Superman and I have a deep heart for serving overseas. Honestly, if finances allowed, we would probably spend every summer in third world countries, exposing our kids to what true poverty is, reminding ourselves of what truly is important, and stretching ourselves out of our comfort zones. I totally get why someone would want to do THIS.
It’s not that our country doesn’t have poverty, it’s that the poverty here in America is nothing like the poverty you see in a third world country. It’s just not.
Superman went to Mozambique and Zimbabwe with Teen Missions when he was 17. It changed him. In many ways, it broke him. It planted a love for missions so deep in his heart, nothing could carve it out. In 1997, shortly after we met each other, Superman and I traveled to Honduras with a team from our college and spent 6 weeks digging trenches and laying pipe for a water system. Ultimately, we brought running water to a village that had no fresh water source. I was hooked.
A few years later, we went to India for two months. We strolled the streets of the slums, where the “untouchables” lived. We held orphaned children with HIV/AIDS. We played games with severely handicapped children who lived in orphanages Mother Teresa built. And our hearts hurt for the things these children had to suffer.
In 2012, we took our kids on their first “mission trip” to Mexico with an incredible group called Club Dust to help build houses and hand out donations to families in need. Just watch this short video of our trip and you’ll see why I want to expose our kids to experiences like this regularly:
And then in 2015, our boys really ventured out. They were 12, 11 and 10 when they decided to go with Teen Missions to Trinidad to build a security wall for a church and assist with their food ministry to underprivileged children. For FIVE weeks. Without us.
That’s a heck of a long time for young preteen boys who have never been away from home for more than a couple nights.
But, we talked to them. Superman showed them videos. He told them stories of how difficult it would be…homesickness, mosquito bites, illness, exhaustion…he told them everything.
And even after telling them the challenges they would face, after asking them to go read their Bibles and talk to God about whether they were ready to go or not, they unanimously agreed: they were ready.
“What the heck are you thinking?!” people asked. “Five weeks is way too long to send such young boys away. It’s too dangerous. Too many things could go wrong.” Again, “What are you thinking?!”
You know what I was thinking?
I was thinking: these kids aren’t mine. I am merely borrowing them from God. They are but mere visitors in my home. As much as I want to cling onto them, control their choices, and protect them from any potential harm, eventually they will be out of my hands.
Did it freak me out to think that my boys may cry themselves to sleep one night (or more) because they missed home?
Did it hurt my soul to think they may long for a home-cooked meal or their own bed?
Did I worry that they would be worked too hard, that their team leaders wouldn’t notice if they were lonely or tired or discouraged?
But it’s in the moments of desperation, the moments when we have no one to rely on but God, that our hearts our welded together with the heart of Jesus in a way that cannot happen otherwise. It just can’t.
Struggles bring strength. And I want nothing more than for my boys to be so strong in their faith that nothing will make them waver. I want them to draw so near to Jesus that they feel his comfort. I want them to be just a little bit scared…enough so that they realize they can’t control everything and that they need Jesus to get them through. Because if they live their whole lives blindly following the faith of their parents, it will never be their own faith. It will never mean anything.
It’s their hearts that need to be filled with the love of God, not mine.
My heart is already overflowing with the joy of knowing Jesus so intimately, sometimes it hurts. I wish I could just pass that onto my kids, but I can’t. They have to gain that on their own. And struggles will help them do that.
So, yes. I sent my three young boys overseas on a trip that was almost unbearable for this mommy’s heart. But I did it without any hesitation. I did it without any fear. I did it without any thought that it may be the wrong decision.
And now, we’re doing it again.
In June, our two oldest (who will both be 14) are headed to Malawi to drill wells in villages that don’t have a water source. Our other son, Michael, will be 13 and is headed to Ecuador to construct housing and classrooms. All three boys will be gone for two months. Two months!
I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my boys will come back knowing God in a way they never even imagined possible. I know they will have met God in a personal, real way. How do I know that? Because I trust God. And I know that He’s got my kids’ backs.
And that is the most wonderful, lasting feeling in the world.
Now, let’s all hold hands and jump and down and scream, “Eeeeek! This is really happening!!”
I love this so much, I can hardly contain myself! Thank you for the reminder that our children are merely borrowed from God. =)
Sarah Malone says
Wow. It takes some serious spiritual maturity to hand your kids over to God like that. I don’t think I could do it. =( Thank you for sharing, Shanti. You have such a servant’s heart, and that is one of the things I love about reading your articles.
Darren L. says
What a commendable thing to do. I am sure your kids will have a blast on this trip, even though it will be difficult. You are setting them up for a strong faith and giving them freedom to grow in their own relationships with God. I think they’ll look back on that trip and be thankful you were willing to give them that room to grow.
Kelly P says
I always remember what the Derrs (went to Ecuador to be the pilot after Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and team were killed by the Auca tribe) told me about being “safe”.
“The safest place you can be is in the center of God’s will.”
Be hardy Boys! love you guys!
Shanti Landon says
Yes! Love that quote!! Thanks, Kelly!
You are braver than I am, but I admire you! What an experience for your boys, and a growing experience for you as parents, too!
I would love to go running with you some day and talk. I loved this post so much.
Shanti Landon says
That would be fun Amy! Where do you live?
All I can say is, “Amen.”. I spent two summers with TMI at 13 and then at 15, and my 14-year-old just got back from his second TMI trip. Yep, I sent my 14-year-old to spend the summer in a communist country with strangers. And Jesus. Want to turn a boy into a man? This is the way to do it. Congratulations on your wise decision!
We sent out daughter when she was 10 with Teen Missions to Malawi, and I finally was able to see how it is from the parents’ perspective when we let go of our children and truly, completely trust in Christ to take care of them when they’re out of our hands. (As a family, we’ve taken two teams to Ecuador with Teen Missions). It was tough, for sure, but we had an overwhelming peace from the Lord that she was right where she was suppose to be. There is no safer place to be than in the Lord’s will!
Shanti Landon says
That’s awesome, Mary! Thanks for sharing!