If you talk to 10 missionary kids you’ll probably get 10 different views on life growing up. Some are jaded towards their parents and the people they do ministry to/with, some are happy they were able to get a larger perspective due to growing up outside of the US, some are fired up to be like their parents, some grow up to be believers, some to be atheists. I’m sure there isn’t a “best way” to parent missionary kids, but what we’re trying to do is to allow our children to be part of our ministry and not a casualty of it. We want them to work hard with us to help others. To be as much involved with what we’re doing as we are. It’s not easy, but we feel it’s needed. Taking this as an intro, today one of our kids made me one happy daddy and I want to share the story with the hope that it will inspire you to adopt our ministry/parenting aspirations.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, Emilie and the two younger kids go out to the Haitian school we work with so Emilie can teach the Haitian children English. Today, she took all four kids because Autry and Claire didn’t have school; it was the older two’s first time seeing the school filled with kids. They had a blast.
Autry and Claire don’t get to be the experts very often when it comes to school these days. They both are completely immersed in Spanish while at school and neither speak a like of it, donde esta el bano notwithstanding. Math is in Spanish, art is in Spanish, even English is in Spanish. Today was different. Today they were the only white kids in the class, but that’s no different. Today they didn’t speak the language, though this time it was Creol they didn’t know rather than Spanish. Today was different because this time they were able to help teach the class instead of be learners in one. For our oldest, this was much welcomed.
Today, my sweet and formerly little boy did something that made his daddy so very proud. As Emilie and the kids were at the store after teaching at the school, he told her that he didn’t have anymore of his colmado money. (A colmado is sort of like a mini-market, but they’re much smaller and are on every corner. Our kids will find spare change around the house and go buy cookies and candy from time to time.) Autry then told Emilie how, when they were leaving, he went up to the pastor of our little Haitian school/church and gave him all of his monetary wealth, all of his 17 pesos (around 40 cents). When asked why he gave away the money, Autry simply said, “I thought he could use it more than I can.”
What a stud! Now, as a dad, I work really hard teaching my oldest how to be leader, how to take care of and protect his younger siblings, how to blindly follow my commands, and that how, because he’s the oldest, things aren’t always going to be fair. He often ends up having to work harder, he has to help his younger siblings, and he often incurs more of dad’s wrath than the others do because he’s often put in charge of the bunch. It’ll be the same when Gibson gets a little older. All this to say, hearing about what my boy did today makes all the hard work so worth it. Seeing that my boy, who’s had to leave all his friends and normal surroundings to follow his parents to a new country with a different culture and a different language, seeing him start to gain an empathy for other people makes me happier than I can express.
The point of me writing this isn’t to brag about my boy, though I am enjoying that, but I want to beg all you parents who claim Christ as savior to be involved with ministry in some capacity and to allow your children to help you in some way with that ministry. I admit that it might be hard to figure out how they can be involved. I don’t exactly know how a 4 year old can help a dad who disciples young men at work, but I know for that 4 year old, seeing his daddy willing to open his bible and teach will make this Christian life much more real than a stupid Vegetails movie ever could. Not everyone can do what we’ve decided to do, but we all are called to preach the Gospel and to defend the widow and care for the orphans. I urge you to take this calling seriously and to allow your children to walk alongside you. And I promise, getting a text from your wife that your son gave away 17 pesos, will be well worth the trouble of taking him with you!