The world came early into my life. On rainy days, Mother let us dig through attic baskets filled with mementos of her college summer in Mexico. My parents’ table and guest bed were open to visitors from many places. Our mailbox saw many exotic stamps. On the back wall of our “vacation” church was a huge world map. A cousin went to Indonesia. Daddy told us stories of his days as doctor on a Navy tanker, docking off Saudi Arabia, Burma, Japan and other ports of call.
So begins Noel Piper’s article “Home Grown World Christians.” But then Mrs. Piper continues with an all-too-familiar observation and a challenging question,
Unfortunately, in my childhood church, missionaries were mainly unnoticed pictures in denominational publications. Although family influences made me friendly toward missions and open to learn and feel more, for a long time there was little active result—dormant years in my world awareness. Probably most of us who would call ourselves world Christians blossomed into it as adults. We took classes or heard speakers, or read articles and books that opened our eyes and hearts to the immensity of the world and God’s work in it. But many of us can also find significant roots from our childhood. These roots may have been lying dormant until the warmth of grown-up experiences caused the sprouts to flourish and grow. A question for parents: Can we, with God’s help, raise world Christians who don’t have to go through a dormant period? Can we intentionally provide an atmosphere where “evergreen” world Christians will flourish?
So how can parents and teachers be more intentional in “growing” world Christians? Mrs. Piper offers some very practical steps:
- Check out library books about countries or regions of the U.S. where you have friends or special interest.
- Take and make opportunities to hear and learn different languages.
- Read aloud together missionary biographies and stories with foreign settings.
- Keep a globe or large world map handy for easy reference.
- Mark the locations of friends on the map—Detroit, Almaty, Madison, Bangkok, etc.
- Notice aloud newscasts or articles about distant countries.
- Read together the Global Prayer Digest and pray for the day’s unreached people group. Your minds will be sent daily to a different part of the world. Your children will learn what kinds of words to use when they hear you praying for God’s will to be done in the world.
- Include children in conversations with foreign students, missionaries, world travelers, and emigrants to this country.
- In conversation, assume a future anywhere in the world for your children, not just the U.S.
- Read letters from missionaries as personal letters, not as mass mailings—children love to get mail.
- Put missionary pictures on the bulletin board alongside your other favorite friends. Your child will grow up knowing, “Some friends live far away in Nebraska, some live far away in Cote d’Ivoire. It’s all in the same world that’s on my map. Who knows where I might live when I grow up?”
- Go to the airport to send off missionary friends. When you gather in a circle for one last song and prayer together, you give older children a sense of the importance of aligning with God’s purposes in the world. A younger child will grasp that it’s great fun to go to the airport, and this must be something special because we don’t usually sing and cry at the airport!
- Most of all, help your children learn that the U.S. is not the only country God made, our ways are not necessarily the best ways, and English is not the only language.
You can read the whole article here.
For more ideas as to how to incorporate a missions focus in the classroom, check out this seminar from our 2013 National Conference: “Missions in the Classroom: Building Hearts that Love God’s Work Among the Nations” by Julie Varno.