I have often wondered what one small family can do to combat social injustice. Racism, for example, is an issue so massive and personal that I wonder how we can even begin to build bridges between cultures where the chasm is deep. I have noticed, however, some really encouraging diversity in the lives of families who seek to parent missionally and base their parenting decisions on a conviction to “spend and be spent” for the cause of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 12:15).
It has been interesting to follow the kids like ours who were raised overseas. Our girls grew up on multiple continents, as did many of their friends. I’ve seen both the blessings and the scars that accompany life as an expat. One thing I have noticed is that missionary kids (MKs—also known as TCKs or “third-culture kids”) tend to deeply love people who are different from them.
Even after MKs return to America, many are drawn to international students and tend to have deep friendships with individuals of many different cultures and races. In fact, if you were to look at the wedding pictures of many MKs I know, you would see extremely diverse wedding parties. And if you ask them what made the difference in how they formed these friendships, they often can’t even tell you. All they can communicate is that lifestyle patterns became relational norms that helped to instill in them a love for all people.
“One of the easiest ways to teach kids to love others is to simply give them many opportunities to connect deeply with lots of different people. Invite diverse people into your home and let them see you as you really are.”
I have seen three lifestyle patterns in missional parenting that build love for others.
1. Missional families make hospitality that includes diverse peoples the norm.
One of the easiest ways to teach kids to love others is to simply give them many opportunities to connect deeply with lots of different people. Fill your home with people. As fun as it is to meet a friend at a public place for coffee, relationships reach a different level inside homes.
Invite diverse people into your home for meals or coffee and let them see you as you really are. Let them see your marriage, your laundry, and your muddy shoes. Instead of meeting a friend for coffee at a coffee shop, make them coffee and serve it to them at your kitchen table.
Our children tend to love and trust those whom we love and trust. So, if you can’t remember the last time you shared life with someone who doesn’t look like you, work to form new habits. Invite people into your home, truly love and welcome them, and make hospitality the norm for your family.
2. Missional families have experienced being a minority, and they are better for it.
Intentionally going places where you are the minority can be hard. Placing your kids in situations where they are the minority can be much harder. Yet, there is something beautiful about helping children develop a soft heart for others, and there is a different level of compassion that is developed when we walk in someone else’s shoes.
My children were the only American kids in their elementary school most of the years they attended. They looked different, had to learn a different language, and had to learn a culture that was new to them. It wasn’t easy, and I’m certainly not recommending that all kids move around the world.
Yet, finding situations where they can take part in a group or activity where they aren’t the majority culture can help to fight entitlement, pride, and selfishness. It’s healthy for our children to learn early that the world is a big place and not everyone is like them.
3. Missional families teach a biblical worldview that helps children love those whom their Father in heaven loves.
Sometimes American children learn so much about American history in school that they almost think the world began in 1492. We need our children to understand their place in the history of a much bigger story. They need to understand the grand narrative of Scripture and how they personally fit into it.
When you read through the Bible with your kids, point out geography and show locations on maps. Buy a globe. Start in Genesis and show them what part of the world the Garden of Eden was in. Don’t let them skip over names like the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Our children need to know that biblical stories are real stories that took place in real cities by real mountains and real rivers. Talk about where Abraham lived and where Moses talked to Pharaoh. Tell them about the kingdom of Israel and how and where it was divided. Look through maps of Paul’s missionary journeys and talk as a family about the early church and where it began.
Our kids should know from early ages that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic, and that English was a later translation. We have to teach our kids that we are part of a story that is much bigger than our little worlds. We are part of a story full of people and languages and cultures that our Father created and loves.
Loving Our God and Loving Our Neighbors
Missional parenting should lead us to raise and train our children in light of both the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20) and the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30). Out of a desire to love the Lord with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength, and out of a desire to love our neighbor as ourselves, we intentionally work to make the gospel known to the nations.
So, let’s build family rhythms that welcome all kinds of people into our homes and lives. Let’s place ourselves in situations that allow us to grow in understanding and compassion for others. And let’s be intentional to teach the entire story of God and his plan for his people.
Can we eradicate all racism in the world? Probably not. Can we build habits of love for others in our homes? We absolutely can, and we absolutely should.
Cyndi Logsdon spent twelve years living in a predominantly Muslim nation where she raised two daughters, shared the gospel, discipled women, and drank lots and lots and lots of tea. You can follow her @CyndiLogsdon.