Foreign missionary kids are unique creatures. Even as a mom to six amazing missionary kids I will never be able to fully understand the depth of the uncommon adventure that they call “life.”
And the majority of those kids didn’t sign up for their bizarre childhoods. But they still live it. Every. Single. Day.
And for that reason, I want to show foreign missionary kids extra love. They truly deserve it.
Think about it.
The majority of foreign missionary kids only see grandparents every four years. They also are unable to be involved with team sports, class parties, home-school co-ops, large church youth groups, trips to theme parks and even just lazy days at the library and park.
Many of them (like my kids) live in a poor, third world country that has little to offer for “fun.” They try to make friends with kids who still view them as the “foreigner.” It takes years — yes years — for kids to accept the missionary kid as one of their own… if that ever even happens.
In spite of all that, foreign missionary kids still go on with smiles, giggles and great attitudes.
I was just relaying to my husband the other night how many times I’ve seen my 13 year old daughter pour her heart into a Cambodian kid or teen. And what has been the response? They push her away, make annoyed faces at her and even steal from her. (Yes, they stole her small stash of candy and her $10 she saved up for over six months. Not to mention they stole my son’s bike and attempted to steal my other son’s favorite Thomas the train. But, I digress.) But how does she react? She keeps loving them and praying for them. Honestly, she’s a better missionary than me! And if you want to know what every missionary wife wished you knew, I chat about that here.
My kids rarely complain…yet I know that they don’t get so many things I wish they had to make their childhood more colorful. I wish it was brimming over with roller coaster thrills, mission conferences (yes, we ADORE those), youth group scavenger hunts, big birthday parties and just being the “normal” kid — not the white kid with weird freckles and a funny accent who eats alien food like cheddar cheese popcorn and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I mean, that’s totally weird , right?
Yet I see missionary kids adapt to the foreign mission field culture and rarely cry about rarely seeing snow, grandparents or well-loved American junk food. Instead, I see missionary kids cling to their parents and siblings for fellowship and friendship. I see a beauty in the foreign missionary kids who are willing to keep going, keep serving and keep loving while living a not-so-normal childhood.
Even when missionary kids are traveling back to America they are faced with still being the “different” kid. They are still faced with traveling to new and strange places and meeting new people. And those new people? They’ll see them for a range of 2 hours to five days. And then it may be another four or five years before they visit them again — if those people haven’t moved away.
The foreign missionary kid often sits alone in Children’s Sunday school classes because all the other kids know each other and everyone is too comfortable or shy to say “hello” to the visiting missionary kid.
Yet, the missionary kid goes on.
What can I say? Missionary kids are my heroes.
And they need YOU to show them love. Extra doses of care and concern.
Do you know what my kids absolutely love? Letters, cards and small gifts from America. We’re talking balloons, crayons, stickers and Kool-aid. Why? Because it’s special to know someone took time to write, say hello and send an item from their native country.
How can you love this not-so-normal kid?
I’m glad you asked. I want to help you make a foreign missionary kid’s life a little bit more happy today…a little bit more fun…a little bit more comfy.
Here’s a slew of ideas to help you love the foreign missionary kid!
How to Love the Foreign Missionary Kid
- Learn about the missionary kid’s mission field. It only takes a few minutes to read up on Chile, Mexico, Ghana or Cambodia. Read up on it, look up some travel videos on Youtube and get informed about where the foreign missionary kid lives. This will add a depth of knowledge to the following ideas!
- Write a short sentence in their country’s language. Send the missionary kid a short letter and write a greeting or short sentence in their country’s language. Even if you mess up a teeny bit, the missionary kid will appreciate you know a little bit about the culture she lives in!
- Remember birthdays. Make a phone call or write an email. You don’t have send money or gifts — just let the missionary kid know you remembered!
- Mail a small box or envelope. You know how many little things from the Dollar Store you can shove in a large manila envelope? Stickers, balloons, Aquadoodles, Kool-aid, Pixistix, coloring pages, small bracelets can all be tucked into an envelope and mailed to most foreign countries. Always check first with the missionary kid’s family before sending — just in case they have issues with recieving packages!
- Get your kids to email the missionary kid. My kids get such a thrill from reading emails from other kids. They borrow my husband’s computer to write their friends every couple of days. We have to limit their time because they could write and write for hours. They’re so hungry for American kid fellowship! And they love being able to talk about thing they enjoy with someone who “gets” them.
- Send Christmas money. Foreign missionaries are taxed with expenses during the holidays. Travel costs and hosting holiday events at their church add up quickly. And anything with a Christmas tree or snowman on the label tends to cost twice as much. Candy canes? They can easily be $5-$10 for a small box. Wrapping paper? If you can find it, it’s pricey too. To make a missionary kid’s Christmas more fun, send the missionary kid in your life some extra spending money. And Christmas money doesn’t have to be shipped!
- Send quick Facebook videos. We are blessed to have a couple of ladies in our church that send our kids short Facebook videos from time to time. You can easily do this on Facebook messenger. Just record a quick video (like one minute) and it sends! Maybe send one of the kids in your church saying hello or have them ask like two questions. You can even sing “Happy Birthday” if it’s the missionary kid’s birthday. Simple, sweet and easy!
- Prep your kids beforehand. If a missionary family is visiting your church, talk to your kids about being warm and friendly. Explain to them that a missionary kid is always moving and traveling, so it’s hard for her to make friends. Some missionary kids are super shy because they seem “weird” if they’ve been living in Africa or Asia for most of their lives. Teach your kids about other cultures and encourage them to appreciate the part of other cultures that do not go against the moral teachings of the Bible. Encourage your child to always say hello and reach out to the missionary kids that may visit your church. This helps a missionary kid more than most people can possibly understand!
- Memorize the missionary kids’ names. I drilled my kids about loving missionary kids and this is how they responded. “Mom,do you remember the church that knew all of our names?” Oh, yes. How could I forget? It’s one of my favorite churches ever. It is a rather large church and when our family walked in (after not seeing everyone for about nine years) the pastor smiled and announced, “The Wood family is here!” Then church kids rushed up and shook my kids’ hands. “Hi Isaiah! Hi Mary-Lynn!” came lots of kid voices. I kid you not. My kids stood there in shocked silence — even my youngest — who is rarely at a loss for words. This was the very first time someone had known and called them all by their names. So simple, right? But someone knowing your name goes a very long way. It breaks down a lot of the “stranger” walls and makes a world-traveling kid finally feel welcome.
- Offer a fun experience to a missionary kid. When we were in New York, a family found out my kids love riding horses. That same family owned a pony at a nearby ranch. They invited my kids to come to the ranch and enjoy riding and grooming the pony. It was a simple gesture that made my kids feel welcomed and special. What could you do? Offer a swimming pool? Offer tickets to a local kids’ museum? Offer a visit on the farm? Have a nature trail and waterfall nearby that’s worth the hike? Know a great bike path? Foreign missionary kids only spend a short amount of their childhood living in the US. It’s a huge, fun experience for them to dig into some “everyday” American adventures. Our last trip to the US was filled with these type of experiences and we were so thankful and still are to those blessings God brought along the way!
- Pray, pray, pray. Though I bran on missionary kids, there are some missionary kids that become very bitter. One of the best ways you can love a foreign missionary kid into pray for her and the struggles she faces. She’s the outsider. She’s the weirdo. And if the foreign missionary kid does not have her focus on serving the Lord Jesus Christ, then she may very well walk away from church and missionary life. Pray that the missionary kid stays focused on eternal things. Pray that the parents of the missionary kid gives her love, understanding, time and affection. Pray that God protects the missionary kid from the evils that lurk all around her. Pray that God continues to help her grow in her relationship with God even when all of her neighbors are worshipping and bowing down to evil spirits.
- Plan a family visit. Now this would be going above and beyond. This would be a dream come true. For a missionary kid to have other American kids come visit would be triple icing on the cake. I know it’s expensive. I know it’s time-consuming. But if there’s any way your family could visit a foreign missionary on the field and make it your focus to offer fellowship and kindness to the missionary kids — this would be an ultimate, over-the-top, unforgettable way to show a missionary kid love. Probably only 10% of American families could actually,/em> do this, but I thought I’d throw it out there…just in case!
So many times we read and hear about foreign missionaries and yet there is very little mention of the kids who were along for the ride. Those kids sacrifice just as much if not more than their parents. Why not encourage a missionary kid today? Why not show a little extra love? It only takes a few minutes to learn a missionary kid’s name.