We can all agree there are countless reasons for families to stay right where they are at. It is a good thing to stay. The reality is that most families will stay and do so out of obedience to God. This blog post is not for those families. This blog post is not about guilting families that should stay into serving as missionaries overseas. Guilt based motivation to go is wrong.
I am writing this because I know there are many families that God has called to go, and to go as families. For those that know there is a call on their lives but at some point along the way believed that hurdles were walls. For those families that believe a God given call was nothing more than a youthful passion. For those families that think it is too late to go. That they are too rooted. That it is too difficult. That having a family is a wall that cannot be hurdled.
There is something that needs to be said.
God does not only call singles, young marrieds, and retirement aged couples to be missionaries. God does not only call parents to be missionaries. God calls families. Yes families. Let me write it again: God calls families to be missionaries. The whole family. God calls families that have laid roots to go. He does so because he wants his name to be glorified among all nations. And God knows that calling families to go as families is very strategic towards this goal. It's not a mistake, the children aren't along for the ride.
God calls families because it is strategic towards the end goal of His name being glorified among all nations.
We have experienced this personally since arriving in Japan. We have not been here long, but we have been shocked by how God has used our entire family, especially our children.
1. Children are born with the ability to be flexible.
Flexibility is something children are born with. Children are naturally able to adapt to their surroundings. I believe that an unwillingness to be flexible or adapt is a condition that is learned. It is something that is developed and encouraged over time. As adults, it is easy to project our own fears and unwillingness to adapt onto our children. I hope we stop doing that. I did that and now know that I was very wrong.
Not only have all 3 of our children adapted to a completely new culture, but they have done so with excitement and joy. The fact that everyone looks different, speaks different, and acts different than us isn't that big a deal to them. It's like they don't see the differences, or if they do, they don't let it affect how they treat others.
One of the most important qualities of an affective missionary is the ability to adapt and be flexible. Good missionaries have this quality.
Children are born with this ability. They naturally make good missionaries. I am sure there are many families in which God wants to leverage that for the glory of his name among all nations. He is calling families because of the children, not in spite of the children. They were made for this.
2. Children open up doors.
I served in a foreign country for 2 years as a single. I could never have imagined all the doors that would open for me when I came with a family. Everywhere we go, people smile at us and tell us our kids are cute. Everyday, at least one stranger comes up to talk to us. We have no better bridge building tool to connect with other people than our children.
In our experience, coming as a family has helped us to be more a part of our community. Our kids are in our neighbors' kids schools, they play together, and we go to the same family friendly locations. In our first month in a new country, we were invited into people's homes, invited on play dates, asked if we needed help, and just felt very welcomed by our community. These doors would not have been opened for us if we didn't come as a family.
Going as a family opens up doors that would not otherwise be opened.
3. Children are relational.
What I mean here is that children see people as people, and not as objects. Too many missionaries see people as objects of a mission and not as people. I have been guilty of this. It is easy too dehumanize people and make them statistics or the objects of a self-driven strategy. I assure you that children are not guilty of this. They are relational, and we can learn from them.
Going as a family allows your children to teach you valuable lessons like these. People are people. Wherever you are.
4. It bring parents and children together.
Moving to a completely new country as family has brought our family closer together. This might not alway be the case, but it has been our experience so far. Here is why this has been true for us:
None of us know what the heck we are doing. We are pretty much brought to the same level. We all don't know the language, we all don't know how to do basic things, and it is all something we experience together. As parents, this has been a humbling experience for us. But it has been good. We join our children and experience many of the same things they do. It has made us better parents, and it has brought our family closer together.
5. New worldviews are created.
Last but most certainly not least among the positive reasons to move a family overseas is that it creates a new worldview. Our kids will see the world a different way. They will know how big it is. How beautiful it is. That there are people different than us, that speak different than us, that look different than us. And God made it that way. That God loves all people, regardless of how they look or speak. It is a worldview that I believe is closer to the heart of God.
Our children will never see the world the same way. Praise the Lord.
There are many other reasons I could write, but these are our top 5 for now. May God raise up and call more families to go. Not only because it is right, but because it is good. For the glory of his name and the joy of all peoples.