When Gabrielle was seven, she went on a church-sponsored family mission trip to Mexico.Using the little Spanish that she knew from growing up in Southern California, she spent a day playing with children her own age and younger. She had plenty of time to watch her mother and other adults on the team as they ministered in the orphanage in a variety of ways.
The first Sunday back from the trip, Gabrielle met her children’s pastor who asked what she thought about the trip south of the border. This is, in part, her answer:
“I saw many things that made me sad. But I really liked playing with the kids and helping out with the stuff my mom was doing. I gave one little girl my tennis shoes before I said goodbye. And, I left my baby doll, with her, too, because the orphans don’t really have much stuff. And me and my sisters have a lot of stuff.” Gabrielle expressed interest in becoming a nurse – even returning to Mexico as a missionary when she grew up.
Gabrielle is an adult now. I’ve lost track of her. Still, I wonder what has become of her. I wonder if the seeds of compassion planted in her heart by that mission experience flourished to impact her adult life.
Only our Heavenly Father knows what the future holds for our children. It’s comforting to know that he supplies wisdom, now, as we face uncertainties and make important decisions.Those of us who struggle to provide sound parenting and secure homes develop over the years a set of priorities upon which to base our actions. Some seem to work better than others. Often we can only admit that ‘we’re doing the best we can.’
In my previous entry I suggested five things to do when responding to a plea for help from a Christian agency involved in the welfare of children around the world. Here they are again with a little more added to expand the ideas.
- Make it a prayer-based decision. Avoid going to prayer as a last resort. Start there! And, as soon as kids are old enough to respond appropriately, draw them into the prayer times. Gather the family together regularly to acknowledge God’s love in your home, confess wrong doing, learn what joy comes from praising the Father for who he is and thanking him for what he does to bless. Pray together for others and their needs. Listen for the Holy Spirit to speak truth into hearts. Making this a practice helps everyone find comfort in acknowledging Jesus’ loving presence.
- Help your kids to understand the why and how of the process. Taking into account your kids’ ages and maturity, let them in on what you’re learning about the options involved in your current decision-making progress. A move to another home, or a different town. A change in jobs. Why doctors and dentists are important, along with good nutrition. The same for children overseas who are drinking dirty water, or sleeping without nets and how this impacts their lives. These are just a few examples.
- Challenge them to contribute personally to the all-family effort. Here’s a response left by a reader
“Love it! We recently adopted a girl named Laxmi through Compassion International. The kids are helping us recycle bottles & cans to contribute. We also picked our girl since she had the same birthday as one of our kids– to help create a connection point.” Whether you’re planning to contribute to the needs of a child overseas or to host the extended family for a major holiday, invite your kids into the planning stage. Prepare to welcome their good ideas and offers to participate.
- Create strategies to help your family members give more than money. Many times in our GIVE IT! units in Kidz Kan for Families we offer outreach ideas that call upon family members’ skills, talents, interests and time to bless others and costing little or no money. Check it out!
- With any outreach opportunity, bring closure from time to time. Celebrate! Make it a habit to “catch” kids in good behavior. Offer everyone the opportunity to contribute to a ‘Celebration Bank’ and when it’s full, empty it with words and acts that bring attention to our Good God who fills our lives with blessing.