Cultivate Your Child’s Calling into Global Service
Imagine this. Your son or daughter just got home from a youth conference, or a Vacation Bible School, or a semester of college. Or maybe they’re giving you a call on their way home from work. They take a deep breath, and they say:
“I think God wants me to be a missionary.”
Now what? You’re likely feeling a lot of different things. Uncertainty. Fear. Excitement. Maybe some of those warm, glowing feelings of pride.
One thing is for sure, it’s a little hard to imagine them living far away from you, in uncertain circumstances. It can also seem difficult to know where to go from here or how to help them fully live out their calling.
You’re not alone! Global Partners (GP) has been sending missionaries for more than 130 years – so many parents and families have walked this path. Sure, each missionary journey is totally unique and different. But there are many people with a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer as you navigate what’s ahead.
Nikki Nettleton and Alicia W. are very familiar with this experience. Both had very positive and encouraging support from their families when they served as missionaries in Eastern Europe and the Turkic-Arabic region. Now in their roles on the GP Learning and Leadership team where they train and equip missionaries, they watch as some families step up to the plate in full support, cheering their kids on, while others…well, struggle a little bit more.
And not only have they both witnessed what it was like for their parents and for other parents, they’re currently experiencing it from a new perspective. Nikki’s daughter, Ariela, and Alicia’s daughter, Jerah (both seniors in college) have discerned their own callings into global service.
Though Ariela and Jerah haven’t begun their global service yet, there are things Nikki and Alicia are keeping in mind. For instance, Alicia said she and her husband are making sure Jerah knows that they celebrate her call and her obedience to it.
Nikki said she feels thankful that her daughter was able to discern God’s voice in her life – but she also feels a sadness along with the joy of seeing her daughter confidently step into her calling.
“My heart also sank a little when it settled in that God’s call on Ariela’s life means we probably won’t live near each other for much of our lives,” Nikki added. “The idea of going months or even years at a time without seeing her makes my heart hurt.”
Alicia also acknowledged that there is a cost to sending, and part of that is the loss felt when we send loved ones to distant places, maybe losing out on a future we imagined with them.
“One of the hardest things for us as parents can be to accept the uncertainty and risk that comes with letting our kids build their own lives,” Alicia said. “It is so important as parents that we take our worries and concerns to our heavenly Father rather than placing them on our kids. We can help them think through the decisions they’ll have to make, but our own grief at what they’ll be missing, our worries about what’s ahead for them – those are ours, not theirs.”
Similarly, Nikki said releasing your children to the Lord is an act of trust and worship. And it’s this trust that Ariela said has been a blessing in her life as well.
“(My parents) dedicated my life to Jesus and His Kingdom, so their act of continuing to offer my life to Him through their trust and love is such a blessing,” she wrote.
No matter how old your child is – if they’re still living at home with you or if they have children of their own – if they feel this calling into global service, there are resources for both of you to discern the next steps and prepare. Check out this list, compiled of Alicia, Nikki, Jerah and Ariela’s suggestions.
1. Learn more about global missions – the course “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” (perspectives.org) is a great option for this. It’s an in-person or virtual course offered at many churches.
2. Read some books – Sarah Lanier’s “Foreign to Familiar,” David Livermore’s “Serving with Eyes Wide Open,” and Jayson Georges’ “3D Gospel” are great starts!
3. Start learning together about other cultures and people. Pray for believers around the world, and for specific unreached people who don’t have access to the Gospel. Check out our Prayer Resources and Joshuaproject.net for specifics!
4. Consider taking a short-term trip. This goes for both you and your child, whether you do it together or not! Talk to your pastor, youth pastor or missions pastor. Check out gponline.org/teams or gponline.org/NEXT for more opportunities!
5. Encourage your child to study another language. Jerah said she uses Duolingo!
6. Encourage your child to get involved in volunteer opportunities, whether it’s at church, at the library, at a food pantry, an after-school program etc. This helps to prepare their heart for service and learn from people who might have different backgrounds. Jerah said “I’ve loved getting to know immigrants in my community by meeting them through friends or by volunteering as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor.”
7. Connect with other missionaries and parents of missionaries. Alicia added, “the GP office would love to help you do that if you don’t already know some!”
8. Once your child is on the field, Nikki suggests visiting. “It’ll help you picture where they are and imagine what they might be doing or who they might be with, on the days you miss them.”
9. Check out gponline.org/goglobal to download a free resource created by the team at GP, to help your child work through three major questions “Is God calling me?” “How do I prepare?” and “How does the process work?”
The Wesleyan Church (TWC) also has a great resource to help students discern their calling. Rev. Santes Beatty, director of NextGen, explained that as they approached the annual TWC International Youth Conference called Follow this past December, they wanted to be better at following up with individuals who responded to a call to vocational ministry, the marketplace or global missions.
They created “Follow the Call,” a platform designed to help students explore their purpose and to understand their calling. Though launched at Follow, this is available to anyone who wants to be mentored as they pursue their calling.
One last thing to keep in mind: the feelings you might be experiencing as your child explores this calling – uncertainty, fear, excitement – are likely feelings your child is experiencing as well. And if there’s truly a place to start, it’s always prayer.
“There’s a sense of purpose that comes with this call, but also a lot of uncertainty,” Jerah wrote. “Global service will push you out of your comfort zone, put you in unfamiliar contexts, and force you to reevaluate a lot of assumptions. Lots of prayer is important …at least from my experience, having more experienced people affirm and support me in my calling had a powerful impact on me.”