“When I called you to serve Me in Kenya, I had your children in mind. Don’t let your own fear limit what I want to teach them as they grow up here.”
These words entered my thoughts so clearly and powerfully one afternoon four years ago. I was pregnant with my daughter Abigail and consumed with concerns and questions about giving birth and raising a child in Kenya. The prospect of motherhood and all the changes that would occur in my life and ministry routine was a huge step out of my comfort zone. I felt unsure stepping into the uncharted waters of parenting, but those words filled me with peace and reassurance as I began my journey as a new mother on the mission field.
My husband and I have tried to remember those challenging words as we make parenting choices. One of the first choices we felt God directing us toward was to encourage our children to interact and connect with people—even people who look, speak, dress, and worship differently than our family. This has not always been easy for me, particularly as an introvert. However, through this process of setting aside fear and obeying God, our children, who are definitely little extroverts, have provided new opportunities for us to interact with people in our community and build meaningful friendships with them. It has been amazing to see how God is already using our young children in the process of people accepting Christ, and I know it is only the beginning of how He will use them throughout their lives to impact the world.
Raising children in Kenya presents unique challenges, especially being separated from grandparents and other extended family. Holidays can be a particularly difficult time as we are learning to make our own traditions and adjust how we celebrate. Technology advancements and having a strong missionary support group here have been a great help. Another blessing is receiving the annual Christmas 4 Missionaries offering from our organization, the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC). This gift helps us purchase a few extra nice gifts for the children or even go away for a short vacation during the holiday season.
As our children grow and develop, the choices we encounter as their parents will also change. I remember when I shared with my own parents about God’s call to move to Kenya as missionaries. They gave me unwavering support and encouragement, even when it was not easy to do so. My mother even said, with tears in her eyes, “I would much rather you live thousands of miles away from me, fulfilling God’s plan for your life, than have you living down the street in disobedience.” My mother’s sacrificial and faith-filled response inspires and challenges me as I raise my own children. My continual prayer is that God will help me teach them to hear and follow His voice no matter where He leads them, and that I will say, “Yes,” to what He wants for Abigail and Nathaniel, even if it is a stretch of faith for me as their mother.
Perhaps the choices God asks you to make as a parent will be different from ours, but I imagine there will be times when He leads you to cross the boundaries of your own comfort zone. There is a natural inclination within parents to insulate our children in a controlled environment where they are completely dependent upon us. God desires us to entrust our children into His sovereign and capable hands, and to teach them by our example to be completely dependent on Him.
This article can be found in HomeFront Magazine.
About the Author
Kevin and Summer have served as IPHC missionaries in Eldoret, Kenya since April 2009. They are the directors of East Africa Bible College. Summer also works with women to develop Girls’ Ministries. They have two children, Abigail and Nathaniel, who were both born in Kenya.
Our new podcast is called Amani Podcast and is now available on iTunes.