My husband and I feel we might have a call into missions (we're praying and seeking God's guidance on what He wants us to do).
We have a 3 year old and another baby on the way. We know we wouldn't be going until our baby is at least 6 months old (with getting finances and everything together).
How do we best prepare for having an infant in the field? And do you have any hints on helping others, specifically family, see that we aren't being completely irrational and horrible parents for even considering taking our children into a 3rd world environment?
Congratulations, Sara, on seriously considering the missionary call, in the light of your responsibilities to your children.
1) Preparation for taking an infant to “the field.”
a. A lot depends on where you are going, Sara. The “mission field” includes living with a primitive tribe in the jungle or ministering to professionals in a modern city like Bogotá, Colombia.
b. Your best help would be the advice of other missionaries who have raised children in the context where you are considering working. They’ve been through the experience and will have many suggestions. Ask more than one couple; you’ll get varying answers!
c. Do reading on the place you plan to go. Better yet, plan a visit and talk to a lot of people.
2) Helping others understand.
a. Most significantly, Sara, you are facing a “world view question.” People will react to your taking your children out of the U.S. on the basis of what they consider to be of utmost importance.
If these values are the best education possible, total physical safety, and complete separation from germs, you’ll never win them over! But if they consider the value of being raised in a cross-cultural situation, the opportunity to learn another language, be closely involved and associated with their parents in fulfilling ministry, etc., one can look at the experience with new eyes.
b. People also have a stereotypical response to “the mission field,” either from listening to one individual’s experience, reading 19th Century biographies, or looking through National Geographic.
It would be helpful to describe honestly and in full detail the reality of what you will be facing – its benefits as well as its challenges.
c. Missionaries seek to be careful. However, if no missionaries ever went to a place that had the slightest risk involved, we in North America would never have heard the Gospel.
d. In terms of “subjecting children” to privations, it is interesting to review studies of what happens to the children of missionaries. The vast majority build on their unique experiences to become hardworking young adults and doing amazingly creative things.
The “missionary experience” has a tendency to develop independence, self reliance, and a spirit of adventure in young people. For example, I wouldn’t trade my own experience as a missionary kid, raised in three different countries, chased out of one due to a war, and studying in a wide range of schools (I had been around the world twice before I was 18!).
e. Be patient with people; they want your welfare and the same for your children. The key issue will be to indicate that it is the Lord who is leading you and He cares more for your children than anyone.
Missionary life has its built-in stresses and can be very difficult, but I have found that the Lord is very creative with parents who seek Him and do their best to care for the needs of their kids.
May the Lord continue to lead you both.