1. Provide your child with regular visiting opportunities to give them courage. We do this with our own children now. The Great Commission is not just for adult Christians! It takes courage for a child to walk up to a complete stranger and hand them an invitation to church. Start handing out invitations together while they are young and encourage them as they do it. They will be going out of their comfort zone to do this, so remind them that they are inviting people to a place where that person may, ultimately, hear of salvation for the first time! We hand out invitations in public places each week, and our children look forward to it because we always buy them a refreshing, cold soda to reward their efforts when they are done. Make this a time to look forward to. (And, by the way, people accept invitations from cute, smiley kids.)
2. Expose them to missionaries. Does your church have a yearly Missions Conference? Do missioniaries visit your church throughout the year? Be sure to approach these missionaries with your child. You, as the parent, can initiate creative conversations with the missionaries that will benefit your child.
3. Teach them to make missionaries their heroes. My pastor was very good at this, and as a child, instead of wanting worldly "movie star" posters on my walls, I had missionary prayer cards taped to my bed. Encourage your child to get their Bible autographed by each missionary who comes through your church, and ask the missionary to include their life verse with their signature. This gives children a "reason" to approach a visiting missionary.
4. Pray for missionaries together. Most missionaries have prayer cards available, and they are more than happy to pass them out. Collect these, put them in a napkin holder, and pray for one missionary family at each meal, rotating them as you go. Or put them in a small photo album and keep them by your children's bed so that you can pray for one family each night during your bedtime prayers.
5. Read missionary prayer letters and blogs. One supporting church makes Xerox copies of each prayer letter they receive each month and makes booklets out of them for each family in the church to take home. This way each family can read the letters when it is most convenient for them. In this "techy" world we live in, it is easy to learn about the everyday, day-in day-out lives of missionaries. I have several missionary friends who blog, whose content is "safe," encouraging, teachable material. Here are several to get you started:
- Jessica in Kenya at Joy Unspeakable
- Rachel in Estonia at Rachel's Reflections
- Maria in Jamaica at Raising 4 Princesses
- Jessica in Ukraine at From the Heart of Mrs. Missionary
- Dawn in Ukraine at Dawn's Desk
- Heather in Argentina at Missionary Mama in the Making
- Kami in the West Indies at A Day in the Life of a Missionary Wife
- Anna in Mexico at Just Behind That Mountain (my sister-in-law)
- Ruthie in Mexico at Making Memories in Mexico (my sister-in-law)
- Billie in Mexico at From the Heart of Mexico (my mother-in-law)
- Gwen in Thailand at Ashcraft "Thai"Dings (cousin through hubby's family)
7. Read missionary stories. For younger children, there are terrific full-color flashcard stories available. Some of those can be found here. Many of these stories I heard as a child! For older children and teenagers, here are a few books to get you started:
- Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
- To Cross the Widest Ocean by Becky Martin
- Boys and Girls Who Became Great Missionaries by John Theodore Mueller
- Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward (or for younger readers These Are My People by Mildred T. Howard)
- Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
- Tom and Me by Billie Sloan (my mother-in-law's book)
- How to sew (modest clothes are hard to find anywhere and... she may use this ability to make baptismal robes or choir uniforms)
- How to cook from scratch. Most mission fields do not have "TV dinners," "ready to cook" meals, or even some of the ingredients to make what we may consider basic meals. Can your daughter make her own biscuits? her own bread? gravy? etc.?
- How to sing... especially how to harmonize. It has been extremely helpful that hubby and I can both do this. We have been able to teach this to others in our church choir, which adds richness and fulness to the quality when several voices can participate.
- How to play the piano or another instrument. Again, hubby and I both play the piano (He is the professional; I am not!), and we have both been able to use this ability on countless occasions. I never regret the time I put into practicing a musical instrument and am already teaching my own children music theory.
- How to teach. When I started college, I chose a major in Elementary Education, knowing that I wanted to be a missionary. As a missionary you will always be teaching, whether it be your own children or in a Sunday School class.
- Hospitality. It is extremely important as a missionary to know how to provide a warm welcome to others. Teach your children to be hospitable.
- Crafting, scrapbooking, decorating, designing etc... This comes in handy for decorating church bulletin boards, putting together church bulletins, announcements, banquets, etc... You can also use this knowledge in countless ways for ladies' activities.
10. Teach your child to serve. Look for opportunities in your church or community to do things for others. Does your bus ministry need workers? Can you visit a nursing home together and encourage the elderly who are lonely? [This is often an overlooked mission field. The elderly have one foot in eternity, so to speak... is their destination heaven?] Could a young, overwhelmed mother use help with some housework? Even though this post is mostly about girls, there are multitudes of things boys can do too, such as mow lawns without pay "just because." (And, Mom, you can reward him with an ice cream!) Daughters can give baked goods as gifts. [Read this post about sharing banana bread on the mission field.]
11. Teach your child to be a servant. Missionaries must be gracious servants! On the mission field, people will not know or understand what you "gave up" to become a missionary. So, "get over it" and get to work! Spend your lifetime serving others.
- People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.