Christianity has changed the face of the world, only through prayer and the tireless efforts of missionaries. What values did the parents of old instill in their children to cause such a burning desire to change the world? Were they scholars? Linguists? Aristocrats? For the most part, no. They were common, ordinary men and women who believed their God could do anything and loved everyone.
The early church was much different than today's modern church, for then the price of claiming the label "Christian" could cost your life. In the two thousand years that man has had the Gospel, persecution has been the most accessible mode of transportation to the heavenly realm.
Do we really have something worth dying for? How can we translate that to our children? In a post-Christian society, such as we have today, moral relativism has crept into every pew in America. As a nation, we have lost the vision for evangelizing the rest of the world. Our youth are not taught that giving their life to see those without the Gospel come to a saving knowledge of Jesus is the call of Christ for every man.
How do we as parents accomplish so great a feat? Did it take super-human parents to produce the William Careys, Jim Elliots, and John G. Lakes of this world? From my studies, I see that the majority of great missionaries were reared in great Christian homes. What made these homes so unique? A family that prayed for the world!
Keeping our Family Mission-Minded
As the teacher, I try to take the time to teach the Providence and Sovereignty of God in the life of everyone. Children need reassurance that learning to clean their rooms, practicing that piano piece to perfection, and taking out the trash without complaining are important. Why? Because God is able to bless those who obey. He will take our faithfulness and diligence and exalt us when we least expect it. When we are faithful in little things, He will bless us with great things. God uses the everyday things to work His character into our lives. The Principles of Self-Government and Christian Character are reflected in qualities like faith, endurance, diligence, grace, wisdom, and strength. These are developed by doing the mundane things of life. Conscience - the most sacred of all personal property - can be reinforced by showing how missionaries through the ages have been obedient to God above all.
Geography is also studied along with our missionary efforts, whether through our church or friends which we choose to make our "project." We learn about the obstacles that were overcome in trying to go from one place to another when travel wasn't as convenient as it is today. This is when I stress the natural geography of the land as well as the political. I try to lead the children into an understanding of the Principle of Individuality of the continent nation and the various people who have been called to serve that nation. We also study the Principle of Sowing and Reaping. We talk about the Principles of Covenant with stories like Ruth (Ruth 1:16). (Remember to point out how the Chain of Christianity has traveled westward, always bringing the liberating Gospel with it.)
Our children have kept "missions maps." On these maps we place pictures of missionaries who we support by prayer or finances. We try to include pictures of their children as well. We pick a family a month to pray for and have our children write them in advance to ask for prayer requests and special needs. I call the time that my children spend writing letters to missionaries and their children as "creative writing" and record it in my daily planner as such. We keep an ongoing prayer journal and include each new family as their turn comes around. Your family will end up with a continuous record of confidential prayer times for the needs of others.
Become a Missionary
We have volunteered as a family at the local rescue mission. One year our children wrapped the presents that local churches had given to the Rescue Mission children's program. They were appalled that Christians had given the throwaway toys from the fast-food kids' meals as gifts, as well as broken and dirty dolls. There were nice toys there as well, but the reality hit home when our 4-year-old asked if God would give him somebody else's broken toys. These little experiences help our children learn a deeper level of giving without expecting anything in return.
If you are interested in reaching out further, many churches have mission outreaches to Mexico or other areas. Volunteer to go as a family. This is a great learning experience. Have your kids keep a journal of how God worked in their life and how God used them to bless others. Youth With A Mission has developed great outreaches for kids and families. King's Kids is their summer program for children age 9 and up, as well as Summer of Service and Discipleship Training Schools. Teen Mania and Teen Missions also have various summer programs. (My only caution is that you should know the leadership of the program you look into and know that this leadership would be compatible and comfortable with your family lifestyle. My husband and I are particular about not only what we let our children participate in, but also whom we let them be mentored by.)
You can start being a missionary at home. We invite the unloveables in for dinner or over for birthday parties. One son is learning to befriend the "picked-on" team members at baseball practice. We invite kids to church with us who don't normally attend. Our family sings at the local nursing home one morning a week. The old people love to cuddle them, shake their hands off, and tell them how wonderful they are.
This time is what true homeschooling is all about - teaching my children to think, "What would Jesus do?" There should never be a time when Christian children walk away from the Lord to "sow their wild oats." If parents have trained them alongside themselves as a family unit, the example should have already been sown. The answer to the question "What would Jesus do?" should come with an automatic response of serving and leading others to the throne of the King of Kings.
There are other ways to keep your children mission-minded. Develop a heart for the needs of missionary families. Many times missionary families come in on furlough and need to just "hang out" with other families. Be there for them. Have them over for dinner and friendship. This helps to teach the art of hospitality. Teach your children that being a missionary is just as important a job as being a pastor, doctor, or teacher.
Our family has had fund-raising projects. We try to ask a missionary family what they would really like if they had the money, and then we set out to make that wish reality. We have baked cookies and sold them door to door as well as boxes of candy bars, just like the Little League sells. We try to buy the gift or give the money to the family or project after we have tithed it. We have the kids keep a record of how the money was raised, what it was spent on and when and how it was sent to the missionary family. This not only develops record-keeping skills but increases your children's faith that God is able to provide for every need.
Learn to read. If you haven't already taken the Family Worship Center (a.k.a. television) out of your home, live dangerously and junk it! Fill your home with words of life: mission magazines, "real" books, and biographies on missionaries are a good place to start. Our school prayer time is reinforced with a globe, a map, a well-worn copy of Operation World and a prayer diary. If your family has chosen to pick a country per month to study, Operation World or a similar book should be read daily to get a perspective on the country that you have chosen. Learn to study the different tribes and people groups as well. This is also the perfect time to teach worldviews.
For example, if your family has chosen Africa for the month, set out coffee-table books about the continent and people. Fill the bathroom with magazines from mission organizations and their exploits in your chosen nation. Give your children age-appropriate reading material. One child might have a primary reader about David Livingstone while another reads the adult-level biography on him. Another may study the prayer life of Rees Howell and another the life of John G. Lake. Have them give oral and written reports as well as develop maps on the continent and the countries. If you don't already have a family to represent your chosen nation, write to a missions agency to find one. Your family will have accomplished much more than a school subject at the end of your learning experience.
Last of all, learn to be a consistent praying family. I feel this is the most important aspect of the home, school, and the church. Pray for missionaries, countries, local outreaches and each member of the family for starters. When a family starts to pray, the world will change, starting with their world.