Even before we were married, my husband and I felt the Lord leading us both to a life of full-time missions. We got married, planning to move to Indonesia within the first year. God changed our direction on our first vision trip as a married couple, when we took a side trip to Myanmar to visit my husband’s college friend, Sangpi, and his family who are Myanmar nationals.
Sangpi had moved back to his country to do ministry among his own people. We saw a nationally-led seminary, a nationally-led children’s school, and a nationally-led orphanage on that side trip. It was during a conversation with these national ministry leaders that we knew God was calling us to something else.
When we asked them how we could help their ministries, they didn’t ask us to move there, to teach, or to donate money. They asked if we could send them good theological books for their library. Knowing North Americans swim in extra books, we knew that request was in reach (and accomplished by God’s grace!).
What we learned in that conversation is that God was not asking us to pioneer in missions in another country like Indonesia, but to use our gifts and skills to partner alongside national believers who were already serving in Asia and around the world.
God continued to open the doors for serving with Live Global and we joined full-time when our first child was just a baby.
Should You Do Missions as a Family If You Have Kids?
Jesus loved kids.
Matthew 19:14 says, “But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'” Throughout Scripture, kids are seen as a great blessing to parents.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3-4)
When my husband and I chose to become missionaries, we knew travel would be a huge part of our lives. As many prospective missionaries do, we wondered if it was a wise move, considering our young and growing family. But we knew God had led us to our role in ministry, and we knew that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will—kids and all.
1 Corinthians 7 supports people staying in the position they are in (married, unmarried, slaves, free, circumcised, or uncircumcised) when they are called to become Christians. While in this letter, Paul does not call out what parents should do when God asks them to be missionaries, I do think the same exhortations could apply to this case.
“Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.” (1 Corinthians 7:20)
Should You Include Kids In Your Ministry or Leave Them at Home?
When you pursue a life of missions as a family, you have to often choose whether to bring the kids along on your next trip or to leave them home with grandma and grandpa.
With our family, we have chosen to bring them along as often as we possibly can and here is why.
Kids open the door for ministry in many contexts. In the airport in Yangon, Myanmar, my husband and I suddenly discovered our 1-year-old at the time was having a silent conversation with a Buddhist monk. The man dressed in his orange robe was making all kinds of silly faces at him and our little guy was just eating it up. The monk probably didn’t speak much English, but had we been staying in that area long-term, we would have had an easy way to begin a friendship with that man and hand him a Gospel booklet or Bible in his language at the very least.
Our kids are a commonality between us and other families of other cultures we meet in our neighborhood, at the park, or when we’re traveling overseas. It’s so much easier to begin a relationship with someone you already know something about. You’re a mom. I’m a mom. Let’s start with that.
Our kids make us real. As we’ve hosted people in our home or invited people to join us on mission, our sink with dirty bottles and toddler with his pants down make us approachable. You can’t take yourself too seriously when your potty training kid has just announced to the room that he is starting to poop. People connect with real people.
Kids do missions when you don’t think to. On our last plane ride, my oldest was sitting a row behind another kid his age. They struck up a game of rock-paper-scissors through the armrest and afterward my son looked at me and asked, “Should I tell him about Jesus?” To be honest, I hadn’t even thought of it. But I helped my son through that conversation with his new friend and we were able to give a Gospel booklet to his whole family.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Doing Missions as a Family Can Help Keep Kids Engaged with God
Many people who have done full-time ministry or full-time missions for decades longer than my husband and I have, have affirmed us over and over that we are making the right choice in involving our kids in everything.
Several have said that doing ministry with your kids keeps your kids engaged with God. Otherwise, it may appear to them as if God were taking their mommy and daddy away.
My husband’s and my hearts’ biggest desire, and our biggest mission field, is that our own kids would trust Jesus for salvation, know the Lord personally, and walk with him all their days. This is worth some hard plane rides and hard days of doing missions as a family.
Encouragement for the Hard Days
When our oldest son was a baby, my husband noticed our son never slept well the night before something spiritually significant was about to happen. We also have experienced what we believe to be demonic oppression on our children when we’ve traveled in places where witchcraft or other dark religions are common. Once when our son was pseudo-awake and unconsollable in a Nepal hotel, my husband prayed that whatever was oppressing our son would come upon him instead. Minutes later my husband got violently sick while our son went back to sleep.
We’re no stranger to spiritual attacks and many of them have come on us through an attack on our children. While it can be scary to accept the reality of spiritual warfare, especially when it effects our kids, we have learned to deal with it and also become encouraged by them.
Satan doesn’t attack those who are of no detriment to him. Now we get excited on sleepless nights because we are eager for what God will do the following day.
We’ve also experienced hard travel days with kids in the airport or on the plane. Sometimes we’ve grown close to throwing in the towel and going back home. But in God’s kindness, He’s allowed us to persevere and we are always thankful at the end. Those trips are always the greatest joy and usually involve God doing something special.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-5)
I’m here to say you can do missions as a family. It’s hard, but my husband and I think it’s so worth it.