Jamie and Jessica have four children, ages 2-9. Jamie developed a heart for the nations in college. For Jessica, loving the nations has always seemed like the natural response to believing in Jesus. When she was a child, her church presented faith in Jesus and love for others, including other ethnicities, always going hand-in-hand.
In 2019, these parents created a unique way to cultivate God’s heart for the nations in their children. Here are Jamie’s thoughts on “Foreign Fridays.”
Q: What was your motivation behind Foreign Fridays?
A: “We have always talked about and prayed for peoples around the world with our kids, but we wanted them to experience the cultures we learn about. After attending a few ethnic festivals, we started thinking of ways to create a weekly experience.”
Q: Can you explain what your family does?
A: “We intentionally pick a country or people group to learn about, an ethnic food to try, and a movie, book, or activity that gives our kids a glimpse into that culture. We prefer visiting ethnic restaurants. Sometimes we order takeout or try recipes at home. We locate the country or people group on our globe. Then we do an activity together. We ask a lot of questions, or point out various cultural things we notice – especially things that highlight God’s design, our brokenness, or the gospel.”
Q: Can you share some specific examples?
A: “One of our first experiences was the International Food Festival at the local mosque. We tried food from multiple cultures in one location. We also attended a Turkish Food Festival. The kids tried calligraphy and tasted Turkish Delights like they had read about in The Chronicles of Narnia. During the pandemic, we have eaten Chinese takeout while watching the live-action Mulan movie and Mediterranean food with the live-action Aladdin. One of my kids’ favorite activities came about by accident. They wanted round dumplings like those in Kung Fu Panda, but we had to visit a Nepali restaurant to find them. The kids loved the décor, and each of them ate an adult portion of momos, spicy potatoes, and noodles.”
Q: Is there a Bible or prayer component to Foreign Fridays?
A: “When we give thanks for our food, we pray for the people groups in that country and for missionaries who serve there. The Bible piece is re-casting the vision of God’s heart for the nations. The kids might ask, ‘Why are we eating this tonight?’ We would respond, ‘Remember how God loves all nations, and how He blessed Abraham’s family to be a blessing to other nations? We are learning about people from India tonight so we can find out how to be a blessing to them.’”
Q: Have you seen God use Foreign Fridays to change your children?
A: “This has helped our kids have a broader understanding of the Church and God’s global purposes. Specifically, we have seen our nine-year-old develop a greater compassion toward others, and he has begun to seek answers to difficult questions within the framework of God’s mission. Our six-year-old daughter has a greater curiosity about other cultures, and an appreciation for what is beautiful within them. She is quick to talk to Muslim and Hindu women and to compliment their dress. In stores or at parks, she often asks if she can go tell a Muslim woman that her hijab is beautiful.”
Q: Do you have advice for parents who want to learn more about the nations with their family?
A: “Pick a night each week and just try something. The goal is to introduce your kids to God’s heart for the nations. Do a Google search for ethnic restaurants and markets nearby, or find the ethnic aisles in your local grocery store. If you don’t have access to foods from a specific culture, just get as close as you can. We have eaten many variations of Chinese and Japanese food to represent Asian groups for which we struggled to find restaurants or recipes. Grab a map or globe, and start highlighting stories or books that speak to the nations. The Window on the World book and the Worldview Videos are great resources for parents. Weave’s One Big Vision book plus a host of Disney movies can be a great place to start for a fun family night. Do activities outside your home as well like attending ethnic festivals or visiting a synagogue, mosque, or temple.”
About the Author: Jamie and Jessica live in Arkansas. Along with their four young children, they love hiking adventures, experiencing different cultures, and family dance parties. Jamie serves with Arkansas Baptists to help churches connect with immigrants, refugees, and international students around the state.