Have you ever thought about what it would be like to raise your children in another culture outside of the United States? God’s special plan for our lives was to bring up our children on three different continents. We were first in South Africa for about eight years where two of our three children were born. Next, for almost five years we ministered in Lisbon, Portugal. As a result of our time in Portugal, we have two sons, a daughter-in-law and two precious grandchildren who live there today.
Finally, during the busy growing up years of our children we returned to the United States to pastor in Michigan. There were many adjustments for our children upon returning back to the States. Their entire world changed drastically. They were many times homesick for their “home” in Portugal. There were many new and different things for them in so many ways. Our daughter cried often because she missed her friends, and the familiar and comfortable life in Portugal. Our youngest son though took great comfort in going to the “place that gives you hamburgers out of the window”. That was McDonald’s of course and he thought that was really pretty special. Each place where we lived gave us many experiences and very precious and dear memories. We thank God for how He worked in so many lives. A very special part of me remains in each place. Here are just a token few of the many joys of bringing up your family on the mission field.
1. Your children are exposed to loving all kinds of people!
This was especially true in South Africa as there were so many different cultures. Pot luck dinners were amazing! We enjoyed not only many South African dishes, but also Asian, Polish, French, Chinese, Bulgarian. and Portuguese just to name a few. Our children really understood that Jesus loves the children of the world in that huge inner -city ministry. When we were expecting our third child, our daughter asked us very innocently what kind of baby we would be getting. I asked her what her preference would be and she responded by saying that just any color would be great! They truly did not see color or any difference in people–only that they all had a deep need for Jesus.
2.Your children learn to be confident in sharing the gospel.
While being outside of your own country,there is a continued awareness of why you are there. Imagine everyone you know including your neighbors, friends in the community, children with whom your children play are all unsaved. Not only do your children hear your heart and prayers for those around you , but it becomes their passion too.
3. Your children are content with less materialism.
I probably should qualify this by saying that each country is different and continually changing. But, in years past I can truly give testimony to the goodness and generous spirit of many people whom the Lord used to meet all our needs. Our children did not have many things that perhaps they might have had here in the States , but all our needs were abundantly met and the Lord was always faithful. It was a special blessing as well for our children to visually see how God met so many needs through prayer.
4. Your children and you work together as a team.
This was especially true in our family during our years in Portugal. We all have such good memories of placing tract, invitations, Source of Life lessons in mailboxes(it is legal there) of many apartment buildings. Our children were a huge help and blessing and worked tirelessly. Usually, the reward was an ice cream for a treat after several buildings and many, many mailboxes.Also, many neighborhood children came to Sunday School because of the invitations from our children. Since church happened in our home the whole family worked together to make our home ready for the services. Many hands made lighter work to get everything in place for Sunday and back in place on Monday.
There is deep love and appreciation for those that God calls you to serve. They may speak another language, have totally different customs, holidays, food, thought patterns, and many other things. Yet, the bond that you have in sharing Jesus with them far outweighs any differences. Your children are very much involved in this blending, working together, loving and caring. Those God calls you to serve become like family and influences your children greatly.
There are many other blessings that we have discovered in having raised our children in three different cultures, but above all we are thankful for God’s wisdom, strength and help in guiding us throughout our children’s’ growing up years.