It’s the question that keeps us awake at three in the morning. God might be leading us to Mongolia or Iraq, Nepal or Kazakhstan… but what about our children? How will they cope? Will they make any friends? What if they get sick? Will they turn out alright? And we try and reassure ourselves with the thought that, ‘If God calls one, then he calls the whole family’ but as we drift back to sleep a more frightening thought stirs at the back of our mind. ‘What if something terrible happens to one of them?’ and then, ‘Will I ever be able to live with myself?’
Wherever we are, we worry about our children. We worry about their friends and their education and their attitudes and their behaviour. But there’s a certain increase in anxiety when we consider taking them into third world countries, especially to places with civil unrest, physical challenges and unfamiliar customs. We find ourselves losing sleep, developing guilt complexes and then looking to others for some reassurances. Happily, most of the books on Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) tell us that the children of missionaries turn out to be adaptable and empathetic adults with a highly developed world view. Returned missionaries also tell us that their children loved their years in Mongolia, Iraq, Nepal and Kazakhstan and in fact, they can’t wait to go back.
But the questions still sit there in the dead of night for us. What about my children? Will they be okay? Unfortunately, of course, there isn’t any answer… just as there isn’t any answer in the event that we stay in Australia. None of us can ensure our children’s faith by sending them to Sunday school and we can’t ensure our children’s wellbeing by keeping them in Australia. All we can do is commit ourselves to loving them, praying for them and making the most of the time that God has given to us to spend with them on this earth, in whatever country that might be. If he leads us to the foreign mission field then that might mean we spend more time ensuring a good water supply and some sturdy contingency plans in the event of ill health or political turmoil. We might spend more time investigating educational options and gathering resources in case we need them. We might spend more time teaching our children about the extraordinary world that God has made for us and then enjoying its diversity on the backs of elephants or in dugout canoes. We might spend more time playing in paddy fields and watching what it means for a local family to grow everything they need to eat… and then give most of it to us. We might spend more time feeling thankful for God’s goodness and growing in the way we put our trust in him.
And then one night in some far distant country, we’ll wake up at three in the morning and smile, knowing profoundly that he, who holds the sparrows, has a plan for our children. He, who numbers the hairs on their heads, also knows what tomorrow holds. And then we’ll slowly lean back on our pillow… and find rest.
Naomi Reed is a former Interserve Partner. She is also a bestselling author and gifted speaker. Her latest book, The Plum Tree in the Desert shares stories of faith and mission from Interserve Partners over the last 25 years. Naomi is also speaking on the Australia-wide Unfolding Grace tour. For more information, see Unfolding Grace.