and All That

I’ll be honest, this missions gig hasn’t gone like I thought it would. 

When I was a teenager, I devoured books on Amy Carmichael, determined to live in some hut rescuing orphans. I wanted to “accomplish great things for God,” and I assumed that meant a dramatic adventure, namely, taking a plane somewhere.

When I had kids and my husband began feeling the pull towards a life overseas, the dream began to morph.  Now, I’d just be Amy Carmichael with Kids, my children walking amongst the impoverished, learning a sacrificial love, developing a sold-out faith on foreign soil {while at the same time maintaining a sense of national home, cultural-relevance in America, minimal transition-issues, and general up-to-date fashion sense}.

I thought before we began this journey that it would be easy to find our niche of ministry– we are working for free, after all. I assumed we would do what we came to do, and when that shifted, I assumed it’d be simple to find the gaping hole of need that we had been divinely equipped to fill. That the Story of our purpose here and role would make sense, sooner, rather thanlater. 

But, two and a half years in, and I am continuing to find that Amy Carmichael I am not, that missions can be brutal on a family, and that fog is no respecter of the Jesus-disciple. 

And I was reading just the other day in this book I happen to love, and the words caught my breath, as is often the case when I have the guts and discipline to really ask the Living Word to speak.  And it said simply this:

And now, these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 corinthians 13

And I’ve read that a million times, but this week, it’s struck a new chord. Because, this, this is what I so desperately need– faith, hope, love– qualities not dependent on my circumstances, missed expectations, or personal doubts.

Faith. That God is in the smack-dab-middle of writing a good Story — for me, for us, for them.

Hope. That beautiful things can rise from ashes. That the next bend could bring what we’ve been waiting for all along.

and LoveFrom God, for God, and for all his kids around me. The extravagant, never-stopping, everybody-included kind.

And I don’t know where you find yourself this weekend, what circumstance or fog or barrier weighs heavy on your soul. Maybe it’s a job you hate or money that can’t stretch far enough. Perhaps it’s a child you don’t have yet or one who’s drifted far, on purpose. Maybe it’s the  drag of the mundane or the failure of the adventure. But whatever it is, whatever circumstance threatens to speak doubt or anger or depression, my prayer for you, for me, is that these three will keep on remaining,

faith. hope. and love.

Played out in a million, daily, gritty, far-from-dramatic choices

The kinds of choices Amy Carmichael probably made, but that never made her books.

 – from the archives of LauraParkerBlog, 2012
Laura Parker, former missionary to SE Asia.

Avoiding the Missionary Kid Syndrome

We’ve all heard horror stories of P.K.’s (Pastors Kids), M.K.’s (Missionary Kids), and W.K.’s (Whatever other ministry oriented kid turned out bad).

While my wife and I have a long way to go to declare success, here are some things we have been practicing to keep missions appealing.

1. Priorities
I can hear all the above mentioned K’s shouting “Amen”. Most families with the dreaded K syndrome, are linked to more time, energy, and focus being placed on ministry than family. It’s fashionable to say “family first”, but much harder to live that out. It will require making sacrifices, many schedules, and constantly re-evaluating the season your family is in.

Missionary Family
By: Andrew Comings

Billy Graham, when looking back over his life and ministry, had one regret. He wished to have spent more time with his family. You can read about it in his autobiography, “Just As I Am”

2. Boundaries
Going hand in hand with priorities, is making decisions to keep boundaries. Since our children are young, we have made the decision for only one of us to attend evening meetings. We want to place a priority on the boy’s routine. This also gives each one of us the chance to have some quality time with the two boys before bed.

There are little choices that need to be made like this each day. Your checklist never gets fully accomplished, so something has to give. I recently read a book by Andy Stanley I bought in response to his leadership podcast. In Choosing to Cheat, Andy shows how everyone cheats. You will either rob your family of time or you will create that time by trimming things in your ministry.

3. Involve them
Seemingly contradicting a previous point, this is the balancing act of parenting. Our kids love being involved in the ministry. They recite testimonies from our weekly staff meetings, know the people we work with, and put their faith with ours when we dream bigger than ourselves.

My wife was a pastor’s kid when she was growing up (still is actually). She recounts with fondness sitting at the top of the stairs, eavesdropping on board meetings. Her father was excellent at involving her, even asking her opinion on things. He made ministry attractive!

4. Protect them from some of the Ugliness
On several occasions my wife or I, have stopped friends from telling horror stories of crime or human failure in front of our children. They will learn the ugliness that missions brings soon enough. We do not want to keep them in a bubble, just ease them into real life. Living on the mission field, they still have to confront issues of crime and poverty in their own childlike ways.

5. Be Positive
Your children will know more than anyone if you really do not love the people you minister to or the nation you are in. Love what God has called you to and they will too.

6. Advertise them
Ok, this might sound a bit like exploitation. Hear me out.

Present your mission as a family mission. When we are at home visiting churches, we always bring the kids on stage with us. In our newsletters, there is always a corner for what is going on in their lives. We’ve found that other young families in churches connect with us, and have become a part of our team.

Do you have anything to add to the list? What makes ministry or missions attractive to your kids?

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog:  NoSuperHeroes  Twitter: @lautsbaugh      Facebook:  NoSuperHeroes