Imogene and I were talking last night about missions. It was a very interesting conversation that began with “Mom, what are bills?” It was news to her that we had to pay for the lights, water, gas, and food in our home. She asked if everyone had these things. I told her no, everyone does not have the same luxuries we enjoy. She asked about food. “Do some people not have food, Mom?” I told that some people do not have food. She asked why. I told her they didn’t have money for food. She said, “Well, can they gather grain, like Ruth, to make bread?” I told her that while some people could, that not everyone can. I tried to explain that proper farming for enough food to feed your family also costs money and sometimes things don’t grow. I explained that while she had her favorite foods, some children would be happy for any food. She said, “But Mom, there is plenty of food. I’ve seen it. Why can’t everyone have it?” I tried to explain that the world just doesn’t work that way. You are expected to either pay for your food or grow your own food. She said, “But Mom! Kids are starving. Kids can’t pay!” So, I let her brainstorm solving the world’s hunger problems. Which is how the conversation led to missions. She had the idea to send people to poor countries to help them learn to farm, take them food, and show them Jesus’s love. I explained that people already do that. They are called missionaries. She wanted to know more about these people. I explained missionaries do many different things depending on where God had called them.
Now, the conversation took a turn to knowing the will of God. Of course, the topic every Christian teen struggles with. What does God want ME to do? She asked if God had called me to anything. I explained that we are here, in Atlanta, because God called us. I told her we are here because God has called us to this kind of ministry. She asked how we knew this is where God called us. She said, “How do you know? How do you know what God is saying?” I told her, “At first, you just pray, ‘God, I know you want me to do something somewhere, I just don’t know what or where.” Then you feel somewhere inside you says ‘China.’ And you think, ‘Hmm. Maybe He wants me to go to China.’ Next time you pray, you say, ‘God. I know you have called me to do something, somewhere. Maybe in China.’ And then deep inside, your feeling for China grows. You keep your eyes and ears open. Next time you pray, you say, ‘God, I know you want me to do something and I think it is in China.” That deep feeling is getting warmer now. Next time you pray, you pray, ‘God, I know you want me to do something in China.’ So, you start planning to go to China. What you’ll do makes itself clear. That feeling deep inside is sure that you doing what God wants you to do. You listen to wise people around you. You use what gifts God has given you. And you go.” She said, “Mom. I’ll go where God wants me to, but I’m not going anywhere with mean people.” Now, I could have told her that mean people are everywhere, but I didn’t. She’ll learn that soon enough. Instead, I responded, “Imogene, that is exactly where you should go. You should go where people need to see the love of Jesus most.” She said, “But Mom, I don’t know all of the love of Jesus.” Imogene often says she feels Jesus hugging her when she closes her eyes. So, I asked her to close her eyes. I said, “Did you feel it?” She opened her eyes and smiled and said, “Yes! I feel the love of Jesus! I can go!”
Conversations with our children come as naturally as that. I often hear parents wondering how to approach certain subjects. I meet teens who have very clearly never had any conversations regarding spirituality with their parents. Parents to think that is the church’s job. Or they think they are showing their kids this by example. We uprooted our growing family and moved in a 2 week window to follow God. Our kids were with us and transitioned with us as we made the move, had The Pastor working two full time jobs, and lived in a tiny house. They were there, yet they didn’t know why we did that. Sometimes the example just isn’t enough. Of course, if we hadn’t moved and hadn’t followed God, it wouldn’t be of much value for me to tell Imogene that she should follow God when I am clearly not. It just takes more than the example. The church should absolutely be teaching children orthodoxy. But parents should be teaching their own children, as well. And it doesn’t take a book, lesson plans, or unlimited time. It just takes answering simple questions and giving honest answers.