“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, sales but set an example for the believers in speech, diagnosis in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
I have pretty amazing kids. Sometimes people assume that our whole walk into missions is just about Corey and I and that the kids are just tagging along. That couldn’t be further than the truth! Alex and Maggie are each very strong in their faith and seeking to fulfill God’s call on their lives. Today they finished their first ever Daniel fast. For 10 days they denied themselves meat, sweets and dairy – the three very staples of their existence -to focus on getting closer to God. While I am proud of this accomplishment, there are many characteristics that I see in them that bring me joy to have them as my children.
The picture above is a letter we sent out with our Christmas cards this year. (You can click on it to see it in full view.) Maggie has asked us for a while if she could be the one to call pastors and explain to them how important it is that she get back to Colombia, that Colombia is home to her and she has children to help. I realized that most pastors would probably think it was a prank if she called, so I told her to write a letter and I would send it. The above letter is straight out of her mouth, no parent censoring or guidance involved – although you can see from her plea that she has heard us ask for support many times!
Maggie is in sixth grade. This is a transitional year, her first official year in youth. Because we’ve been youth leaders pretty much since she was born, Maggie has grown up in the youth group her whole life, but now she is of age that she is a legitimate member. When we first returned to Atlanta she was concerned about the youth group because there are no other middle school girls there. Because of itineration we were bouncing around most Wednesdays anyway but she and Alex kind of adopted a new youth group that had a strong presence of middle schoolers and homeschoolers – people who could relate to them. When in Michigan they have a youth group that they love dearly and Maggie began to come out of her shell and find her place along with the rest. All through this I’ve seen her develop into quite a worshipper and someone who walks through the doors seeking an encounter with God. It was not about friends or the games, she’s all about finding God. Just about every service she goes to she comes home with a song that she looks up and adds to her own personal praise list on her iPod.
As a parent it’s an exciting time to see her developing this faith, but it has also been heartbreaking wanting to see her thrive in a youth group but having a hard time juggling our home church with itineration and other churches that have people in her age group. Our home church youth group has been without an official youth pastor for a while and we feel a burden to help as much as we can. (Tonight a new youth pastor began and we are expecting some growth and excitement over the next year.) A few weeks ago Maggie came to me and said, “I know what God wants me to do right now.” While I thought she might say something like God wanted her to pray more or read her Bible more, she said, “I know I’m the youngest in this youth group by far, but I know that God wants me to help this youth group and be an example.” This conviction was a personal answer to prayer. We have rearranged our schedule so that most Wednesdays the kids will be able to be there where Maggie feels called to make a difference. Although she is shy and because of her age difference no one really speaks to her, she bravely walks through the door each week and goes forward for worship, singing to her Lord and not worrying about what’s going on around her. Still a little nervous, she has me by her side so she doesn’t have to sit alone, but I am so proud of the wisdom and maturity I see developed in her. She is quite amazing.
Alex is on a mission, too. If you see his facebook status updates you’ll see that he is not shy one bit about posting pleas for people to know God, to open their hearts to Jesus. He has developed websites and groups to connect believers and invite curious people to learn about God. Last year while he was in public school right off the bat he worked to start a Bible study and a Bible club in the middle school. I, personally, am a much less in your face kind of person, but Alex has no fear of presenting the gospel on the spot and calling people into question. He is not offensive in his approach, but he is bold, clearly on a mission to reach as many as he can with the Word. He constantly carries a small journal where he gathers names and emails of new friends who he keeps in touch with and reaches out to. His concerns are often about friends who are living in lifestyles well beyond their years. He’s told me he feels like he’ll be a missionary when he grows up because he can’t imagine doing anything different with his life.
Now I am not so naive to think that my kids aren’t going to face challenges to their faith, their purity and their lives in the upcoming years, but I thank God that at 12 and 13 while many of their peers are texting about boyfriends, girlfriends, breakups and broken hearts, they have their hearts set on Jesus. Their number one priority is loving God and that’s a start to the teenage years that I think sets them up for much more success in their walks and their lives. They do not let their youth discourage them from being examples, from doing what they feel is right. I am blessed with amazing kids!