by Kylie White
Y’all. Life is busy. I get it. I have a 4, 6, 7, and 9 year old.
Two different schools, two different pickup times, two different sports, 4 different personalities that all have different demands from my husband and I. My to-do list rolls over each month as things get un-done, and I currently have 17 voicemails to return. Being a mom is a never ending job that sometimes can be overwhelming to try and do it all, especially to do it all “well”. I realized this isn’t what I wanted to live for. I didn’t want my kids to say, ‘we all got our to do lists done and then we graduated and left home’.
My husband and I get away each year on a dreaming/goal setting weekend. From the year before kids were born – to the year when we had two babies 18 months apart – to the year we brought home 2 children from overseas: we had a common hope and desire for our family:
that we will raise loving kids who serve Jesus and others out of the overflow of his goodness and follow Jesus wherever he calls.
We want our kids to serve God by loving others no matter if that is in a hostile middle eastern country, a school in a suburban neighborhood, the bush of Africa, or the marketplace in a bustling city. So we thought, if this is our hope for our kids, we have to put a plan in place to allow these experiences to be exciting and even natural for them.
Also, around this time we read a book by Donald Miller (A million miles and a Thousand years) which challenged us to live a good story in our family, one that our kids would be pumped to get behind, otherwise they would choose a story the world had to offer.
Taking Time To Choose
So we journeyed for 4 years to find a ministry to partner with. We didn’t want to just write a check, our kids didn’t understand the weight of that, we wanted to give, gather, pray and go…as often as possible. For us, God landed us right in the heart of Care for Aids. This ministry has prevented over 15,000 kids from being orphaned, it serves their clients wholistically: physically, spiritually, economically, and in community.
It takes someone like an Aids ridden mother of 6 who is bed-ridden and trains her for 9 months how to manage her disease, learn a trade, get in a small group, plug into the local church, earn money to provide her children an education.
Then, We Went.
My husband took our son on his 5th birthday on a trip. A trip with Care for Aids isn’t a “mission trip” it is more of an impact experience. It is not “volun-tourism” or going over to Africa to ‘help someone’. This trip is to do life with the clients, learn how to cook a Kenyan meal with a family, go on home visits and hear the stories of what clients are learning in the program, witness a graduation when 80 clients complete their journey and testify to all they have learned and accomplished. It exposed our young son to life overseas.
It showed him not everyone lives in suburbia with all of their needs met, it gave him context to how much of the world lives and that people still have joy even when they do not have “material wealth”. I wish I had a video of my sweet boy running through the alleys of a slum in Nairobi, high fiving and hugging kids, playing a pick up soccer game, and rolling out dough with a friend preparing our dinner.
We shortly went back and took our daughter on her 7th birthday. We then returned and took our two that had already been as well as our 6-year-old daughter who was born in the neighboring country of D.R. Congo.
Each time something shifted in our children. There were no economic or social barriers. They were just kids playing with kids. I could write 10 more pages about all that has come from those experiences for each child but I knew Reese, my 9 year old, would keep it concise so here it is in her own words…
I love going to Kenya. I miss it there. A lot of people there really love God. Kenya is so pretty. My favorite part is going through the houses in the slum and meeting different people. I love playing with the kids and making dinner in a family’s home. I miss my friends Rosie and Jacinda that live there!”
Easy Ways To Involve Kids in Service:
All this to say, maybe your family goes, maybe you take your kids maybe you don’t, but anyone can be a part. Each trip our kids raise part of their funds to go and all year round they help fund our center. Here are some fun and practical ways to involve kids at different ages.
- Toddlers/Preschoolers– Educate. Pray. Read stories. Color a picture or write an encouraging note to a graduate at Care for AIDS. Have “rice and bean nights” one night a week and talk about how many kids might have one meal a day and it would look like this. Use that dinner to pray and talk about kids in other cultures.
- Elementary and up– We bought some paper bead necklaces online from a ministry that employs women to earn money and then the kids up-sold those necklaces at various places. They had to “take out a loan” from us to purchase the products and paid that back with the sales and with the profits they funded their flights! Someone also gave us the idea of bagging up dried rice and beans in a Ziploc and printing out directions to invite neighbors and friends to “not have dinner” with us tonight. To experience in our American homes what dinner for many Kenyan clients is like and then provide a donation to sponsor a client. Our daughter had her class write congratulation notes to graduates in the program and she got to personally give them to clients at our center graduation. Some of you readers joined us last year and wrote notes with your children. Thank you! The options are endless.
Don’t let this become just another item on your to do list to try and do this mother thing better. This is an exciting journey as a family. You don’t have to be missionaries in a foreign country to live missionally as a family. There are so many other great ministries to get behind. Find your local homeless shelter and serve dinner as a family, keep brown paper bags with granola bars and bottled water in your car for homeless you drive by, encourage your child to roll the neighbors trash can in or invite that kid who everyone casts out to sit with them at lunch.
Or join us, we would love to partner with your family to impact families in Kenya. The energy it takes to serve is always worth it. God gives back as we give out. The lessons and truths he has tucked in my kids hearts as they serve and fall in love with people thousands of miles away is beyond valuable.
One night, my daughter was crying one night as I tucked her into bed and I curled up next to her and asked what was going on. She said “Mom, I just miss Kenya, I want to go back so bad. Can I write a letter to my friend there and tell her I am coming back?”
And on the first day of school, my other daughter came home and filled out an “all about me” sheet and one question stated “What is unique about you” and her answer filled in “I have a heart for Africa”.
I knew God filled in the gaps while we took steps to serve others, and it is always worth it.