Can Families be in Missions?
(By Caroline, School of Frontier Missions student 2016)
It was my first day of entering the YWAM Perth base and all of a sudden my senses were overloaded. Sounds of children echoed in the auditorium – little people running around and making noise! Wasn’t this a YWAM base that was supposed to be filled with 18-year-olds blasting music, watching sport, and overall being rowdy? I thought YWAM stood for “Youth with a Mission”.
Dinner then came with babies crying around the table and kids running around. My belief of who YWAM was for began to change to include families and older adults. We are all family through Christ. This led me to the following questions:
- Is it viable for families to engage in missions?
- Why obey the call, when you have a child (or for some a personal soccer team) to look after?
- Is it fair to your child’s well-being and social/emotional development to move to another country and take up cross-cultural missions?
Being a single woman, I cannot answer these questions, but families on base can. This led me to seek the answers from families that are obeying God’s call for their lives and bringing their children along for the ride who are also called into the mission.
Scoots* Family = 5 in the family with 1 on the way. The children’s ages are 6, 4 and 2 + 14 weeks in the womb. The Scoots started their cross-cultural missions journey just under two years ago. Their third child had her first birthday on their outreach in their YWAM Discipleship Training School. They are now moving to a nation long-term in a couple of months.
Johnsons* Family = 9 in the family. Children’s ages range from 8-20 years. This family started in cross-cultural missions 24 years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were married in 1995 and went to the nation God was calling them 4 years later with two young children.
Blanc* Family = 3 in the family. Mr. Blanc started in missions full-time in 2007 and at that time was single. He met his now-wife in 2009 and is now married with their 9-month-old child.
*Names have been changed to protect the families and their work in missions.
“There is no normal. Do not waste time on comparing yourself to anybody. Hear God, do what he says and enjoy the process”.
Q.1 What do you believe God is calling your family to do?
Scoots: Bring hope to people who have none and see God’s love penetrate the Middle East.
Johnsons: I think to experience what it means to be followers of God. To help people fulfill God’s call on their lives and disciple people in that. The long-term call for our family is to have an open door in order to be family to many different people.
Blancs: It is still coming together as a singular family unit call. My wife wants to start a preschool and I want to start some kind of a counseling ministry, so it is already sort of intermingling. For example, I buy resources that I find that have to do with kids and counseling so that she can benefit in her ministry vision too. There are a lot of crossovers naturally because we love each other and we love God and this is what God is calling us to.
Q.2 How do you balance family and ministry?
Scoots: The truth is, we are still learning how to have a balance of doing things as a family where possible and making the most of our family time.
Johnsons: I try to listen to what God wants me to do throughout the day, never what I ought to do and/or should do. Listen to God in every moment. To be fully active and engaged in what God is saying to do with the moments of the day. I try not to put family and work in competition with each other.
Blancs: I am the kind of person to jump in and swim until I know what swimming is. I am doing it now as I am formulating what this balance really means. For example, I will not give up my time with my son at night when I put him to bed. My wife and I read him a Bible story.
“As children grow older, friendship is more than just language; it is understanding what constitutes a friend in a different culture”.
Q.3 What are the challenges of deciding to live cross-culturally with children?
Scoots: Children attract attention. Blonde hair, blue eyed children attract attention and affection; however unwanted. Language is not a challenge because they just play and kids pick up languages quickly. Any kid can start kicking a ball around with their neighbour.
Johnsons: Life-giving good friendships for children to have; however, this is a challenge wherever you are. Friendships take a while to emerge and if you are moving regularly it is hard to develop them. As children grow older, friendship is more than just language; it is understanding what constitutes a friend in a different culture. In saying this, this challenge is also a blessing because you get to experience cross-cultural living. In a cross-cultural situation, people around you don’t understand you so there is even more of an emphasis on relying on the immediate family unit for understanding your culture. This is not exclusive to missions families.
Blancs: Different cultures. My now-wife and I were dating in Nepal. You cannot date in Nepal because Nepalese do not date; they get married or they’re single. You also do not touch a woman or spend time with them alone until you propose. I saw that the families basically gave up a bit of their freedom to have a kiss or a hug or be fairly affectionate with each other publicly, for the sake of the culture and the people around. That opened my eyes to see even when I get married there is going to be different cultural rules to respect.
“God fills the gaps of loved ones that get left behind in your home country. He brings along adopted aunties and uncles to have a special role in your children’s lives”.
Q.4 What are the positives to following God’s call cross-culturally with children?
Scoots: God fills the gaps of loved ones that get left behind in your home country. He brings along adopted aunties and uncles to have a special role in your children’s lives. God loves your kids more than you do. He wants the best for them and if He says “Go” then He has got a trustworthy plan with everyone in mind.
Johnsons: Close family relationships and identifying with one another on an adventure; seeing the world together.
Blancs: We are a team and we work well together and granted we could just be friends on a team, but it is the marriage element that takes the friendship to levels that no other friend has. The cross-cultural benefits of that are that I am part of a unit with my wife and son.
Q.5 What are some difficult situations that you have seen God come through in?
Scoots: A motorcycle hit my eldest child and he was bound to have a concussion for sure, but God’s supernatural power protected him. In Israel, we have driven through riots and God has protected us as well.
Johnsons: Everyday there are many; my children’s adoptions, health, education, financial provision, living situation, friendships and more. God has been so faithful and there has been miraculous provision. We can see the reality of God’s hand in things firsthand, not just read it in a book; a front row seat to what God is and who He is.
Blancs: Our child had small problems like not sleeping well and we really did not know what to do. We prayed and God spoke to read a book to him at night time – now he sleeps like a rock. It makes a huge difference listening to God’s solution to the day-to-day challenges that come up.
“We wish we had known earlier that doing missions with family is wonderful. It is not burdensome; it is how God intended it to be”
Q.6 If you were to start this process of going into cross-cultural missions all over again, what advice would you have wanted?
Scoots: We wish we had known earlier that doing missions with family is wonderful. It is not burdensome; it is how God intended it to be.
Johnsons: There is no normal. Do not waste time on comparing yourself to anybody. Hear God, do what he says and enjoy the process. Stress less and only carry with you what you can carry in a suitcase and let the rest go. Do not take extra stuff with you.
Blancs: As it is coming up to two years in marriage and having a 9-month-old child it is still early on in missions to wish for different advice.
After hearing these stories and experiencing life in this community, I believe that it is possible for families to be out on the mission field following God’s call. It is beautiful to see many families on base demonstrating God’s original design for families. My eyes have been opened to God’s design and purpose for us in each of the different stages of our lives.