Before kids, I believed cross-cultural service was an essential, life-altering experience. But as soon as my first sweet baby came along, I decided my traveling days were over. I refused to expose my daughter to strange illnesses, dangerous environments, or take her far away from her doting grandparents. Life outside my comfort zone with children felt way too uncomfortable.
Here were my “no way” lists.
I have children and…
- It is not fair to ask them to leave.
- They do not like foreign foods.
- They would be exposed to danger and disease.
- Our parents would not understand.
- What would our friends say?
I am responsible for our family’s income and benefits and…
- What would we do for health insurance?
- How would we afford…anything?
- My co-workers would not understand.
- Would anybody support us?
Maybe these are not bad reasons for being reluctant to consider full-time mission work for your family. Most are legitimate, reasonable concerns. At one time, they were absolute conversation-enders for me. But I no longer think they are necessarily good enough reasons. Not since God brought about a heart change that honestly, I did not want.
Was it possible that my understanding of God was not big enough? I said I believed that God was a provider, that He was everywhere, and that His eyes were even on the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields. Was this faith mostly in my head and not so much in my heart? True in theory, but not true enough to really rely on?
As my kids grew, cracks began to form in my arguments against serving in cross-cultural mission as a family. I got to know global workers who encouraged me with their real life experiences. Without exception, they shared stories of God’s provision for their family. I began to fathom more deeply God’s goodness and greatness in my own heart as I intentionally spent more time learning about His character. I also began to learn more about God’s desire for people of all cultures to know His goodness through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. At the same time, my husband felt drawn to cross-cultural ministry, too. God was calling us as a family and we timidly stepped out in the tiny amount of faith that we possessed. We took a deep breath and applied for new passports.
Months later, as my family waited in the airport to board a plane to Southeast Asia for two months, I had a mini-meltdown in the restroom. I knew some of the dangers, and although I was going anyway, I was scared to death. In that moment, I desperately needed Jesus in a way I had not yet known Him: not to tell me that I should not worry about malaria, should not have prepared for unforeseen medical needs, or packed that big container of peanut butter for my kids. I needed to trust Jesus because He had been in this situation before. He is the one who left the “ultimate comfort zone” to go to a place that was indeed hostile and dangerous. Jesus knew what it would be like and He went anyway. In counting the cost for my family, I began to see Jesus, and His cost—willingly exchanging the glory of heaven for the weaknesses of human existence—in a new light.
Life on the field was not always comfortable. Did I enjoy packing boxes or being far away from friends and family? Absolutely not! Sometimes we panicked. Every day I approached the throne of Jesus in prayer with a need as well as a new understanding of how He knew my need, having experienced it, plus so much more. Because I could trust Jesus to understand, I could surrender my fears to Him. God, as He has been known to do, proved Himself trustworthy time and again. To see more of God in a land that I did not know, to meet people He loves, and to fall in love with Him along the way, was very much worth the effort.
Do you have a “no way” list that is holding you back from answering a call to go, or even considering the possibility? Our family’s journey began with a few small steps—loosening our grips on our fears for just a little while, seeking opportunities to learn about God’s work in the world, and talking to real life global workers.
Excellent article! I sure want to share this with young families in our church
It seems like so few families with children are considering foreign missions. We did a two year mission with our first two toddlers We also adopted two foreign babies while there
I want parents to know that young children adjust to most changes better than adults and their presence is an asset as they draw people to you. Now that our kids are grown and have gone on their own short and longer mission trips, when fearful parents ask us how we cope with letting our children go to foreign countries we can honestly say we have more peace with them across the world in his will for them than if they or we should ignore God’s calling and stay home in nice “safe” America. Thanks for your article.
Thanks for sharing! This sums up a lot of what our family has been through! We are a family with 3 young boys (6,4,2) and our journey into M-work started just less than 2 years ago as we said simple “yes’s” to God as we felt him leading us onto the field. After some training and a short-term trip, we are now living in Southeast Asia for the foreseeable future. Overall, I would say that our children have done AMAZINGLY well with the transition and when I look at families who have waited to enter the field until their kids are older, it is actually more difficult because as kids get older, they have stronger opinions LOL! Not to say that it isn’t doable to enter the field when your kids are any age if the Lord is leading. But going on this journey has given us a TOTAL upgrade in faith and truly experiencing God in our lives. There are challenges, no doubt, but the joys and blessings far outweigh those challenges!!!
Great post, Lea! Thanks for sharing honestly!