“Oh, not again!” My thirteen-year old daughter whined at me as I drove our family’s burgundy Honda Civic to church.
My wife reached back and smoothed the tuft on the top of my ten-year old son’s hair, its straw-like texture refusing to yield. She stretched through her seatbelt and endured his protests as she extended toward him, straightening his hair and shirt.
“Yes,” I said, “They are missionaries in Ghana, and tonight should be a good reminder to us of how fortunate we are.” I avoided my wife’s elbow as she returned back to the front seat.
“I hate missionary night,” my son said, joining in his sister’s distress.
My wife turned to our son, “Your grandparents spent many years in the Sudan, so how can you say that?” My wife defended her parents and their life’s work at any opportunity, this time adding, “And we don’t say ‘hate’.”
“We like to listen to grandma and grandpa’s stories, but not some hut-lady that we have never met,” my daughter protested, joining with her brother in rare sibling unanimity.
“Yeah, we already know what missionaries do,” my son said. “Can’t we go to the youth group meeting?”
“The youth group will meet again next week,” my wife said. “Tonight we are all meeting together, and you will sit with us during the service.”
“Are they going to show a billion pictures of mountains and rivers and people we have never heard of and will never meet?” My daughter’s voice now displayed an indignant air.
“Maybe,” I said. “But what I hope you get to see is how people just like us have made decisions to leave their homes and families.”
“I would not ever want to leave my X-Box to go live in a hut,” my son said. “You’re not planning to do that, are you dad?”
“No, I don’t think we are called to be overseas,” I said, trying to hide a smile at my children’s characterization of missionaries as the hut people. “But we can do God’s work right here where we live. And I bet you something,” I said, pausing. “I bet you will find out that these missionaries do not live in a hut.”
My children did not offer any other protests on the drive to church, and we arrived ten minutes early, parking near the front. Parking spaces were typically available on Sunday nights when the church hosted a missionary, as many of the church members viewed ‘missionary night’ as a reason to stay at home.
We entered the church, our two children a few paces behind. I waited at the door, holding it open for my daughter and son, who shuffled through without looking at me.
In the atrium of the church, a large display had been erected, and a man in a multi-colored robe stood in front of it, talking to the pastor and one other member from our church who had arrived early. Next to the robed man stood a woman, apparently his wife, and two children. The children were in their early teens.
We approached the family, and I took the lead of introducing myself. The missionary family greeted us with smiles, and their children began a conversation with mine. We talked a few moments about their work. They pointed at the display and described their home, a cement building with indoor plumbing and electricity. They also described their wardrobes and their lifestyles in Ghana.
The man politely excused himself to prepare for the evening service, and I overheard their youngest child, a boy who was perhaps a year older than mine, talking to my son. I overheard my son telling the boy all about his X-Box and his favorite games.
Then my son asked, “Do you like being a missionary?”
“Aren’t you a Christian?” The boy asked my son.
Baffled, my son said, “Yeah.”
“Then you are a missionary too,” the boy said to my son. “It’s just that you get to use your X-Box in your missionary work.”
My children sat with me throughout the service that evening, and they even listened carefully as the family described their work. I was reminded of how my own family had a field before us, ripe for harvest.
Sometimes we just didn’t always see it that way.
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