Monday, December 8, 2014

40 Ideas for Raising Globally-Minded Kids

Author's note: This post of mine originally appeared on, and is gratefully reprinted in part with permission! Please click here for the first 20 ideas, and here for the entire second post.

My parents have four children, and we reside on four different continents: My sister teaches art in England, one aids refugees on the Thai-Burmese border, one is changing her world in the States as a nurse and a mother—and me, raising our four kids in Uganda.
I love that my family has a vision beyond itself (admittedly, holidays can be a bit of a downer). But how can we instill a global, Great-Commission worldview in our own kids? Will they reject myopic entitlement for God-sized purpose? If you’re eager for mission-minded, compassionate kids, start with these practical solutions. If you missed part I, click here.

21. In conversations, differentiate between “needs” and “wants.”

22. Read missionary biographies together, in series like the Trailblazer Books, Torchlighters, Men and Women of Faith, or Christian Heroes Then & Now.

23. At year end, have a family charity game night, when your kids can win your end-of-year giving amounts to dedicate to a favorite cause.

24. Go on a short-term missions trip, starting locally, then beyond to a foreign country. A cautionary word: Educate yourself on what productive short-term missions looks like. Trips can actually undercut development in impoverished nations, or cripple missionaries themselves. Invaluable books like When Helping Hurts explain how to truly empower hurting communities.

25. Watch movies based on the lives of courageous Christians, such as Faith Like Potatoes or The Hiding Place.

26. Hold a monthly family cultural night: explore new food; learn about a new country; even dress, sit, or eat accordingly.

27. Pray over spending patterns. Since this is God’s money, where and how does He want it to be spent? Is there some “spending fat” that might be allocated to something more eternal?

28. Simplify. Then do it again. Personally, selling about 70 percent of our stuff to move to Africa was exquisitely painful. But I’d repeat it in an instant: It changed us! Commit to purging, eliminating, and generally minimizing the gravitational effects of “stuff” on your family.

29. Model contentment and gratitude. It helps us hold loosely: “the rich… [should not] set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (2 Timothy 6:17).

30. Train kids in sacrificial generosity. Check out 1 Chronicles 21:24 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, and talk openly about ways you give until it hurts. Help kids to set aside 10 percent of their allowance for giving to a project they’re enthusiastic about.

31. Together, read strength-building stories like Jesus Freaks or Growing Together in Courage.

For the rest of this post, please click here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Praying for Friday--the rest of the story

Last Friday around 5:30, I emerged into the balmy air of Kampala to my trusty minivan, accompanied by a couple of my students carrying my weapons (foam ones--for acting out the scene of Jesus' arrest, admittedly including a few pool-noodle light sabers and a Little Tikes bat), dress-up clothes (needed some garb for the drama, which I plundered from my kids' stash), and other random detritus that reflect my rather...creative style of teaching. The guys set down my stuff, waved and thanked me, and left me to the Irish friend of mine who'd waited there for me.

Spunky and exuberant, Jaz is a gift from God to me, and no more than last Friday. "I had to hear!" she waved her hands. "I waited for you, because I've been praying, and I heard you in there, and it was unbelievable to hear what was going on!"

We collapsed in the van's seats, and I thanked God for the only space in Kampala where I can regularly depend on frigid air conditioning, particularly when I am sweaty and rank from hours of teaching. (Poor Jaz.) But that's when we both sat there, exclaiming and incredulous over the events of the day.

The two classes had been packed because of the exams, with a scattering of students I'd never even seen before. Were there eighty students between the two? Who knew? But thankfully, the energy level had remained high and engaged during the entire class--with the exception of the last few minutes in the first (a prior long-running exam meant they'd sat in exams for four straight hours). But even then, the responses were invigorating--almost too good to be true, I told Jaz. I kept thinking, Is this really happening? Am I really getting to do this? Could they really be responding like this?!

After the story of Christ's Passion, I'd included a video clip from Prince of Egypt, of the last Egyptian plague. I hoped to demonstrate the significance of Christ dying on Passover, of the Lamb's blood ("Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!), of Christ calling Himself the door, of the slaves at last being freed. I'd had a couple other "road to Emmaus"-type examples, attempting to draw in Christ from the Old Testament from all the stories we'd studied this year.

I glanced around at my students in their religious clothing as I talked about God ripping the temple curtain from top to bottom: Because of Jesus, you can be close to God.

At pretty much the same point in both classes, this is the point where my voice cracked a little with emotion: "And this is why I teach you: This is what I've been wanting to tell you! Believe in Jesus, and you can be saved!"

Jaz mentioned that she got particularly excited, listening outside the door--"when you were asking for volunteers to be Jesus [in the drama]--and then you said, 'Ahmad! Great!' I couldn't believe it!"

I couldn't either. I'd talked with him before class, giving him a dual-language Bible so he could read in his own language, and a copy of the JESUS film in his own language, too--both gifts from Jaz. He told me he'd read the gospel of John, too: "The Word was before everything, and then God made the world"--pretty much a paraphrase of John 1. I grinned.

"So what do you think? Do you think He was really the Messiah?"

"Yeah! I do!" He grinned.

But did he have any Christians in his tribe, someone he could talk to when he got back?

"No, but there are some in the next tribe."

Of course, only God knows about the Christians there--and whether the soil in Ahmad's heart is the "good soil" Jesus describes. But when I was recounting this to someone the next day, I was mentally jolted: every tribe, tongue, and nation? To be a part of that promise? I was floored. Please--pray for him as he goes back to his home country.

And at the end of the second class, when the same question hung in its PowerPoint square on the whiteboard: "Who do you say that I am?", I was surprised by the enthusiastic, vocal response:

Was He a liar?

"What? NO!"

Was He crazy?


Was He "the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?"


And the vast majority of little "YES"es were circled on the handout in response to the last question: Would you like to know more about Jesus? If so, circle YES.

I'm so thankful God sent me Jaz, because even now, I find myself second-guessing. Did this really happen? Are their responses genuine?

Pray, please, for these students--that their faith would be genuine, that God would create real life in them--that I would get to hug them exuberantly in eternity. For right now, I'm just amazed that our God is doing this. Can I get an Amen?

Something tells me this may not be the rest of the story, but just the beginning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Praying for Friday

It was the end of my last official Bible class of the year at the refugee center. I'd taught about the "I am" statements of Christ; this Friday, for the two-hour exam period, I hope to bring everything full circle in the biggest lesson of the year: His death and resurrection. But for this class period, I ended with the account of Jesus' question: Who do you say that I am?

The question, suspended by PowerPoint, hung there on the whiteboard in the rectangle of the projector. Students began gathering their books and pencils in the shuffle and conversation that mark the end of any class period around the world. A student of mine, whom I'll call Ahmad (you may have read about him here), raised his hand. Ahmad has this gentle-giant quality about him, and always speaks with a gentle, halting voice. "I am shifting"--that's the Ugandan word for moving--"back to [my home country] over the holiday." He hopes to get a job; to find a wife.

My eyebrows pulled upwards. What? I asked a few questions to clarify. It was true, and of course good news for him, that he was leaving the center over the holiday. Just like any good counselor, I'm thinking a good refugee center hopes to work itself out of a job; to send you home healthier, richly nurtured despite a stormy season of life.

Then, he asked his next question: "Who was Jesus Christ?" I inquired further, head cocked, thinking, I've been teaching about that for the last four weeks--and comprehended (I think) that he wanted to find out what the words "Jesus" and "Christ" actually meant.

But I must admit my heart sunk like a stone, stirring up waves in my chest. Classmates were milling around, the question still there, like a man with a sandwich board that people walk by in intent conversation on a crowded street. Did Ahmad know enough about Jesus to make an informed decision about him? To move back to his (aggressively non-Christian) nation, and remain resolute in what he knew about the person of Jesus Christ?

I swallowed, and expressed my joy for Ahmad's...wonderful news. He asked if he could take a Bible with him. I lent him my easy-read version from the center, with instructions to a) read the book of John, b) return the Bible to me at exams, and c) come back with his questions and thoughts.

"And we'll have a..." he paused. "Con-ver-sa-tion."

Yes, Ahmad. We'll have a conversation about the most important thing we could ever talk about.

Our interaction stayed with me as I walked home in the warm, late-afternoon sun, as I sautéed dinner, even the next morning as I sang with EMI's Friday morning worship: Break my heart for what breaks yours... It was then that I felt hot embarrassment at the tears leaving telltale streaks on my cheeks in front of all my coworkers. Yes, I know that salvation belongs to our God, and certainly not to me or my most valiant efforts. But something feels appropriately crucial about what my students hear, and decide, about this subject.

Since then, I've secured a Bible for Ahmad and a Jesus film in his own language. And Monday night found me up late, pasting images and text in the PowerPoint for Friday. When I finally snapped shut my laptop, my jaw ached from the tension of seeking to communicate clearly and with the engaging presence deserved by the Greatest Story Ever Told.

I feel like the lesson--at least as it's planned--is comprehensive and direct, hopefully easy to understand. I've planned dramas and a movie clip to liven it up a bit (steered carefully away from a the more gory images; would refugees have distracting flashbacks?). My primary concern now is that I'll be able to maintain their attention for the whole two hours, so they don't lose anything.

But my heart feels magnetized by Friday, by the question at the end of the handout: If you would like to learn more about Jesus, circle YES. Even as I write, I swallow the thick concern that feels like it's formed in my throat as much as my eyes.

I'd love your prayer for Ahmad--and for Friday.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The feast

I have no deer or rabbits to wrestle with in my garden. But for the love--that  monkey just helped himself to my biggest eggplant.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

She's here!

She's here--our new niece/cousin!

Meet Aliza Lee, our newest reason to dearly miss family and wildly celebrate them. This sweet little girl was born on Tuesday, the fourth of my sister Keri and her husband Steven. (This means she is one blessed little girl.)

Can't wait to hold you, Aliza Lee.

Life could be a dream...

It was only ten days--but we squeezed out every drop of these ten days of the year on the same continent with my (Janel's) parents! It's always a great reason to explore a little more of this fascinating country. Wanted to share with you some highlights in photo of these dreamy days, together at last.

If you only knew how much this photo captures this little guy. Watch out, world.


Oh, yes it is: Twister. (...Not sure Grandpa won this one.)

One of our highlights together was seeing the Ndere Dance Troupe in action. This group is incredibly talented, performing with tribal costumes, dances, instruments, and music. My kids were actually fixated for the whole three and a half hour performance, which was an awe-inspiring showcase of East African culture and talent.

Grandma captivated the kids with her "surprise of the day". They couldn't wait for her to get up in the morning. Get this: She even brought tie-dye to create!

Lots and lots of board games were played; I do believe Grandpa played at least three rounds of Monopoly with my kids. Now that, my friends, is love.

John was home for three days between travels, but certainly made the most of them. My parents brought over Axis and Allies, which Grandpa, Dad, and the boys had to break in.

During this time, after over a year of engagement, our dear friend Monica got married! She and some of her family came over to get made up before the ceremony. A huge congratulations, Fred and Monica!

Checking out the site for eMi's joint office with Mission Aviation Fellowship! The new office should open next year, tremendously expanding eMi's opportunities for ministry.

One of the unexpected highlights was on the bittersweet last day of my parents' trip: an afternoon at the zoo in Entebbe.

This was truly the most incredible zoo I've been to. As my mom observed, instead of trying to recreate an animal's habitat, they pretty much just put up fencing in these animals' natural habitat so we can get close to them. In fact, this little guy regularly comes to visit his own kind of monkeys who live in the cage.


These are safari ants--and if you see them, well, run. They travel in thick lines and have such powerful strength in their jaws in the in the bush, they are used as makeshift surgical staples for gaping wounds.

Got to pet one of these as it ate...incredible! Also got to feed giraffes huge branches of leaves. Loved having a hands-on experience in these animals' natural habitat--almost as cool as a safari.

These guys captivated us for at least twenty minutes--tumbling down hills, playing around (a whole like lot my kids, actually), and generally goofing off. The guy pictured below loved to flip and swing, clapping his feet.




The Latest Family Life in Photo

Close MK friends of ours!

Book readin' with Dad.

We heart care packages! (Thank you again, Rebecca!)

Staff retreat this year was refreshing and fun for all of us. We serve with so many incredible staff families!

We finally found all of the ingredients for Rice Krispie Treats! So naturally, we snapped a photo.

Ronald came into our lives recently to recover our living room cushions...and every time he comes, he plays with the kids for about an hour, and sometimes stays for dinner. This is one of the things we love about life in Africa.

Hope, who is now John's Human Resources assistant, has a big heart, a sharp mind, and a great friendship with all of us.

First day of soccer! We are so thankful for all of the extracurricular activities available in our neighborhood.