Just over 19 years ago, my husband and I stepped off the plane to begin our first long-term mission assignment. At the time, I was, in many ways, far from an ideal missionary candidate. We were joining a new team working to plant churches in a small Muslim country.

I was a perfectionist, a naturally introverted lover of solitary activities like playing the piano and reading. My new responsibilities required me to regularly go out and begin relationships with new people, using a new language we were just beginning to learn. The studying and memorizing — that was familiar and comfortable. Using a new language and daily meeting new people and situations — exhausting, to say the least.

I was raised in a tiny town of fewer than 200 people. In our new home, I was learning to navigate life in a city of a few million (with no natural sense of direction — ask my parents!) We had worked to prepare. I had studied how to learn languages and earned a degree in intercultural ministry! But now, each day I was faced with my own inadequacy and fears.

Gradually I began to understand that God isn’t looking for perfect people; he wants willing ones. On the days when it was hardest, this truth helped me open the door and go out one more time. My job was to stay willing, and God took what I had to offer and used it for something beautiful. He helped me learn bus routes, move on from my mistakes, and come to know and love new people.

We began our second missionary term as new parents. As we met with partners and visited churches, people would ask us, “Is it safe over there? How can you take your child so far away, to a place like that?” We heard these questions many times over the next 16 years. God gave us kids, but we knew that our call to obey him had not changed. So we went back to this small Muslim country — and we stayed when our next two kids came along.

I knew our kids would miss some things we had experienced as children, not the least of which was the regular time spent with extended family that is so important to me. Over the years, this truth became very clear to us: God’s best plan for a family is his best plan for the kids, as well as the parents. He doesn’t forget them, as if they’re some kind of luggage that happens to be along for the trip.

In every season, God has provided in special and personal ways for our kids, immeasurably more than all we asked or imagined! (Ephesians 3:20). Not only did our children become bilingual and gain incredible perspective on the world, they were enriched by people and experiences they would have known in no other kind of life.

There were tears and hard times — grief and loss of well-loved friends and places, the pain of continually feeling not quite at home — these are a reality for our kids, as for any MK (missionary kid). But God’s provision far outweighed the cost.

*Names omitted for security reasons.