“Dear Dad, Since we've been in Africa, I have found that little in my formal education or professional experience prepared me to love, live, and work with Africans. But growing up in our family, the things that you and mom instilled in me…those are lesson and life skills that I use here every day.”
I recently read of a missionary’s account of his work in Somalia, including the above excerpt of a letter, written to the missionary’s father living in Kentucky. Like the author, I feel much the same way about my own parents.
This is the second post in a little series I entitled “Because of Them.” Click here to read the first entry.
I am not sure one can ever fully prepare for the culture, experiences, changes and challenges one encounters on the mission field. Yet, on many days and on many occasions I have gratefully thought of the things my parents instilled in me as I was growing.
|My parents and I as I prepared to fly back to Uganda in August 2011.|
- Like being patient and adaptable. Since our family was notoriously known for being nearly the last ones after every service and function, we learned to just wait and not complain. If you wait long enough, any situation is bound to change – sometime. J
- Finding joy in what some might consider menial tasks like washing dishes, sweeping and mopping floors, and even dusting (ugh). Interestingly enough, a lot of a missionary’s time is consumed with the “mundane” everyday tasks. My sister and I were taught to do them well, often, and with a good attitude. The one time we were split up for dish washing duty because we couldn’t keep from arguing, also helped us learned how to work well with others. J
|Leah waves goodbye to me on my first day of kindergarten.|
- Being social with all age groups. As I mentioned in the first post, we were involved in ministry as a family – and from a young age. We learned to interact with different ages and with people in all walks of life. I learned each person has a story and inviting them to share their history is a way of showing care and concern.
- Showing simple, but important, courtesies like smiling, saying please and thank you, writing notes of acknowledgement and appreciation, responding to and returning messages. Also, asking forgiveness and making restitution when necessary were also stressed.
- Listening to and showing interest in others – making people feel important. My parents have a gift for making others feel significant and special – whether it’s giving a needed listening ear, offering a word of encouragement or praise, or lifting up one who is down. By the way, listening is a very valuable skill. If you cannot listen to others, then you may not have a right to speak. When entering a new culture, it is better to enter as a learner and a listener.
- Eating just about anything and everything put before us. As children, we were not permitted to complain if some food served us did not suit us. Grin and bear it, and above all, clean your plate! Food was not wasted in our house. If you put it on your plate, then you better finish it. Since I now regularly consume food that is “non-American,” I appreciate the reinforcement of eating with a grateful and gracious attitude.
|My cool parents and up and coming "scientists" |
during a visit to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).
- Planning and being organized. My mom is a gifted organizer and planner. I remember well the lists she had before we left on family vacations - everything from food lists to detailed packing lists. We never regretted having to follow those thorough records. Though I am not as naturally an organizer as she is, I sure have learned to be over the years.
- Cleaning and de-cluttering! Clutter was like almost a curse word in our house. Anything that did not have a place did not deserve to stay around. Sorry, Mommy, I still battle my “pile-it” programs. ;) But whenever my clutter becomes too much, I think of you and what you would tell me – “Get rid of that clutter!” (In case you haven’t personally noticed, clutter seems to have an effect on one’s brain and the ability to think clearly. When I reduce the clutter in my work space, I accomplish so much more.)
|Sisterly love - and it continues today!|
- Considering others. Always think of the other person - put them first. When dividing the pie, give others the larger slices. This was something encouraged and instilled in us from before I can recall.
- I read recently that one quality which almost always guarantees job success is being conscientious - “Wishing to do one’s work or duty well and thoroughly.” My parents are conscientious in the seemingly small and unnoticed things and when it comes to the “more important,” like their care for people, and doing a good job, but above all, in their walks with Christ. If one cannot be trusted with the small and few, one should not be entrusted with the large and many.
|Me and Leah a few years ago. Note that Leah's arms are crossed - |
I think we had just finished a "sisterly spat." ;)
- Being truthful, open and transparent. One of my childhood weaknesses was lying and I remember more spankings for that sin than for the others I committed. (I was a stubborn child and often deserved more discipline than my sweet, often-innocent little sister, who wisely learned from and thus avoided my frequent mistakes.)
- Open and honest communication was encouraged and cultivated in our home. Sharing our joys, disappointments and needs only strengthened our familial bond, as we learned to laugh, cry, and stand by one another through thick and thin.
“I took for granted so many of the everyday things that I did and learned growing up. But it’s now very clear to me that God intended me to be your son (daughter) in order to prepare me to live among the people of the world.
“You trained me in ways that few people are trained and you gave me what college and seminary never could have given me. I just want you to know how much I value and appreciate our family heritage.”
The above words which the missionary author used to close the letter to his father could also be my own. This list of what my parents taught and instilled in me could go on for pages, but I have captured the highlights.
Children and young people, listen to your parents and the people God has placed in your life. You never know how God is using them today to prepare you for tomorrow.
Parents, keep up the good work of raising your children in a biblical way to love, serve, and follow Jesus! You are shaping future Christians, leaders, teachers, pastors, missionaries, mothers and fathers.
Whoever you are, do not despise nor neglect any interaction with another human being, of any age or station.
No investment in another person is “small” in the kingdom of God.