MK Schooling

We truly counted it a privilege to serve as International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries. Our family was blessed beyond measure, not only for the financial support, but for the spiritual and emotional support as well.

Our MK schooling story includes many moves. Serving in a restricted access country means that you don’t really know what might be next. God was faithful and led us every step of the way. We landed with a 2-year-old and an almost- 4-year-old. Our first year of language study by immersion had us balancing tutors, child care in our home and some kindergarten homeschooling. The lessons and creative arts gave us a needed routine for the day. And it was fun! Little sister even got her own sheets to color, and almost every day we had a fun family time of interacting with something new.

A brief attempt at a local language kindergarten the next year proved unstable. The caregivers were nice, but they were also teaching our 4-year-old to sing songs praising the religion of the land. It was a little too much to sift through in our son’s young mind, so we returned to homeschooling and playing in the street with local children.

Our next move introduced us to a secular elementary school. There are many such schools in different countries run by previous colonizers. We still didn't have any English opportunities, but it was a blessing for our children to be in a group setting and to learn to read and write in another language, and it was also a blessing for us as parents to be able to go further in our own learning. It was wonderful to be together and for them to have other experiences as well.

However, about the middle of that year, our son began showing signs of stress. We discovered that one teacher had the custom of screaming at the children in very demeaning ways. Hitting the children was also allowed. Our son was experiencing something completely different than he had before, and we needed to find different ways to deal with this stressful situation. We were happy that it was time for our first stateside assignment. We came home to the United States (US), stayed in a church missionary home and enrolled our children in a local school. God gave us wonderful Christian teachers who helped both of our children catch up on reading in English, but more than that, helped them deal with the stress they had experienced and replace it with better memories.

When we returned to the field, they were happy to go back. We have always had a great time together learning new things and making new friends. We were in a new city, which also came with new challenges. We were able to have our children in an English-speaking Catholic school. The staff there put a lot of effort into finding common ground for our faith and gave us the opportunity to take our children out of class when they were teaching doctrines or celebrating festivals that were different from our beliefs. Discipline with some of the children was a challenge, and when we found out that a bully was targeting our daughter, it took quite a while to find the right way to deal with the situation. There were a lot of prayers, discussions and attempts at teaching boundaries. Of course, these are things that can happen anywhere, but it is harder to deal with when you are in a different location with different and limited support systems.

It is just difficult being different. Sometimes, as missionaries, we were welcomed. Sometimes we were not. I can see now in our adult children a strong desire to stand up for others that I believe came from experiencing what it feels like being different and even perhaps being pushed down for being different. We never want these things for our children, but God in His grace allows it. He gives us wisdom and strength. He gives us healing. His plans are bigger than ours. He uses these experiences for His purposes in the world.

Constant change brought challenges of adapting and continually learning, but it also brought us closer together as a family and gave us greater opportunities to discuss what we believed and why it was different.

I remember one summer reading the The Chronicles of Narnia together as a family, sharing Christ, serving volunteers and other missionaries, taking walks on a beach, visiting local cafés and, once again, looking for a new place to live. It was a challenge, but we were together. It was during one of those evenings that our son and daughter both said yes to Jesus being their lifetime Savior and Lord. Our eternity changed in an instant, and we will be together forever.

Our family moved several more times, and the children were able to continue their schooling through local English schools. When a prolonged sickness took us off the field, our children were able to complete middle school and high school in the US. They would say that coming back to America was harder than anything they experienced overseas.

Now, as young adults, I see how comfortable they are around people different from themselves. They seem to gravitate toward the different, the needy, ostracized, wandering and sometimes simply lost. By God’s grace they have become strong followers of Christ and are seeking to live their lives for Him. We are so thankful.

MK schooling opportunities are just one part of our family story, but it is one of the things that brought us together and allowed us the awesome privilege of seeing our children come to know Jesus and have eternity together with Him.

We are forever thankful for the prayers, financial support through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the International Mission Board, for WMU, family, friends and teachers who helped us along the way. Mostly we are thankful to God Who works all things together for our good and His glory.

Laura Harper is a former IMB missionary. These days, she serves as a ministry consultant with national WMU in Birmingham, Alabama.

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