myMISSION Mom Blog

3 Things Taking Our Toddler Overseas Taught Me about Missions

Teaching the gospel has no age barrier. We as Christ followers are commanded to make disciples of all nations—to live life with people in a way that encourages another Christ follower. When we first thought about taking our almost 2-year-old daughter overseas, we got all the questions: “Why are you taking her? She won’t remember it.” “Aren’t you afraid of something happening to her while you’re there?”

Then, we took her overseas. And it vastly expanded my idea of what reaching the nations is about. I learned 3 things about missions from taking my toddler overseas:

Fears and Families on Mission

“Why are you taking her? She won’t remember any of it. What if she doesn’t sleep on the plane? Aren’t you afraid of her getting sick?”

These are questions and statements we have heard numerous times since announcing we are taking our toddler overseas with us this month for a short-term missions trip. Our church has a partnership, through the International Mission Board, with a global city where my husband is leading our group. He went on a vision trip in April, and we agreed that when we went back, we would go as a family.

Little did we know that I would end up being 6 months pregnant when we go. But this isn’t the first time I have been pregnant in Asia. However, it is the first time I have been a mom with a toddler in Asia and pregnant at the same time.

Fear comes to us in hidden places. Am I looking forward to 27-plus hours of plane rides (just on the way over there)? Not really. Do I want my 22-month-old to get a virus I can barely pronounce because we brought her to Asia? Of course not.

A Mother’s Part in Prayer

Throughout my journey with Christ, I largely believed prayer was for those desperate times—the big seasons and decisions of life. The daily, ordinary stuff I could handle on my own.

A few years ago, prayer became like oxygen to me. My husband and I were in a foreign country learning a foreign language during a time when the developing country was going through a natural disaster. We were getting sick from the food and water. We had just found out we were going to have our first child.

Everything, all the time, all day, was out of control. And, honestly, so was I.

“What wings are to a bird, and sails to a ship, so is prayer to the soul.”—Corrie ten Boom

Through this season of life, I learned quickly that I could no longer continue as if prayer wasn’t my lifeline. My soul needed to be connected to the Lord—completely reliant on Him at all times.

Seeking the Divine: A Mother’s Mission

“Nor, who created you?”

“God” (pronounced “Gah”).

“Who created Daddy?”

“God.”

“Who created Mommy?”

“God.”

“Who created your baby brother or sister?”

“God.”

“That’s right. God created everything.”

At 18 months old, my daughter understands patterns. And the patterns I place in her life need to connect her to something more than diaper changes, baths, bedtimes, and meals. Her personality is developing quickly, and she is soaking in more language than I can keep up with.

Through the mood swings, the temper tantrums, the cuddles, the early mornings, and the asserting of her will, it’s easy to lose track of the time and let the day get away from me without teaching her things that will last beyond her time in this world.

Yet, each day, I have been tasked with the choice: focus on my needs and wants or invest in her eternity and make a little disciple out of my toddler.

Creating Space: Christ and Hospitality

Creating space for others—it’s what I think of when I focus on hospitality. And as mothers, we know a thing or two about creating space for other people. I would imagine a few of you have some little person invading your space even as you read this.

A long, wooden table filled a spread worthy of Pinterest with fresh bread, decorations for the season, chicken spiced and cooked well, and vegetables straight from the garden—this is what I believe our culture wants us to think of hospitality.

Oftentimes, we get caught up in the external features of hospitality and forget the internal characteristics of what it means to be hospitable people. However, as we look at Scripture and the example Christ set for us, we find a hospitality focusing much more on the relationship between the guest and the host rather than the presentation.

Christ welcomed the least of these.

Teaching Preschoolers the Gospel through Storying

  • Who are you?
  • Where do you come from?
  • Why do you exist?
  • Where are you going?
  • How will you get there?

Stories connect us—across cultures, generations, and communities. Stories are meant to be shared and passed on.

Who first told you about Christ? Who first shared His story with you, connecting His story to your story? For me, it was my grandmother. She shared Christ faithfully with me each time she kept my brother and me.

From the time I was around 3 or 4, I can remember her telling us Bible stories. And if anyone were qualified to teach children the Bible, it was my grandmother. She had taught the 4- and 5-year-old class at her church for years, even before I was born.

Single Moms and the Gospel

We were pushing our strollers through our neighborhood that beautiful, sunny day. We had an immediate friendship since our babies were just a few months apart and we were both home during the day. We found ourselves escaping from our houses around the same time in the afternoon with two fussy, sleepy babies as two moms who could use a walk and adult conversation.

This day was like any other, except we began to talk about spirituality. Then the subject of church came up.

She said, “They told me I was wrong to raise my baby alone. They said I needed to have a husband if I wanted to be a good mom. They didn’t know his dad was the one who left us. But their words still hurt. You and your husband seem so different when you talk about God. You say how God loves me and my son; and He isn’t mad at me. I’ve never heard that before. You talk like He’s real.”

I cannot even remember what I said in return. All I could remember was that she needed to hear that Christ loves her and her son, He sees her, and they are welcome in the body of Christ as they are.

Just Listen: 3 Ways to Connect Your Family to People Groups

We fell in love with South Asians. Maybe it was the warm milk tea, the curried food, the bells and loud music, or the welcoming smiles (OK, sometimes stares), but South Asians stole our hearts. Since moving to a rural area of Alabama, we wanted to look for ways our family could meet South Asians in our area. At first, we were told there weren’t many South Asians in this area. As we began to seek internationals in our area, we found that many families from South Asia reside in our town, and we wanted to get to know them.

A dinner, an English class, a Thanksgiving celebration—whatever could be used as a way to build relationships—we wanted to connect. We had a successful first get-together. Then for a couple months afterward, we tried to establish something else. And for months, this “something else” never quite worked out. The relationships were there just not the events.

What were we doing wrong? We weren’t listening—to God, to the people we were trying to reach, or to our family’s missional gifts.

The following are a few ways we’ve learned to connect to a people group through listening:

Three Ways We Invest Our Time as a Family

We moved from a South Asian city back to an American city. In South Asia, relationships trump tasks. You may begin to leave your house to run errands, but if a neighbor shows up, you stay and serve them chai. Relationships come before tasks.

Moving back to the United States made me question how I would spend my time. Add in being a new momma (and, for the first time, a stay-at-home mom), being a pastor’s wife, and living in a new town; I had many avenues where I could invest my time.

Love God. Love my family. Love my neighbor.

These three things have become themes in our family. Here are some ways we choose to invest our time as a family each day:

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

What’s your biggest fear? Is it spiders? Snakes? Speaking in public? Loneliness? Rejection? We tend to think of the “easy” fears first, like animals or insects, but when we get deeper, it gets uncomfortable. I’ll just be honest. I am afraid to fail. I love to do the right thing and get it just perfect, but sometimes I don’t let myself do something because I am afraid I will totally botch it up.

I’ve shared a little bit about my 20-month-old, Brady, and the fact that I’m due any day now with my little girl, Sophie. I’d be lying if I said the fact that my children will be this close together doesn’t make me more than slightly nervous. For starters, Brady and I are BFFs. I know that a lot of moms love their babies, but I’m serious, y’all—I laugh real live adult laughs at this child. The idea that I might miss one single thing that he does terrifies me and also makes me really sad. I love watching him learn about the world and show off all of his new skills.

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