Daughter, God is sending us to Fiji
Updated: Sep 19, 2018
Preparing your child for the Mission field
After the Lord confirmed in my heart (and in my wife’s heart) that He wanted me to move my family back to Oak Harbor, join Bible Baptist Church, and head up the South Pacific Baptist Outreach, my next step was to communicate this decision with my daughter. Although she is a very compliant and easy-going child, I knew that this move would be a huge step for her and, as a parent, I was nervous about her response. Would she be excited, would she be upset, angry—what would be her reaction?
When the moment finally presented itself, I sat her down and told her that the Lord had given me new direction for ministry and that it would take us to the other side of the world. Her first response—as expected—was mingled with concerns and fears: “Dad, how do I tell my friends that we’re leaving and can Stormy (the cat) go with us?” Its funny what children think about first! I reassured her that her mom and I would help her figure out answers to both concerns; then we hugged and shed a few tears.
Without a manual on “how to prepare your child for the mission field,” my wife and I found it challenging, yet rewarding, to help prepare our daughter for life on the mission field. Here are a few things that the Lord directed and reminded us to do:
Maintain a positive attitude—from the start, we viewed and promoted our new life as a great adventure. Our focus was not on the negatives, differences, or challenges ahead, but on the awesome experiences we would have together as a family. Serving the Lord is a joyous adventure!
Simply listen—children have a lot to say and by listening to them express themselves, you gain valuable insights into their concerns, fears, and outlook on life. We needed to know what our daughter was thinking about this move and when we listened without interrupting, it opened a door to offer scriptural promises, comforting counsel, and a proper perspective. In my experience, one of the greatest ways to win and keep your child’s heart is through proper communication. Don’t dismiss their perspective—they often see things that you miss!
Expose the realities—to help prepare our daughter for the unavoidable culture shock, we involved her in our research of the islands. We Googled everything from animal life to basic cuisine, talked with Fijian residents, asked questions of other missionaries, and even downloaded a weather app to give us daily weather reports in Fiji. This information has helped prepare her for the new realities and hopefully, will reduce the initial shock. Now if I can only convince her that sharks won’t bite her toes off when she steps into the Pacific Ocean!
Encourage and educate—change is hard; it is hard for children and especially for adults. Realizing that it takes time to accept and adjust to change, my wife and I kept a close eye on her demeanor. We knew she would struggle with certain things and that her attitude would not always be upbeat. So, from time to time, we would do special things to encourage her: take her shopping for a new ‘Fijian skirt’ (AKA: a thrift store skirt with lots of pretty colors and an amazing “twirl-ability!”); plan a “play date” with her friends; give grandparents permission to spoil her. These things were not done to manipulate her attitude but, as with anyone who needs a little encouragement, tender love and care goes a long way. On the other side of the coin, there were plenty of moments when attitudes needed correction. Those moments provided a prime opportunity to point her eyes to the Lord. Teaching her to talk to her Heavenly Father and to draw comfort and guidance from His Word has been one of the most gratifying rewards we have received as parents. Our God must become her God!
Parenting is both exciting and challenging. We count it a blessing not only to have a child to raise, but that God has given us the opportunity to expose her to a different culture and involve her in reaching souls for the glory of Christ!