Missionary kids (MK’s) are our most precious gift and one of the most powerfully influential people groups in our world today. We are called, whether we have our own children or not, to steward this resource with the greatest care. Family issues are one of the main reasons missionaries return from the field. The sad reality is that many missionary kids choose to walk away from their faith as a result of their experiences overseas. Let’s do all we can to encourage healthy experiences. Here’s a few thoughts about raising children in a foreign country:
Show and prove to them they are your top priority and are more important than ministry.
- Our Actions are more powerful than our words.
- Be emotionally, physically and mentally present with them in milestones and on a daily is.
- Don’t put unrealistic missionary expectations on them – their job is to be kids it’s ok to fail. Their job is to be kids and it's okay to fail.
2. Stay connected:
- Foster communication even when difficult and painful.
- Be careful to listen to their words and their silences. Silence is just as significant as what they say.
- Include them in the decision-making process.
- Give them permission to: voice disagreement, question choices made for them, doubt - as they work out their own faith
3. Treat cultural differences as opportunities:
- Check your attitude towards the culture: Children get their attitudes from you.
- Embrace and integrate your host culture into your family life.
4. Make your home a refuge. Fill it with peace and celebration of one another.
5. As much as possible, help them find solid friendships.
6. Make every effort by investing time, energy and funds to keep your children connected to their extended family.
7. Maintain your family and culture and values. - As culture may demand you do some things differently.
8. Don't overcompensate for what you think your children are missing.
9. Keep tabs on their hearts: Ask engaging questions:
- What was the best thing that happened to you today? What was the hardest?
- Did anything happen today that you didn't understand, that felt weird, different or perhaps caused you to feel afraid or ashamed?
- If you could change one thing about your day/life, what would it be?
- Are you having challenges with your friends? etc.
10. Allow them to grieve the home and friends they've left - both when they leave their home country and when they leave their adopted host country.
11. Help them identify and steward their strengths and challenges that define them.
12. Schooling options:
-Discern what is best for your situation and your children.
- Location, age, available schools and children’s needs - this process is different for everyone – you don’t need to be someone else.
- If your children have special needs, make sure those are able to be met.
13. "Home" culture
- Don’t lose connection with home culture: not fair to expect kids to go back to live in a place which they know nothing about.
- Supplement education if necessary.
- Advise children there will be cultural and experiential gaps, and misunderstandings of social cues.
- Foster relationships with other MK’s.
- Have a place in home country that is called “home.” Children need a sense of place and belonging. Return to this “home” as often as possible.
Mission Pastor and Director of Bethel Mission Intensive Training School
Bethel Church Redding, CA