I've kind of wanted to write about this for a while but have been a little reluctant because I don't want anyone to think that this is directed toward them. It is not. I don't have anyone in mind as I write this, its just something I've thought about and occasionally the topic comes up in conversation because I'm involved with missions and it involves an issue that a lot of parents wrestle with.
I also do not want anyone to think that I'm saying that they should do what I did. That is a decision is for each parent to make and is between them and God and is not my concern.
And I also hope that this doesn't come across as tooting my own horn. I don't intend it that way and am very much aware that things could have turned out very differently for me and my kids.
And yet I hear it frequently ... There seems to be a dilemma that a lot of good parents face. They often have a heart for reaching out to others but, they have young children and feel torn between their responsibilities as parents and their desire to be involved in mission trips.
I don't have any answers for this. All I can do is share what I have done. When my youngest was 2 or 3 (its a shame I can't remember which) I left for 2 weeks to go half-way around the world to Romania. That was not an easy decision. In fact, I cried all the way to the airport after saying good-bye to my two kids.
I made that difficult decision based on two things:
1. My kids always knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they came first. Always. I don't believe either of my kids ever questioned that.
2. I wanted my kids to grow up with the conviction that reaching out to others who were less fortunate than they were was a really important thing to do. Really important.
And the best way I could figure out to teach them that was to let them see me doing just that. Of course I would include them when possible, but sometimes it was not possible - like the trip to Romania. I made the decision to go hoping it would send them the message that they were # 1 and always would be but that helping others was also really important. I wanted them to know that they had parents who loved them but not all kids had that and they would be able to share me for a couple of weeks with some kids who didn't have parents or a home like the street kids in Romania. (the picture is one I took of some of the kids we worked with in Romania. Every one of those little guys lived on the city streets completely on their own.)
That was almost 20 years ago and both of my kids are grown now. I don't know if it had any bearing on their career choices but both of my boys are in service positions - one is going to be a cop and the other is ... you guessed it, a missionary. What I do know is that going on mission trips would not have been a good thing at all if my kids were not convinced that they came first.
For me the bottom line is that there are a lot of things we can do to screw up our kids but leaving them for 2 weeks to do mission work was not one of them as long as they know we love them.