A child in my class yesterday mentioned the word empathy. Empathy is different from sympathy because you actually try to imagine what it feels like to be another person. It takes a lot more work on the part of the empathizer – perhaps even a little more love. Empathy is important because I think it can make people more likely to want to share the Gospel with others who are totally different from them. It puts the emphasis back on the person and away from the difference.
Yesterday, the children in our congregation had a chance to learn about life on another continent. We changed our jungle room from the island of St. Vincent to Africa. A friend of mine, who has been on several mission trips to Kenya, was the source of our Kenyan bounty as well as the teacher of the center.
The children in our church are learning how to be missionaries this summer. Now before you stop reading, your child doesn’t have to move to the ends of the earth and never see you to be a missionary. I am not sure when it happened, but at some point in Christian history, it seems we decided we could pay someone to do our mission work for us. Now, I am all for supporting missionaries who are willing to move to other countries and teach people about God. I just wish we all thought of ourselves as missionaries, just like the Christians in the first century did.
If you want to learn how to be a good missionary, start reading the book of Acts. It is full of stories about the first missionaries in the church. It teaches you not only the important things to tell someone about the story of Jesus, but different ways to find people to teach. It even tells you about the problems missionaries can encounter and how to handle them in a godly way.
Perhaps Hannah and other godly mothers in the Bible have been your role models for years. You have studied the Bible in your home with your child ever since you can remember. Your family is regularly involved in serving God in a variety of ways. You teach your child God’s principles and how to apply them on a daily basis. Maybe your child is already a baptized believer and is developing her own faith.
Part of dedicating your children to God is teaching them how to share God’s Words with others. If Christianity is to continue to be a living faith, then we and our children will have to really begin spreading God’s Words just like the church in the first century did. This summer, I am working with the children in our church to help them learn not only how the early church spread the Good News throughout the known world, but how they to can be missionaries now and in the future.
It seems like every week there is another news story about a child who is kidnapped or murdered. Parents are much more cautious with their children than our parents were with us. Most of us have probably trained our children from a young age to be wary of strangers and to memorize the phrase “stranger danger”.
As Christians, though, God has made it very clear he wants us to entertain strangers and help those who are possibly out of our comfort zone. The ministry of Jesus made it very clear that God does not want us to reject people who are different or maybe even a little scary. Jesus definitely set an example by reaching out to all kinds of people who would have been considered undesirable by the religious elite. He even had a tax collector and a Zealot as two of his apostles.
Our daughter is currently working on her Silver Award project for Girl Scouts. She is collecting hundreds of books and setting up libraries and a reading incentive program for the children in a children’s home in Mexico. Although the award only requires a service project of 40 hours, her completed project will take probably three times that amount of hours to complete. Yet she is excited and has managed the project with a flair and maturity well beyond her years. I believe this is not only because she has a passion for the project, but because of her love for the recipients.
When our daughter was two years old, she went on her first mini mission trip. We were vacationing in Mexico and went for the day to encourage a missionary family we knew in another town. Since then, we have been on numerous full length mission trips to help with a children’s home that was established in that city. Our daughter would move to Mexico in a heartbeat to help with the mission. The worst punishment we could give her would be to lengthen the time between our visits. In fact, we often joke that one day she will live with her future husband in Mexico as full time missionaries.