“What comes to mind when you think of Africa?” I asked the children seated on the floor of the Blakeview Community Church. I nodded to a dark haired little tyke with big, dark eyes whose hand was waving excitedly in the air. “Yes? What do you think?”
“Ah … Umm … Uh …”
I smiled encouragingly at the child. “Did you forget? How about you?”
A sweet looking girl with long blonde hair lowered her hand and answered bravely, “Lions! And giraffes. And monkeys. And zebras …”
“Okay. Those are all in Africa. Besides animals, what else is in Africa?” Now answers started flying like mosquitoes at dusk.
“Lots of poor people.”
“That’s right. Now, what do you think it is like to be a Missionary Kid in Africa? What do you think MK’s do when they are not studying or doing chores?” I looked around, trying to avoid calling on the little hand waving just above those big dark eyes. Seeing it was impossible to avoid him, I pointed at him again.
“Umm … Ahh ... Play?”
“Yes! Play. Jonathan, could you tell us a little bit about what it is like for you to play with the children in your neighborhood?” I slowly drew my children into the conversation. One by one, Jonathan, Esther and Jesse started talking excitedly about what it was like to play soccer with 30 little African children in a village, have Christmas on a beach on the Indian Ocean, travel to five different countries in Southern Africa, and crawl around inside the rusting hulks of abandoned tanks. They talked about what home school was like and of helping guide dad through an almost impassible road with his 4x4 truck just to get to a village where he was to minister. They described how ecstatic the neighborhood kids were when they decided to give them some of their toys. This was their life, and they were excited to have a chance to talk about it.
As children’s church ended, a few of the children stood around my little MK’s chatting and comparing their lives. They had really clicked with some of them.
I thought back to my deep concerns about bringing my children along for this weekend. Much of their church experience over the past four years had been in villages. Each village spoke its own dialect, and someone had to translate from the Portuguese trade language into their local language. They had learned catchy tunes, had mimicked words that could have been “Barney’s purple” for all we knew, and had learned to play the African drums. The bulk of their spiritual growth happened in our own home. We felt it was now important for our children to be grounded in our home church where they would receive teaching geared specifically to them. We had made a decision that we would not do much traveling as a family this year. This weekend was an exception to the rule, but I was very proud of them. They had done so well.
My thoughts flew back to some harsh words a well-meaning woman had said to me the week before. “How can you take your children to a place like Africa. It is just fine for you to decide this is what you want to do. But, it is not fair to your children. They are missing out on so much,” she had said unexpectedly as she passed me in the hallway of the church.
I am sure she had no idea how much I agonized over many of these same issues as a parent. I want what is best for my children. Are there disadvantages that they face for having grown up overseas? Yes. However, in my opinion, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by far. My children have seen so much of the world already. They speak another language and value different cultures. They have learned that it is not all about them. They have witnessed people crying aloud while watching the Jesus Film. They have watched pastors hungrily studying the Bible to be more equipped to lead their people. They are a part of the answer to that need. Am I a bad parent for allowing my children to have these experiences as a part of their growing up years? I see it as an investment. Will you stand with me?
I am an MP* – and I need your support.
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