After our second child was born, I read a tiny little brochure written by Noel Piper called, “Home Grown World Christians.”
It hit my heart and has had an ongoing impact on how we want to raise our children.
In it Noel explains what a “World Christian” is:
“A world Christian sees beyond his neighborhood friends, his school, his everyday life and experiences. He’ll be fascinated by the variety of people and customs next door and all over God’s wide world. He yearns for the Manika of Guinea and the Sukuma of Tanzania to be his brothers and sisters just as he desires spiritual oneness with his best friend. But those things will happen only if he’s exposed to a broader world than what he finds naturally. Of course our most basic prayer for our children is that God will move them toward himself. That they will be his people. That they will be men and women of God. And then our prayer is that, as they focus on God, they will be aware of the world that needs him too.”
This was a new idea for me–
The goal of intentionally exposing our children to different people and cultures around the world so that their world will be broad and they will have God’s heart for cross-cultural ministry and a love for people all around the world.
My husband and I are convinced that this is a worthwhile, needed effort and that as Noel explains,
“…we can be sure that we are doing good for our children by pursuing their wider vision and their desire that God’s glory cover the earth.”
So how can you encourage your children to be World Christians?
- When newsletters come in the mail from missionaries you support, take time to explain to your children why your family financially and prayerfully supports missionaries and read those letters together at meals, taking time to pray for the missionaries.
- Expose your children to missionaries in person whenever you have the chance. Open up your home and welcome them into your life if they are back visiting. The missionaries our children pray for most consistently are the ones they’ve met in person. And the missionaries we are closest to have expressed over and over that they enjoy just joining in on real life when they are visiting the United States. One of our most special times was with our friends Igor and Aliona (missionaries in Moldova). They joined us for a bike ride, washing the car, and a trip to Costco. When our friends, the Gordillos were back in town, they joined us for our local Starlight parade, where the kiddos bonded over bubbles, licorice & sidewalk chalk. Our children want to hear updates about the Forney Family in Uganda because they bonded over nerf gun wars in our backyard. Yes–we also try to plan and host the big open-house-gatherings so they can see people in large groups…but the deepest bonding has occurred during very normal times of dinner and games together. And our children genuinely care about and pray for those missionaries.
- If your church hosts an open house for a visiting missionary–be there. Taste the food. Watch the slide show. Encourage your children to ask questions.
- Create a missionary map board. Our church provides cards with photos for many of the missionaries we support, but even just a small photo from a newsletter, connected with string to a pin on the map, will help your children gain a bigger view of God’s love around the world.
- Help your child find a pen-pal in another country. Our daughter’s favorite pen-pal is her buddy Elizabeth who lives in Niger.
- Consider sponsoring a child through World Vision or Compassion International. For nearly 10 years our family felt a close connection to Yulisa from Bolivia. And then she graduated out of World Vision’s program. Last summer, our son came down asking about our “Passion Child” and why we didn’t have one any more…so as a family, we chose to support Loany from Honduras. Another picture she drew for us came just yesterday and it’s hanging next to our kitchen table.
Buy globes. Help your children find places on globes and mark places on globes. For years, we had this large plastic globe hanging in our school room because you can write on it with dry erase markers.
Read missionary biographies or biographies of people from different countries. Our first biographies were Dave and Neta Jackson’s– Hero Tales Series (I think we read all 4 volumes plus their book, Heroes in Black History) but lately we’ve been reading individual biographies. My husband chose Endurance (the story of Shackleton) to start off the year and then we just finished Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. Last night we started Lopez Lomong’s incredible story– Running for My Life.
- Consider the possibility of travel (and even your child’s future life in another country). We haven’t done this much with our crew, but as a teenager, I have vivid memories of trips our youth group took each year to Tecate, Mexico. And when I taught high school, my husband and I took two different groups of students to Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. We just had the photos out last week from our visit to Dachau–a concentration camp in Germany and those visuals made Corrie Ten Boom’s story so much more real for our children.
- Consider subscribing to God’s World News (World Magazine’s subscription option for children). Every monthly issue is full of current events from around the world, shared through a biblical age-appropriate lens.
- Support adoption. Our adoptions were only possible because of the people who surrounded us with support in all different ways. And adoption opened our family to different cultures, traditions and races. We have four adopted nephews– each with his own story that has added a new beautiful layer to the texture of our extended family.
- Talk with people from other countries and places and encourage your children to ask questions. Our kids’ adopted “Uncle Tuma” escaped from the Czech Republic when he was just a young man and arrived in England with only $5 in his pocket. His story is forever cemented in their minds.
- Discuss current events as a family. Talk about the drought that is currently affecting almost every part of the U.S. besides where we live. Make sure they know about things like the Colorado wildfires. If there is a tornado or tsunami or hurricane…show them where it is on the map and look up photos to help them understand the impact.
- Verbally appreciate (don’t ridicule) different cultures and traditions. Explain why the bagpipers in the Olympic show are wearing a kilt (not “a skirt”) and why certain cultures wear head coverings and why the Amish don’t use rubber wheels on their tractors.
- Pray for people around the whole world. Our daughter’s teacher this year had her whole class praying for different countries around the world.
- Incorporate other cultures in your home decor or art work. I smile each year when I pull out our Indonesian nativity set. My grandparents lived in Indonesia when I was just a baby and my grandma passed along a beautiful hand-carved nativity set to our family.
- Read stories and picture books that depict all kinds of cultures and people. This could be a whole post in itself. But we love– The Story of Ping, When I Was Young in the Mountains, Madeline, A New Coat for Anna, The Treasure, Goggles, The Gully-washer…(oh this list could go on and on and on).
Consider hosting a foreign exchange student. I will never forget Kazuko who lived with us when I was a child. And our close friends just hosted a student from Spain and one from China. When our children have a personal connection with someone from another country, it often changes the way they view that whole country.
If your child has an opportunity to choose a report topic for school, encourage them to choose someone or somewhere that will expand their world view. Our daughter did a huge report on Burma (Myanmar) this year and now we both perk up whenever that country is mentioned in the news.
As Noel writes, “Most of all, help your children learn that the U.S. is not the only country God made, our ways are not necessarily the best ways and English is not the only language.”