Missions Catalyst 02.09.10 – Practical Mobilization

In This Issue: Blame Your Kids for Your Toots, But Not for Your Disobedience

  • FEATURE: Blame Your Kids for Your Toots, But Not for Your Disobedience
  • SUBVERSIVE MOBILIZATION: How Do You Help Your Diaper-clad Disciples Grow Up Global?
  • EVENTS: New on the Missions Catalyst Calendar

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

Practical Mobilization by Shane Bennett is published once a month.

FEATURE: Blame Your Kids for Your Toots, But Not for Your Disobedience

Flatulence, Not Hesitance

Why do we have kids? Because people catch on: The dog is not making all those smells. Kids, however, are perfect cover. Especially little ones. They produce a fascinating variety of bizarre scents anyway, and lack the verbal capacity to say, “It was not me!”

I learned early on that kids end up shouldering the blame for many other things as well. Don’t want to go to small group? “Baby has a runny nose.” Didn’t deliver a project on deadline? “Junior was up all night.” A little nervous about moving to an unreached city? “What about my kids?” Convenient, no? But are the kids the real reason? Maybe not.

Baby Barricades

Here’s the main point: Even though it’s almost always a great idea for kids to have some experience living in another culture, sometimes we line them up in front of us like barricades on the road to “over there.” We use them to restrict the ways God might use us in his kingdom.

Now the Problem’s Logistical, Then It Will Be Psychological

A few years ago, Ann and I were planning to relocate to Europe. We were pretty jazzed about the whole idea, but I was having a hard time visualizing flying over the Atlantic with our kids. I just could not imagine it. We had four at the time, all five and under. I know what you’re thinking, but I couldn’t come up with a really good reason why I needed to go a few days early and leave Ann to bring the kids later by herself.

About this time I went to a training event also attended by a woman who, with her husband, spent six months of each year in India and six months in the U.S. They had 13 kids. At least I think it was 13. It may have been 10 or even as few as seven. At any rate, they had enough to make me think, “I’ve got to find out how this family does it!” Even then I knew that a trip to India is really only just getting started when you arrive in Amsterdam.

I approached her and told her about our plans. I hoped I’d found a comrade who would be both sympathetic to and impressed by my global commitment. She asked how old the kids were. I told her five and under. Again, I expected her to be impressed. She pursed her lips for a moment, and then offered, “Well, now it’s easy. Now the problems are simply logistical. When they get to be teenagers, the problems become psychological.”


I nodded my head in dumb amazement and shuffled away. Few things sting like realizing your big problems may be minor at best.

It turns out that she was right. Most of the hassles of getting to Holland, and later, England, were logistical. For the record, they were also well within God’s capacity to handle. In fact, we even had a fifth child in Holland. (I was going to say, “We chose to have a fifth child in Holland,” but that wouldn’t have been technically true.)

Now, with three-fifths of our kids fully in their teenage years, I’m beginning to suspect that what she said about the problems to come is accurate, too.

Give the Gift of Another Culture

Here’s the kicker: We are convinced that the time we spent in Holland and England was an amazing gift for our kids. They brought back much more than wooden shoes and a slight Yorkshire accent. They acquired a second language (to varying degrees). They learned that different people see life differently. They discovered that Pakistani kids can be your friends. They found that most of the Nigerians we hung out with were totally cool. And they had seeds of an idea planted in their minds that though they carry American passports, they could learn to feel at home in many parts of the world.

Let me be clear here: Holland and England are relatively easy places for Americans to live. We didn’t stay long. And, although most of our kids required some medical care while we lived there, none of them even approached “scary” sick.

There are few things in the world I would trade for that time. I think they’d say the same.

Beware the Lizard Brain

There’s a portion of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for our fear, rage, and drive to reproduce. Seth Godin delightfully calls it the Lizard Brain. He says that this portion of our brain passionately resists change. It tirelessly advocates for comfort and status quo. “The lizard hates change and achievement and risk.”

So for me, maybe for you, and certainly for many of our pew-mates on a given Sunday morning, the lizard brain soundly votes “Nay” to any invitation to spend some days/months/years in a different culture. Few of us have the confidence and capacity for honesty required to say, “No, the reason I won’t go is because I prefer the comfort I find in my own culture, making money among people who speak my language and eat normal food.” So we fish around for some other reason. Frequently that reason finds a voice in four magical words: “Think of the children.”

“Because of the kids, we shouldn’t go. They are too young. They are too old. They are too close to graduating. They have special needs. They have opportunities here. They have friends whom they’d be pained to leave.”

Ever hear this?

I’m not saying these concerns are not valid. They are. And matters may be more severe than that. Some missionaries have buried children on hillsides far from their homes.

Honesty Check

What I am saying is this: sometimes “Think of the children” is a smoke screen. We are the ones we’re concerned about. Can we be honest about this?

Jesus has always called us to go where the gospel is not. In some places today, doors are swinging open like never before. God’s purpose through history and the Bible is to bring redemption to all things. Believers around the globe have unprecedented access to people living with no access to the gospel.

Think you can’t engage this great cause because you have little kids?

Can I ask you to think again? This might be the very best time to go. This might be the easiest season for you to relocate across an ocean or across the tracks. They may whine and complain. (They have a lizard brain too!) But they might get one of the best gifts they’ll ever receive.

As for our family, the Middle East is calling these days. I’ve heard over the years that a good mobilizer is always ready to move overseas, maybe even wishes he could be in a another culture, but feels compelled by God to remain in his own. Sometimes I’ve personally felt that; sometimes not. Well, now among the kids a consensus is building, the Sweet Thing is looking at foreign real estate online, and on this mobilizer’s ship, mutiny is in the air. Where will we head next? Pray for me, OK?

SUBVERSIVE MOBILIZATION: How Do You Help Your Diaper-clad Disciples Grow Up Global?

The older I get, the more I hope God has some fresh blood on the sidelines preparing for the game. There’s much work yet to do and we need our descendants ready to engage. With that in mind, I’m pulling together some thoughts on how parents can help their kids get ready to live like Jesus on Thomas Friedman’s flat planet.

If you’re taking steps to help your kids be global, I’d love to chat with you. You’re probably thinking and doing things that would never occur to me. Please send a quick email with the subject line, “Thoughts on raising global kids.” I’ll follow up with some questions, maybe a phone call, and a copy of whatever results.

>> Comment here or send an email.

EVENTS: New on the Missions Catalyst Calendar

Prayer Summit for the Zhuang (Arden Hills, MN, USA). February 13. An OMF event.

Heart for Asia Conference (New York, NY, USA). March 13. An OMF event.

Heart for Asia Conference (Lancaster, PA, USA). April 10. An OMF event.

National Missionary Convention (Lexington, KY, USA). November 18 to 20. Associated with the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ.

>> Complete calendar.

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