NORTH CAROLINA (BP) — It was a Sunday School answer that would earn praise there. Be applauded at home. Chuckled at in a church service.
“Why are we here?” I said, whispering.
“To tell people about Jesus!” my three-year-old son trumpeted.
Lifting my eyes to the surrounding crowd, I remembered we were not standing in church pews but contorted in airplane aisles. The “here” I was referring to wasn’t metaphorical. It was a country in Asia.
We were on a three-week trip that began with my professor-husband Steven teaching there for a week. Some people wondered why we loaded up our two children and traveled there, even for reasons like encouraging believers and sharing Hope. I wondered that too when I forgot pull-ups on the packed return flight.
The answer: to make this “living out the Gospel” real to my kids.
Finding local purpose
Living the Gospel out was difficult to do myself just a few years before. As a writer for the International Mission Board for two years in Thailand, being missions-minded was my calling, my to-do for each day, my career. When we felt led to return to America, taking on the mantle of church member and then the moniker of mother made me feel lost as to how to reach my neighbor for Jesus.
The first two short-term trips we took as a family helped. They were intentional, carved-out opportunities for my boys to pray over temple worshippers, tell children that Jesus loves them and hug on the grandma making them dumplings. Yet, they were mountain-top experiences that left me wondering how to carry that out in our everyday North Carolina life.
Then I realized: If finding missional purpose between feedings and laundry loads seems daunting to me, do other Jesus-loving, servant-hearted mothers feel the same way? How can my daily life be with Kingdom purpose? How can I be a mom on mission with my kids when errands seem overwhelming?
After asking the Lord for direction, I knew to make missions more than just a discussion for me and my boys, I needed to:
— Get organized
— Be in community with other believing moms
— Keep my plan simple (to avoid discouragement!)
I decided I could handle one missions-related “playdate” a month. I even gave my prayerfully anticipated group a title: Moms on Mission!
For our first foray, I sent out a playdate invitation to other moms at church and in my neighborhood, posted an announcement on Facebook, and prayed for God to provide laborers and fruit for our sowing.
Our first event was just two other moms with four children between us, chalking Bible verses on the sidewalks at our local university in both English and Chinese. I made the brave decision to let my boys bring their blow-up swords with us — Swords of the Spirit, if you will, to drive the lesson home!
Some months we had a good showing. Others we braved on with just a few. For full confession, did I remember to get everyone together each month? No! The month I couldn’t pull it together, I wrote the group with other ideas for family-based missions activities and tried to give myself grace.
Here are some ideas for inspiration, either with just your family or by playdating with others:
1. Serve food, stock shelves, or greet people at a food pantry or soup kitchen.
2. Call the local fire department and book a tour (a toddler favorite!). Create sweet or savory snacks, cards, or drawings for firefighters and deliver them on tour day, thanking the men and women for their service.
3. Sing at a nursing home or senior center, particularly around Christmas! Have the kids bring homemade Christmas cards for residents, along with an instrument to “play along” with the singing (anything from a tambourine to a coffee can drum!).
4. Volunteer at a local hospital or with a special needs ministry.
5. Make a typical playdate intentional! Meet at a local park and purposely engage other moms, inviting them to other outings or a Bible study. Pray for the moms and kids you met before you leave, involving your kids in the prayer.
6. Play water games and invite your neighbors to join in the fun. Spend a few minutes talking about the lack of clean water around the world and how Jesus is the “living water.”
Radical regardless of location
I once read a CNN article about how to avoid your kids accepting a “fake” Christianity. The author, John Blake, wrote something I’m not sure is true, but has remained with me: “Parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips.”
I don’t question mission trips as a radical act to do with your kids. We just returned from another trip to Thailand. Rusher, now three, commented, “We’re not in Thailand anymore, Mom.”
No, we’re not. God has called us here full-time. And sometimes it’s as radical for me to be transparently imperfect but Gospel-intentional with the mom I plop down next to at the park as I would with the man beside me on a bus somewhere in Asia.
My hope is that my kids are learning to love radically regardless of a difference in nationality, language, or age. I see them living out Jesus’ love by offering a smile, sharing snacks or building from the same box of Legos.
Oh, Lord, for all of the mini-sermons I speak and live out in front of my kids each day, let my life be radical enough that they see You for themselves.