Following God Anywhere—Even with Kids

by Kimberly R. on

Articles 6 min read
Proverbs 14:26

The honesty popped out of her mouth and surprised us both. “Oh! I could never do that to my kids!” We were two missionary moms sitting by the pool on a Kenyan beach taking our annual vacation (sanity break) alongside mission team meetings. This colleague had young children playing with mine in the kiddie pool, but their team worked in a very different country. I explained that we had moved into post-war DR Congo with our three young children, and her immediate response was, “I could never do that to my kids.”

My husband Kent and I have heard many responses to that decision. “You are moving to Africa, but where will you leave your kids?” (because obviously they should stay in the US). “What about the kids?” “Is that really safe for your kids?” While it’s true that we weighed the risks carefully and worked to mitigate them, following Jesus can involve decisions that make other people uncomfortable. Their comfort wasn’t our calling.

For years we had been called by God, and asked by our mission, to work in DR Congo. We had raised support, even while unrest in that country raged on. We had completed over two years of schooling and training. And we had completed our first four-year term in exile, working from a neighboring country and meeting with church leaders and translators at the border whenever possible. After years of blocked access, the country was stabilizing, another mission had returned, and an open door to move back lay before us.

We prayed over and wrestled with the decision to move into Congo or keep working in exile. Increasingly, we longed to use the years of training and preparation in an incarnational way, living day to day with our Congolese colleagues. But it would mean our three young children could grow up in a scary place, with medical care, ATMs, post offices and playgrounds at least a country away. Our potential home was known to have typhoid in the drinking water, with outbreaks of cholera, bubonic plague and rabies from time to time. And given the military presence, we would not be allowed to leave the city without special permissions. What about our kids? Would they be safe in such a place?

In a women’s Bible study one day we practiced putting Scripture into our prayers. And this verse jumped up and hit me in the face: Proverbs 14:26 — “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” 

I had not yet even put words to my fear that my children would be harmed by moving into DRC, and before I voiced my worries to Him, He had graciously answered them. In Christ, we had a secure fortress that would be a refuge for our children. In obedience, we moved into eastern DRC alongside hundreds of UN Peacekeepers, and despite the barbed wire and instability, it was the safest and healthiest place for our family, for our children. Gunfire rang out in the distance on a regular basis, and we were safe. Lightning struck and took our power system, but we were safe.

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A view from the author's backyard in Congo

Each night as we tucked our kids under their mosquito nets my fears would resurface; what about the kids? I pictured the Lord's enormous hands covering our whole property like a stadium dome. A secure fortress. He filled me with his peace. He was in total control. Yes, we faced some very real threats to our health and safety, but God provided each and every time. He was our secure fortress. What did it do to our kids to live in DRC for years? They learned to make their own toys with sticks and mud, to speak two other languages, to bridge barriers and to see God work miracles.

I can hear the murmurs, “But I can barely manage our current life. I can’t do it all!” That’s the beauty of obedience. Jesus sees your exact situation, and calls you to obey Him and no one else. Raising our children to be holistically healthy godly adults is an enormous and holy task. As parents, we are balancing an impossible list of responsibilities to each child, to God, to our marriage and to our vocation in ministry. Every vocation is ministry, and parenting is no different. I do not advocate that anyone give away time/energy that belongs in their home, neglecting their family. But if true faith produces fruit, than a faithful family should produce fruit as well.

Raising godly children means modeling for them what active Christianity looks like. Parents, whether you are volunteering at a food bank, teaching a Bible study, leading a prayer group, or serving as missionaries in Congo, our children need to see us exercise faith in God. We need to put feet on our faith. Even if it’s a little scary, they need to serve alongside us in some way. Children can pray with us for the hard times. They can rejoice with us on the awesome days. One of the best ways to teach is to model.

So let us model ministry – in every job.

Let us obey Christ in front of our kids.

Let us obey Christ with our kids.

And let us set aside criticism and strain to follow the Shepherd’s voice.

Regardless of what He calls us to do or where He calls us to serve, we can include our children and we can rest assured that He is our secure Fortress. 

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The Albertine Nile – Kimberly and her family crossed Lake Albert twice in a hand-dug boat

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The Blue Mountains – the continental divide above Lake Albert as seen on a drive toward Uganda

About the Author

Kimberly R. has served 22 years with her husband and three kids in Africa with Wycliffe Bible Translators.