Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Raising Kids on the Mission Field

Ring-bearer for a wedding at our church in Haiti
"I don't remember where I am from."

 Sometimes it is a simple question, like "Where are you guys from?"  Other times it is the obvious moment when your 7-year old still won't eat with utensils, because none of his friends eat with a spoon or fork.  And then there are the even more obvious moments when he carries a bowling ball on his head when his aunt takes him bowling "for the first time" because he could not remember what bowling is.  And why wouldn't he carry the ball on his head? Everything is carried on the head in Haiti, and it really improves posture and allows you to carry even more weight...this is his world.

Each of these moments make us chuckle, but they tell a much deeper story.  While enjoying a day at the beach here in Haiti, a gentleman struck up conversation with our family.  The very typical first question was, "Where are you from?"  Our youngest paused and then replied, "I don't remember where I am from."  Our friend explained that she is from Oklahoma, and then informed the gentleman that we live here in Haiti.  Without missing a beat our youngest said, "Oh yea! I've been to Oklahoma before!"  We all chuckled and reminded him that is where we lived - and he was born - before moving to Haiti.

In the moment I handle these moments pretty well - at least I feel like I do.  But later they come rushing back to me and I think through all the blogs and books I keep reading (or have on my to-read list) about third-culture kids (TCKs).  Our youngest was just 4 when we moved to Haiti, so he will adopt more of the TCK posture than our older kids.  Reflecting on this moment though - the moment of not remembering where he was from - I had to surrender it to God.  American culture says so much about the foundation we give our kids, putting down our roots, and them knowing where they come from. All the parenting books I read before missions were completely focused on life in America.  I often find myself out of my element and the enemy knows just where to attack.  He likes to take these simple moments and innocent conversations and use them to tell me that I am a failure; surely I must be ruining my children.  Yet, I look at the photo below and see a fun-loving, enjoyable young boy who loves life.  So I cry out to God once again and ask that He guide us in this often lonely road of raising children on mission in a developing world. 

So, when you find that your child cannot remember where he is from, or eats with his hands when clearly he is old enough to remember a utensil, focus on this: are you teaching them to "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God? (Micah 6:8)"  Because in the end, that is what God requires of us...that we live in this way, and that we teach our children to do the same (Deut. 6).  So let go of the little things, don't give the enemy any foothold, and keep on pointing your children back to the One who holds them closer than you imagine.

Celebrating his 7th birthday with ice cream sundaes - thanks Aunt Shari for the ice cream machine!!