We have been blessed with both a blood family and a faith family that have encouraged and supported our work among the Inapang in Papua New Guinea for the last fourteen years. God has been gracious and kind, and we don’t take this for granted. However, that doesn’t mean it’s been easy or that we haven’t encountered criticism. Then again, those who choose overseas missions as a career often encounter criticism. I believe it was CT Studd who said, “Had I cared for the comments of people, I should never have been a missionary.”
The most frequently asked question that we received as a missionary family early on was, “What about the children?” It seems that both Christian and non-Christian folks alike are concerned when missionaries make choices that their children are obligated to participate in. I cannot lie. I had never lived in a third world country before, and I didn’t know if the kids would turn out alright. I had to take the comments, the fears, and the anxiety and leave it with God every day and trust that He would be enough. I didn’t really care if the kids didn’t receive top-notch education, or if they would be sporty enough or social enough when they made their way back to their passport country. I was far more worried about their character and their faith.
Would life overseas be something that they would reflect on later with joy or disdain? And how would it affect their walk with God?
There is no way to tell the future, but my husband and I prayed and the Lord kindly showed us that what we could do was live in this day––right here, right now. We prayed for our girls daily, and we gathered up special friends and family to pray for their hearts. We also told the girls every day that they were privileged to be part of an eternal plan to save souls in this hard and sometimes culturally stressful place. This wasn’t about us or them. It was about something bigger than our family. When things seemed hard, our family’s go-to line was, “We will never sacrifice our family, but we will always sacrifice as a family.”
In August of this past year, almost fourteen years (to the day) after we stepped off the plane and took our first breath in the humid air of Papua New Guinea, my husband and I woke up to a text from Sabra, our second daughter. She is now attending Boyce College in Louisville, KY, but she was five years old when we moved into our little Itutang village home. This is how being a missionary kid affected her life:
There is so much need in the world. There is a need for food, for relief from suffering, for hope and encouragement; there is a need for many things. However, most importantly, there is a need for the Gospel and, with that, discipleship.
I had no idea what was in store for my family and I in 2003 when we headed over to Papua New Guinea. Now, I know it was the greatest and most special time of my life. From age 5 until age 17, Papua New Guinea was and still is my home. It is where I learned to read and write. It is where God grabbed my heart and formed my desires to point to Himself. It was there I learned my depravity. It was there Mom and Dad spent countless years admonishing me, counseling me, disciplining me, and washing me in the Gospel. It was there that I was baptized in the Guam River with many of my friends, making a public statement of the great work that God had done and still does for me. Papua New Guinea is where I got to watch as my Dad toiled through translating the Bible into a language that was only oral, and where Mom strove to make the Itutang people an alphabet. I watched and got to help them teach villages to read and write, and finally, to hear the Great, Good Gospel in their own language, and eventually read it for themselves. I got to watch my sister and me grow in our love for the Lord, as well as in our love for each other and our family.
Yes, it was there I got to watch as trials constantly shook us––how Mom and Dad would persevere, and ask for help and forgiveness when they didn't. Despite, at times, spears being thrown, close friends dying, and separation from each other, God has been constant. Today, when I am hit with loneliness, health problems, hurt from friends, insecurities, my own sin, and rough circumstances, I go back, just as the Israelites did, to my monuments. I remember how God has been faithful.
The best days of my life were the days my family and I were all up at 2:00 am in a huge thunderstorm vigorously attempting to yank down all of our tarps over the screen windows so that the house and our beds wouldn't get soaked. Or the countless days we spent reading the Bible together and drinking coffee at 5:30am before the sun scorched us. The best days were when we stayed outside till 1:00 am because everyone in our tribe was under and around our house singing and playing guitars in praise; or other days up even later because a medical emergency or domestic conflict had arose and needed to be solved. The best days were walking around in the swamp talking to my friends who wanted to know more about how amazing God is. There is blood, dirt, sweat, heat, conflict, hurt, pain, really bad (or most of the time no) internet, and a heap of other uncomfortable things. These things, even on a large scale, are a small price to pay if the Lord were to save even one soul out of a Christless eternity of unbearable pain because of it.
The "Mission Field" is my home. Do not stop discipling, and if you haven't started, pray for God to give you the opportunity. The mission field is wherever God calls you, whether that be in your family, in your neighborhood, or in Papua New Guinea. "Make Disciples of all nations."
What about the children? Sabra’s text brought the answer to us that hot and humid August morning. God is able, and He is worth it. If you’re considering a life overseas, don’t let these questions and concerns keep you from being obedient. Don’t be afraid. Set up a monument to rehearse His grace thus far. And remember, when the King returns, the rules change.