Missions: Why our family does what we do

A few months ago, I found myself in a dilapidated house with no running water next to one of my sons who was puking into a bucket that was arguably more disgusting than the vomit. Once he was finished, I took it to the bathroom where I prayed the mice running in the walls would stay there. Admittedly, my attitude spiraled.

Question: Why Do We Do Missions?

Why did we yank our kids from familiarity to cram our family into 1-2 rooms for five months? Why did we pay to come to a place where we alternated between skin infections, fevers, and vomiting due to contact with foreign bugs.

We were on the small island of Talavera in the Philippines. A place where our luggage was transported by cart. A place where electricity arrived nine years ago, and where many of the 2000 residents still bathed outside with a pump and a bucket. Where the streets filled with residents, ready to visit as the sun set and the air cooled.

Answer: Relationships.

Relationship with God. Relationships within our family. Relationships with others.

Reclining next to my sickly son I was reminded that our lives are very short. We are like grass that grows in the morning and withers in the afternoon sun. How do we want to spend these days that so swiftly slip by? We’ve decided we’d like to spend them pursuing our friendship with God, who radically rescued us, and share with others how they too can be in a relationship with Him. 

Wanting to learn more, we linked up with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Their mission matches ours: To Know God and Make Him Known. We signed up for a Family DTS, a school focused on teaching us how to live out this mission. My husband and I, along with our four kids, spent the first three months learning from those who have lived this out. That was the Classroom. Seven weeks in the Philippines was our Lab. There we had the chance to practice what we learned. In addition, we were also able to test both our question of why and our answer to it.

The process felt like what I imagine bread dough feels when it’s kneaded and punched-painful yet purposeful. It popped many air pockets of excess out of us. Sitting with a mom and her children in her tiny home that would fit in my living room, glancing out her window at rice fields, while listening to her story of perseverance, we realized anew that many of the desires and distractions of this world aren’t worth our time.

Yet, I do wonder what kind of impact a missional lifestyle has on our kids.

Will pulling them away from their friends and handing them BBQ intestines on a stick for dinner positively or negatively affect them? Will they remember the miraculous changes they witnessed in those with whom we talked and prayed? Or merely the nights lying on a threadbare mattress next to a taped mouse hole, crying, wanting to be at home?

I once read that to be a great writer one must not tell the audience what he wants them to know. Rather, he must show them through description. This allows the reader to experience the story through her own senses.

Sounds like parenting.

We tell our kids what we think is important. Yet, the mere discussion doesn’t puncture their paradigm. Comparatively, walking out what we believe with them, however messy, will (hopefully) show them that living for others in relationship with them is far more worth their time than spending it all on themselves.

As we enter the holiday season, might I suggest stepping out of life for a bit to process how you spend your time? I’m very much looking forward to doing just this with a cozy blanket and a cup of coffee. Surrounded by family and friends, I can’t imagine a better space to ponder what’s truly important.

Why do you do what you do?

When your kids are grown, what will they say was your answer to that question?

Does something need to change next year so that your answer to that question aligns with your actions?

May you cherish each precious moment in your relationships this holiday season. I promise you, they are worth it.

(If you’d like to learn more about YWAM or Family DTS, check out ywam.org. If you’d like to read more about our adventure during those five months, check out bythewaters.org and click on YWAM.)

about the author...Johanna Kennedy is a mom to four children, a wife to one man, a teacher, and a student. She loves adventure whether it be traveling, learning something new, or reading a great book. She is also the author of By the Waters (bythewaters.org) a lifestyle blog dedicated to encouraging women in the midst of a pressure-filled world. 

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s November 2018 issue.

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