Kacie was going to be a more adventurous mom. Growing up on the mission field, Kacie and her siblings spent many days at home, with their stay-at-home mother.
“I assumed … that’s the way my mom wanted it to be.” But, says the missionary to Papua, Indonesia, “I was going to be different, in the community with my kids.”
Her plan worked great at first. Out in the community, people doted on Kacie’s foreign babies. But when those babies became toddlers, they started resisting all the attention they were getting from strangers.
And as Kacie kept trying to pull her kids out into the community, “I realize that their resistance was growing, and it was creating resentment in them toward the local people.”
Soon, Kacie found herself in the same place as her mom: She could sacrifice her kids on the altar of ministry, or she could spend more time at home until her kids were old enough to set their own boundaries.
Parenting anywhere is hard. But parenting as a missionary involves navigating new cultures, letting go of expectations and helping your kids thrive in foreign systems — while learning to do the same yourself.
That’s why we’re taking this time to pray for missionary parents. Let’s ask God to give them wisdom, grace and understanding as they raise their kids to follow Him!
1. Pray for missionary parents’ personal growth in faith and character.
Raising kids on the mission field can be uniquely isolating. Often, there are no Sunday school teachers to pour into your kids’ lives. Extended family is far away. And local friends — and friend back home — struggle to understand what you’re going through.
“Parenting is such a huge privilege and responsibility, and it seems like the weight of it is heavier on the mission field,” says Beth Barthelemy, a TEAM missionary to South Africa.
In addition to the isolation, these parents also still deal with standard missionary challenges: learning a culture, trusting God in ministry, developing language skills and more. All that pressure can easily cause missionaries to burn out or lose focus on their own relationships with God.
Pray for missionary parents to keep their focus on Christ through all the challenges they face. Pray for strong, local friendships with Christians who can pour into their kids’ lives. Ask God to guide TEAM and other missions agencies as they seek to support missionary parents in the best ways possible.
2. Pray for wisdom as missionary parents look for the best education, medical care and other opportunities for their kids.
Education is one of the most common concerns missionary parents express. Some areas will offer excellent local or international schools. But in other areas, it may be hard to find a school that meets the standards for your home country’s colleges. Your child may struggle with the local teaching style. And finding programming for a kid with special needs may be impossible.
With limited options, parents may choose to homeschool or send their kids to a boarding school — or they may leave the mission field entirely.
Finding good medical care, extra-curriculars and even other kids to befriend can also create logistical challenges.
“There are often fewer choices available, and the choices may be much harder to access or navigate with wisdom,” says Laura O’Day, TEAM missionary to the Philippines.
Ask God to give missionary parents good advisors as they seek the best care for their kids. Pray that the various options — or lack thereof — won’t be overwhelming, but rather that God will lead each family to best choices.
3. Pray that missionary parents will know how to guide their kids through the emotional challenges of missionary life.
Missionary parents work hard to create stability in their children’s lives. But no matter how well they do, missionary kids will still struggle with goodbyes, shifting cultures and questions about their own identities.
After years of living in South Africa, Beth’s blonde-haired, light-skinned daughter tried defining herself. “American” didn’t fit, but neither did “African.” So, her daughter announced, “I’m African American!”
It makes for a funny story, but Beth and her husband are still sorting out how they help their daughter make sense of her unique identity.
Chico Schloneker, a missionary to Germany, is finding that to help his kids process their feelings, he has to be open about his own, “so they don’t feel alone in them.”
Pray for deep bonds between missionaries and their kids, so they can walk through challenges together. Ask God to give missionary parents wisdom as they help kids work through their big questions.
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