Question about Singles/Families for missionaries:
"Can a couple with small children make it to the field?"
Younger is better in terms of family adjustment. The earlier your kids accept the host culture as their own home, learn the language, etc. the easier their adjustment (in my opinion).
As wonderful as it is to visit the U.S. and grandparents, I'd encourage grandparents to visit you, instead, during the first two or three years. A minimum three-year commitment makes the new home "real." Refer to the U.S. as "the U.S." and the host country as "home."
Families often have advantages that single missionaries don't have. For example, through our children, we can more easily interact with another culture. The people most resistant to the gospel can be open to interacting with missionary families.
Stay focused on the high calling of missions. The needs are great and the stakes are high, but the rewards are limitless.
1. Your family is young and adaptable.
2. It's easier for all of you to learn a foreign language.
3. The more comfortable you get at home, and the more your family patterns are set, the harder it is to make a major move.
4. Having babies is a worldwide experience. In most countries, there are adequate facilities, unless there are complications. I was born in Pyong Yang, Korea.
My assistant, Paul, grew up overseas, and went to the neighborhood school. He said he doesn't know how to answer the question, "how was going to school overseas?" He said it's just growing up. Some things are fun, and some aren't. To get an idea of how missionary kids live, visit mukappa.org.
I've heard and read that one out of every eight missionary children make it in the Who's Who in America, compared with about one of 100,000 regular American children. All three of my children were blessed growing up on the mission field. They are bicultural, multilingual, have people skills, and are musicians. (And all three are in Who's Who in America!)
Hundreds of Wycliffe families have successfully gone to the field with small children. There are many great advantages in starting out with young kids. We went to the Philippines pregnant with our first child. By the end of first term we had two boys, and, on furlough, we added a third son.
Smaller kids are so much more adjustable. Some teens can go overseas for the first time and adjust, but often it is harder to go through adolescence at the same time.
If you like up with an agency or your church denomination you can get much expert help. Most have candidate categories that allow you to be one of their "missionaries in training." You might consider this. You could apply for an agency and have two years to get ready to go, but with the agency's wonderful help even before you go.
The younger they are, the easier it is to take them into another culture. Our children learned to speak the language much quicker, easier and better than their parents. And when they're young, they don't undergo as much culture shock as when they're older. The longer you stay in your home culture and the more possessions you acquire, the more difficult it is to let go and go. Get some training and then go! Don't stay until you think you know everything and then you'll be "ready." The only way to learn to be a missionary is to go be a missionary. You won't learn it in books. You won't learn it in Bible college. You'll learn it by doing it!
Now after about eight years on the field (with ten- and eight-year-old boys and a three-year-old girl), our marriage, family and ministry are solid and growing. We don't go too many days (hours) without struggle, but now with a strong relationship with each other and with our heavenly Father, those struggles are not devastating.
Make sure your relationship with God is strong and growing (and not dependent on the Christian sub-culture of America). And make sure that as a family (especially as a couple) you are ready to be, many times, each other's main and perhaps only close friend on the field. Are you able to work through disagreements? Do you know how to express love to each other? Do you know how to deal with and talk about all sorts of feelings?
If I had been confronted with those questions before coming to Japan, I may have delayed and better prepared myself for life and ministry overseas. Having gotten that help, I know that it is possible to make it overseas as a young family. And children are often a terrific means of making contact with strangers.
The good thing is that your children will get a far better education than ever they would at home, will learn a new language and, most likely, never want to return to the States (if they remember the place!).
Another challenge was living in constant upset until we were finally able to put down roots. After arriving in Colombia we were able to rent a house after looking, on foot and by taxi, for a couple of weeks. Our sparsely furnished apartment made me think of the beautiful couch I had just sold in the States. You soon learn that materialism is not important when you find you can live with very little.
Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement, by Kathy Hicks.
After being here for two years however, I think less and less about "all the things they are missing" and think instead of "all the things they are gaining." I see so many blessings in their lives each day. Although I sometimes still grieve for some of those things for them, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to raise my children here, and for the fact that they now call Asia "home."
A few signs that this is home:
1. The littlest children think chickens only live in the zoo.
2. When one of them sees a picture of someone on a horse she exclaims in disbelief, "You don't ride horses. That's silly! You ride elephants."
3. As we went through the airport on our only trip out of the city our daughter saw the carpeted floor and said, "Wow, look at this big blanket. Can I sit on it?"
4. Our son thinks electric locks on the car door are amazing.
5. Upon seeing a big wooly dog on a leash, our daughter exclaims: "Mom! Look at that lady walking that lion!"
6. They naturally play "outdoor market," turning the whole living room into individual stalls with cheap goods for sale.
7. They choose fried dumplings over McDonald's.
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