Once, my wife and I attended a lecture with our then three-year-old son. The speaker was a possible Nobel Prize candidate, and we were at a prestigious university. Our very extroverted son saw one of our friends quietly coming in late and innocently, but boldly and loudly, greeted her with an affectionate term meaning “auntie.” The lecturer, a bit stunned, stopped for a moment and all eyes turned to us. Our son, the only child at the lecture, was smiling and waving to our friend summoning her to come. I prayed, “Oh God, what did I do by bringing him here? Help me!”
Our family has been focusing exclusively on reaching academics and religious leaders in Central Asia for Christ. As far as we know, we are the only people tasked with this specific calling. Those we are trying to reach are some of the smartest yet most hostile people toward the gospel.
People have asked why we choose to work with them when others are more receptive to the gospel.
Despite the difficulty of the calling and the reality that we will likely not see much fruit in our lifetime, we remain committed. We know that if just a few of these influential leaders and teachers put their faith in Christ, their kingdom impact would be immeasurable. This has been the pattern throughout history (for example, look at the life of the Apostle Paul or Martin Luther).
But our calling is also unique, because, from the first time my wife and I started this work, we decided that we were going to do ministry as a family. That was easy without kids. When children came along, we knew it would be more difficult. Including them in our mission work has been worth it, however, because of our heart for the people and our belief that sharing Christ together as a family is a powerful way to model God’s love.
As the people where we live place a high value on family, children, especially males, are considered gifts of God and are highly esteemed. Our parenting styles are very different, and our national friends notice how we choose to guide our children. They see our discipline is different; they see when we get things right and when we get things wrong. Ministering as a family provides us a way to be vulnerable and seek mercy; it gives our friends the freedom to talk about more than just a lecture that many are required to attend.
It is not just lectures either. More than a few of our friends have started to bring their children to different events and meetings we attend. This means we have a chance to meet more women. We connect not just male-to-male or female-to-female, but family-to-family. Relationships begin, and, in time, we meet with some in homes for meals and fellowship.
Discussion takes place, trust is earned, and we get the privilege of sharing the message of the gospel. Our friends see how we function as a family, how we see each person as important and made in God’s image, and how we all need God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness through Jesus.
We talk about life issues and the hope we have in Jesus in the context of family. When hard questions arise that surround the differences between Christianity and their religion, we answer them truthfully, but we do so in the framework of a relationship that affects not just one or two people, but all of us – father-to-father, mother-to-mother, child-to-child. This allows us to be truthful and honest about our beliefs and not about feeling the need to be right or to win an argument. We are seen as friends who genuinely care about them.
Our son’s auntie, a woman who researches cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, is single and devout in her faith. Being together as a family gives all of us an avenue to share Christ with her. Our son may be the best witness of all. He, without any care in the world, confidently shouts out her name and calls her to come be with him.
*Names changed for security