Why Our Family, Mom?

Posted on: July 18, 2012 Written by
Why Our Family, Mom?
      Photography by: Hallgerd from iStock    

Years ago, my young daughter confessed that she believed angels had the responsibility to fetch our heads after we die and bring them to heaven.

Huh? “Where in the world did you get that idea?”

“You.”

Me! I frantically searched the recesses of my mind. Nothing. “When did I ever tell you that?”

“You said that when we die God gives us new bodies. So I believed angels had to come down and take our heads to heaven and attach them to our new bodies.”

I am sure the stunned look on my face did wonders for our relationship.

Ah, the joys of parenthood and the power of words. I shared with my children about the glorious promise of heaven and the wondrous hope of the resurrection only to later realize they developed a cranium-separation theology. Oy vey! We trust our words to enlighten and inform, but sometimes even with our best intentions they create misconceptions and false expectations.

When God affirmed our calling to become missionaries, my husband and I shared, with much elation, the good news with our kids. We knew exactly what we were going to say. Our ministry would be their ministry, our calling would be their calling. We would tell our kids, “We are not just a family—we are a missionary family. We will boldly go to where…well, to where some people have gone before. Kids, you are not just kids anymore—you are missionary kids. We will leave all, fulfill God’s plan for our lives, and it will be great (insert big smiley face here)!”

Suffice it to say, we did not anticipate the tearful wailing that immediately ensued. Nor did we understand the misconceptions and the false expectations we had inadvertently planted.

The first red flag popped up during our year of itineration. Our eldest daughter tentatively confided in me about a conversation between her and one of our pastors. With an arm around her shoulders and with great sincerity he invited her to remember that she too was a missionary, not just her parents. Unfortunately, his words did not convey the desired effect. He wanted to affirm and assure her, but she walked away confused and discouraged. She did not feel called by God to be a missionary. She did not want to go. She did not want to leave her friends, her family, and her cat. Fortunately, she had the maturity to pray about it and receive peace. Too bad I missed a divine opportunity to understand an important concept, but God gave me a second chance.

Incredibly difficult, horrendously lonely, and completely discouraged are terms that only begin to describe our first year on the field. You know that honeymoon stage everyone talks about? Those first few weeks on the field where you feel stupendously fulfilled because you are standing in the center of God’s wondrously perfect will?

Never. Happened.

Every night our youngest daughter pelted me with the same questions.

“God can call anyone to be a missionary, right?”

“Right.”

“He can call any family to be missionaries, right?”

“Right.”

“Then why did He have to call our family? Why didn’t He just call someone else?”

Ugh. Why can’t you just go to bed?

After a few tearful conversations and heartfelt prayers, my husband experienced an aha! moment while reading the gospel of Luke. After the Passover festivities, 12-year-old Jesus decides to stay behind in Jerusalem without his parents’ knowledge or permission. Three days later, Mary and Joseph finally discover their son in the temple and promptly take him home. Have you ever wondered why Jesus accompanied them to Nazareth? Simple: because they were His parents and He belonged with His family. Encouraged by our new-found insight, we humbly approached our children.

“We want you to know that we love you very much and we know it has been tough year. A long time ago, God called Mommy and Daddy to be missionaries. We are thankful for His calling, but the missionary calling is our calling, not yours. You have a different calling. God called you to be our children. Since He called you to be our children, wherever we are in this world, that is where you belong, because God called you to be a part of our family.”

Whew.

I appreciate that our fellowship wants to affirm and support our children. Being an MK (a child of a missionary) has unique challenges. However, we do not affirm pastor’s kids by calling them pastors, for a very good reason—because they are not. Such a calling would not be an affirmation but a burden. The mantle of missionary, with all its responsibilities, belongs to those called by God.

Yes, my children have a call from God. Their calling is the same calling your kids have: to be a part of a loving and nurturing family. Families, not titles, give our kids a sense of belonging. If and when our children feel called by God to be missionaries, then we will affirm their calling. Until that time, we will just let our kids be kids.

 

© 2012 Women of the Harvest.

Questions to Consider: Whose calling is it anyway? How does this article impact you?



About the author

Wendy loves to study, write, and teach, and hopes to earn her master’s degree before she's 50 and her doctorate before she retires. She is thankful for her supportive husband and their three mostly normal, but above-average kids. You are welcome to peek into their lives at http://thebrownmissionaries.blogspot.com.

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  • Wendy – I love this article! How much pressure we’ve put on our kids without realizing it. Some of them LIKE being “kid missionaries”, but others don’t. Thanks for a well written exhortation.

    • So true Ilona. Thanks!

  • Shontael

    As always a great article Wendy! Thanks so much and keep up the good work 🙂

  • Cheryl

    Well said, Wendy!! Something I had never thought of before … and appreciate the way you addressed it! Keep ’em coming, girl!!

    • I’ll try Cheryl 🙂

  • Pam

    Wendy, great words for missionary kids to hear!

  • I really like your voice and your honesty here, Wendy!! Thank you. 🙂

    • Appreciate it Sarah!

  • Holly

    Wendy, I agree with what you are saying, and think I understand the heart behind your writing. I also feel as if it is okay to tell mature MK’s that for this “season” of their life, as God uses them to reach out to their national friends, they are a Missionary as well. Then, when it was then time for my kids to head home for University/etc. , I then made sure they knew that they needed to seek God for what His desire was for them for the next “season” of their life.

    • Thanks Holly. I hear what you are saying. My point is, not all kids (or missionaries) fit the same mold. Our kids need to be who they are, who God called them to be, and not try to conform to someone else’s standard for them. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Kenyon Powers

    I think when kids feel like a missionary themselves in their home country, then it’s not as much of a big deal for them to move to another country and keep doing what they were already doing ,AS A FAMILY, in their homeland. Our kids were very much a part of reaching people and a part of whatever ministering we were involved in. They went on mission trips in and out of the country as early as 2 yrs. of age, so when we made the big cross-cultural move, not a question was asked or a tear shed. During their time, ranging from 7 yrs. to 11 years with us on the foreign field, before heading to the States for college,they never once asked, “When are we moving back to America?” They were amazing! And I think it’s because they have always been missionaries, it was a part of our family’s lifestyle. My oldest son, soon to be 26, has been on two mission trips to India in the last 7 months. It thrills my heart to see my children still being missionaries, as all believers are to be, whether across the fence to the neighbors or across the world.

    • Anonymous

      I appreciate your comments and feel like that has been our story as well. Our children were already involved in the ministries with us in our home country so making the move was just the same for them. I also think the ages of the children when you make a cross cultural move really has a big impact. Our children have grown up on the field and have not known anything different.

    • Sounds like you have great kids Kenyon. Our oldest (now 20) just returned from a three-week missions trip to India and our youngest now can’t imagine living in just one place for the rest of her life. However, I think our middle child would prefer to remain in the States after university. Some families ease into missionary life without a hitch (so it seems) but the more I listen to other missionaries, the more I realize that almost everyone has faced a challenging transition they didn’t anticipate. Therefore if my transparency can encourage just one other missionary family that they are not alone, then I’ll continue to “boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses.” God bless.

      • wumi oladiran

        this is no weakness at all. Listen these a re kids that are still growing in the Lord like you did Wendy!! They are still in the process, they have not ‘arrived’
        oh leave them to br taught and led by the Holy Spirit himself… For now let them be kids…..

  • Beady Blossom

    As a PK and POM, this article was great. There were 4 of us kids, 2 who loved helping in our little mission church and 2 who were just kids so I learned early to respect our likes and dislikes. All went on to be leaders and workers. It is the outsiders that don’t understand the dynamics and assume false theories.

    • Thank you Beady. And that’s the whole point of the article and sharing our experience. No two kids are alike. We need to discern their differences and appreciate their giftings and not simply label them to fit a mold. God bless.

  • Cyndie

    Really enjoyed this article. I’ve sometimes struggled with our kids being “drug” into missions work. The example of Jesus an His family was really helpful – looking forward to sharing it with my husband and daughters.

    • Thanks Cyndie. Of course we “drug” our kids all over while itinerating too 🙂 Their lives have not been easy, but I don’t think any of them regret our calling. Obedience to the call of God has proved challenging at times, but oh so fruitful as well.

  • Alicia

    Whew! This came at JUST the right time. This article was shared to us by a missionary friend today. Little did she know that just last night, we had the “we are called to be missionaries” talk with our girls. Our youngest (10) is now just about in tears! This article is a big help and may also help us translate that message to her. Also, it helps to know we are not alone in these feelings of this new journey!! God bless…

    • You are definitely not alone 🙂 God bless you in this new journey!

  • Gigi

    Thank you for a great article. With a daughter who has grown up here on the field, and now approaching high school, this is a great reminder for me to know that she has her own calling as well and now we will be a part of praying for that calling to be revealed, no matter how far that might take her away from us. That part doesn’t excite me so much 🙁

    • Thank you Gigi. Oh how I understand the “no matter how far that might take her away from us” prayer! God bless.

  • China Mom

    Thank you for this article. Our children have all been born on the field but this was definitely something we need to think about, especially as we prepare to go back for furlough. Our oldest will be 5 when we go back so I’m sure we will encounter lots of new situations!

    • May your children always feel “at home” no matter where they are. God bless.

  • I remember the first time I read your article and thought you were spot on. Now as I am reading it again, I am sure of it. I have seen so many missionaries place such huge burdens on their children, without even thinking about their dreams. You hit the nail on the head. Awesome message, which I know will be a blessing to so many.

  • Thanks Joyce 🙂

  • AnnaMaia

    Wonderful article.

  • Dennis Cobb

    Great article! God does what He pleases to do, with whomever He pleases to do it, if we let Him. And when we let Him use us, He is very pleased, and we usually are, too.

    • Well said, Dennis 🙂 It hasn’t always been easy, but we have always found contentment in the will of God.

  • Karen B

    Great article! My kids are now 18 and 19. They were born and raised on the mission field, until high school. We never put that burden on them in fact we encouraged them to avoid missions, as we know how tough it can be. We wanted them to be whatever God had for them. God had surprised us. This summer my daughter did a missions trip to Russia with Navs. My son is doing a Gap year in the sensitive country that he was born in. God is amazing when we trust him with our kids.

    • God is amazing! Thanks for your feedback.

  • My kids are small still, but I LOVED this article. It’s true… it can be difficult and heavy to carry the title ‘Missionary’… we are challenged with it as adults many times, why would we place this on our children. Loved it. Thank you for putting your thoughts into beautiful words.

    • Thanks Suzanne. God bless you and your family!

  • Ruth

    This is a well written, well thought article. However, I think the point to our children needs to be stressed that God desires our willing heart of service no matter who we are or whose child we are. I grew up in a pastor’s family, stateside. I recall one time when I was about 12 pounding my father with, ‘how come you did this to our family?’, and he very calmly stating, ‘Ruth, God asked me to be a pastor, he placed you in our family, don’t you think He desires your help and not your hindrance?’ That has always stuck with me.

    Now a mother of five, two grown sons and three girls still at home (which is on a mission field) I have often reminded our children that we are on God’s team and we need to work as a team. I often feel for my children in what the world expects of them, but am comforted to know that we only need to do what God expects.

    I am also experiencing the ‘joy’ of having one of our children far away. My oldest is far away in the US army, stationed in Alaska, it is not easy being that far away, both miles and time (when they are getting up, we are going to bed) and knowing that the only way we see our grandbabies is by computer; but I will say that God’s grace is sufficient.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Ruth

    • In a certain way, I think your father and I had the same idea. We wanted our kids to have a sense of belonging. Therefore we assured our kids that they belonged in our “family” and in that sense they were also a part of our “team.” In other words, their sense of belonging didn’t come because someone else labeled them a “missionary kid.” I think how we approach our children depends a lot on age and personality. And that’s the point. As parents, we continually pray for God’s wisdom to reach our kids like no one else can 🙂 Thanks for your response.

  • Alicia Macedo

    Dear Wendy,
    Thanks! You put that all so well! I work with MKs in Brasil and have three of my own. And we teach that the call is on the parents, not the children, but that when God calls the parents he also has the children in mind, they are not an “appengade” that just tags along. God will use their unique upbringing in their lives so they can reach their full potential in what He has for them personally. Would you mind if I translate it into Portuguêse and post it on our member care site?

    • That would be wonderful! Please send me a link when it’s translated.
      Wendy

  • Alicia Macedo

    Thanks Wendy. It might take us a little while but I will let you know.
    Alicia

  • Elaine

    This was a very good article. It’s good for children to know that they belong under their parents care and that the choice to follow Jesus is what every parent desires for their child(ren) whether they go to the mission field later on or not.

    • So true Elaine. Thanks.

  • Hi Wende,
    Just read your article and thought how it a applies to pastors kids as well…just met with a young lady who is struggling to find and own her own faith and calling outside of family. You have great insight here to help our kids feel affirmed and “valued ” wherever they are in the process. Big Regret….I didn’t think fast enough and have you speak when you came home to Fort Wayne! Next time home , ok? Becky

    • Anonymous

      Hey Becky. No regrets. Sometimes I just like being with the fam. Definitely next year though, when we’re home. Thanks for your comments.

      • Ok, so that was me Becky 🙂 – Wendy

  • I found this so encouraging. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. God bless.

  • Claudia Aanderud

    Good point made in this article. Being an MK myself and having raised MKs I am of the opinion that it’s best not to put pressure on our kids to do more ministry than any other kid. Naturally our kids were included in our home church service and hospitality but very little else because (1) we did not want our church people to regard our kids as experts in spiritual things (which they certainly were not) and (2) we did not want to teach our kids to “act” the part of missionaries if it was not truly coming from their heart. We wanted our kids to one day decide for themselves that they would follow Jesus, not just because it was “how they were trained.” Thankfully today, as adults, they walk with Him.

  • Sooooo good…thanks for sharing.

  • My kids are still small but I will remember this article as they grow older. Thanks, Wendy!

  • We and our 3 kids (5, 9 & 12) have been on the field for almost a year and a half now. This doesn’t relate exactly to your post, but I want to share it anyway. 🙂

    When we started out on our journey visiting churches, we made a choice not to put extra pressure on our kids to behave especially well because we were missionaries and had to set a good example, blah, blah. 😉 We expected our kids to behave well because we had always expected them to behave well – because it was RIGHT – not just because we were now official missionaries. I’m so glad we did that and try to encourage our national pastors and their families to think that way too – ask our kids to obey, etc because it’s right – not because we are in ministry. (What would that mean for other families anyway? Their kids don’t have to obey b/c their parents aren’t pastors? Obviously not!)

    That off my chest, though… our kids haven’t had an easy time adjusting either. My oldest is almost counting down to when we’ll be back on furlough next year, but at the same time dreads the travel and how quickly it will pass. She hasn’t embraced this calling of ours and hasn’t yet discovered what her unique calling is either. It’s so different for the different ages and personalities. But I’ll just chime in and raise my hand along with the others with kids who have had a hard time and say “Yep. Us too.” Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Susan W

    Awesome, thought-provoking article – Thank you! And the responses from everyone are right on. I grew up an MK/TCK and knew in my heart from a young age that I’d like to serve somewhere around the world later in life. God blessed me with a husband who felt the same call and through the years we’ve been privileged to serve the Lord overseas and in North America as well. Our eldest was born overseas but we moved back before he had many memories of that experience. Another venture took us to a new field of service several years later, when our girls were very young (one a newborn), but an accident for one shortened that term of service. On return to the States God called us to church planting in N America – a challenging field of service and one in which all three of our kids got involved. It was a family-focused church, and they were very involved in planning and participating in so many of the evangelism/outreach events from start to finish. Because my husband and I both were working other jobs, reaching new friends for Jesus in our new church environment became extracurricular family events the kids loved too – it absorbed our lives – what a special blessing from God those years were for our family. During this time we also did a few short-term ‘overseas’ mission projects – an adventure for the kids from every day life; they loved those!

    But then my husband heard God’s call for our current adventure of the last almost 7 years. We’d just moved to our girls dream farm, our son was heading away to school, and it seemed the timing was all wrong in many other ways. I wept for days at the idea, but soon realized my response was affecting our kids. Once I responded to God’s still small voice, we were able to present the overwhelming needs to our girls, the reason for the move overseas and the work to be done. Their tender hearts responded to the pictures of where we were headed. “How can we say ‘No’ when that’s what it is like for people?” they said. And our son loved the idea of school holidays abroad. As you all know, that is just the beginning – preparing to go.

    It wasn’t easy; the road has had lots of ups and downs. The kids have had questions about their part in this experience too. Keeping in close touch with our kids, being open and understanding of their feelings, learning about God’s will for our lives and service together, openly identifying and addressing individual feelings and needs, seeking God together as a family, acknowledging the challenges, rejoicing together in the joys, and looking back at how God has led, has been very helpful. What I saw in my great aunts and uncles, my grandparents, and my own parents, who all served cross-culturally before me, was that a love for God leads us to serve Him gladly in all sorts of locations, be it overseas or closer to wherever we may call ‘home’. We do it as a family, recognizing each one’s strengths and weaknesses, while encouraging each one to grow more fully in the talents God has gifted them with, even if they are different from our own.

    I think the best thing my husband and I can do for our kids, is to lead them by example, by finding joy ourselves in His service, wherever that may be. They don’t always want to jump in and do what we do; that’s okay. But we love it when they choose to. Like someone mentioned above, they rejoice in seeing their child prepare for service – wherever God may lead them (something our son to is doing now), knowing that by the example we’ve set – that could be anywhere! That concept certainly tugs hard on this mom’s heart – the distance that even now we are apart from two of our kids – yet God’s call on their hearts and their positive responses are one of a parent’s greatest blessings.

  • This was spot on! My 4 kids have lived in Africa their whole lives and this subject and labeling has been a “stigma” in their lives. They have been so gracious, but it hasn’t been easy. 2 grown and 2 getting there, it is a process…thanks for the affirmation!

  • Dawn

    I love this article. I wholeheartedly agree, and the illustrations you gave were very helpful for me to articulate my thoughts on the subject. Therefore, my comment is NOT meant to say, “Yes, but…” I simply want to relate our experience with our daughter because it was so precious and someone else may be blessed by it. We decided to become missionaries when our daughter was 10 and our son was 8. We called them into our room and broke the news as we all sat on the bed together full of anticipation and excitement. Our daughter’s first response? “Oh boy! I always wanted to be a missionary. I just thought I had to grow up first!”