Wednesday, May 13, 2015

10 Ways To Encourage MKs In College

Do you know any MKs in college? I'm thinking especially of those whose parents are still serving abroad. They're in a fairly unique position--and so are you. Here are 10 ways to encourage and bless MKs in college, and by extension, their families also who continue to serve the Lord abroad:

1. Discipleship. Live near the college? How about inviting them out for coffee every now and then and just talking about life. Invite them into your home for dinner. Just the simple act of sharing moments of life and being a stable friend is a huge encouragement. Maybe you don't live near the college, but near where they spend the winter break: no problem. try and connect once a week for the three weeks they're off. The impact might be greater than you think!

2. Adopt an MK for Holidays. Holidays can be very uncomfortable for MKs. Often times, they have nowhere to go, especially for shorter holidays, like Thanksgiving. Everybody is asking where everyone is spending the summer/winter/holiday... it can be hard to have nowhere to go. Maybe you know the missionary family, or maybe your son or daughter are friends are classmates/roommates with an MK. Ask them to join you for a holiday. They might already have somewhere to go... or you might catch the huge sigh of relief in their eyes when you ask.

3. Give Them Responsibilities In Church. Most MKs are no strangers to ministry. But many feel uncomfortable about the idea of serving in their church, because they still feel so out of place. Approach them and invite, nay, challenge them to get involved in a specific area or two. Make sure to give them some responsibilities for continued growth. This could be anything from helping with the children/youth, to greeting people as they come in, to folding bulletins, to being a part of the missions committee.

4. Offer Them A Job. MKs usually haven't had the chance to work on the mission field. Either visas don't permit, they pay is not worth the time (I was offered a job at somewhere around .50 an hour in high school), or its not an option for other reasons. Offer them a job mowing lawns, gardening, doing house chores, or if you own a business offer them a job doing small things around the shop. I worked for an elder in my church when I got back to the US who offered me a job mowing lawns at his rental properties. The responsibility was really good for me, and the money helped me get on my feet before school started.

5. Invite them on a family vacation. This takes #2 to a new level. It was so encouraging to go on a family vacation with family friends my first summer in school. With my family all abroad, they just adopted me as their fourth kid for the week and we road-tripped to New England!

6. An alternative to the above is to give them some airline miles. They can either fly to friends or maybe even home for a holiday. I was able to visit a good high school friend due to a close family friend giving me some airline miles one summer. What an enormous blessing came out of this gesture.

7. Store their stuff. One of the awkward MK moments is when you arrive on campus with more stuff than anyone else. In the summer there's nowhere to put it. The truth is that I couldn't leave stuff at home, or at my grandparents. Granted, some of it needs to be purged, but for MKs this can be a process; stuff can be what ties them to 'home'. If you have an empty closet, or a corner in your unfinished basement consider asking an MK if they need a place to store anything.

8. Send a care package. It doesn't have to be elaborate or fancy. Maybe it's just a box of homemade chocolate cookies, or a book you enjoyed. Maybe it's just a hand-written letter of encouragement (anyone would benefit from that!). When their parents live abroad, they're not expecting anything in the mail. So anything that shows you thought about them is a big deal!

9. Help orient them to taxes. I was up for two nights my first tax season trying to fill out a 1040, then switching to a 1040EZ. Then I  panicked when my numbers said that needed to send in a thousand dollars!? No, more reading and googling got me the right numbers and I found out that the government actually owed me a hundred bucks. If you can help walk them through a 1040EZ (instead of just sending it to H&R block) it gives them a good intro into the world of taxes.

10. Listen to their stories. It important for any MK at any life stage in every geographical location. Ask, and listen. Then ask to see picture. They might get teary eyed looking at them. Their sense of home is lost (if it was ever there). That's OK. Just ask to see more.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

10 Ways To Encourage MKs On Furlough

I recently read a great article full of practical advice on The Gospel Coalition's website, entitled 20 Ways To Refresh The Hearts of Missionary Saints On Furlough. Included in the article are some very practical, doable, and meaningful tips. When I was growing up my family experienced some of these -- such as people loaning us a car, storing some of our earthly possessions, and even a dentist who was an old friend of my folks who gave us free dental care. Not only were we blessed, but we felt very supported and valued by these things.

Today we work with a lot of MKs (children of missionaries) who go on furlough (itineration, home ministry assignment, however you've heard it) with their parents, and others who have returned to the States without the intention of returning to the field. We actually have a a few MKs on furlough now- shout out to Emma, Meghan, and Katie! Before we moved to Costa Rica, we had a number of questions on how churches can support their missionaries and MKs. I thought I would complement Jason Carters' post with some practical ways of caring for MKs on Furlough.

1. Ask them about their 'home'. For most MKs, "Coming home to furlough" has no meaning--it's an oxymoron. Many of them spend the majority of their lives outside of the US (or passport country) and they left home when their parents came home. Asking "do you miss home yet?" is a breath of fresh air to an MK in the midst of all the well-meaning "welcome home!"s.

2. Ask them questions in order to hear their stories... and really listen. Be prepared to listen for a long time. We MKs generally know and acknowledge the importance of what it is our parent's are doing in ministry. We're used to people wanting to hear about the latest trip to the indigenous community, and we're used to sitting silently and listening to the same stories for the 39th time. When around peers who can't relate to our experiences, we find there is often no interest in listening to our stories. Often, MKs feel bottled up because there's no one who cares to relate to us.

3. Take them to do something fun. In his article Carter suggests friends watching the children of missionaries to enable them to have a date. This is a huge double win, because small acts of kindness towards MKs makes them feel really valued. When I was 11, a student at Northwestern University in Illinois took me--not my family, not my sisters and I, just me-- to one of the university's small rec centers. He bought me a slice of pizza and we played pool (for my first time) and then I went home. Total hang-out time: maybe an hour, hour and a half. Recall time: 15 years and counting. It made a huge impression on me, that someone cared enough to do this with me. I was a person, not just the student of missionaries his church supported.

3. Take extra measures to make them feel like they belong in your community. Call them up and invite them personally to a youth event, tell them you've missed in their absence, have things for them to do when they arrive to help them fit in and belong from the beginning. If lead a bible study, invite them to the study; if you coach a sports team, invite them to practice; if you have a hobby, ask them to join you. This often takes consistency and preparation, but it can have some big payoffs.

4. If you have kids around the age of the MKs, invite them to do things with your family. Sports activities, picnics, concerts, etc.

5. Keep in mind that a fair number of MKs don't know the rules to many sports. Without making them feel dumb about the fact they don't know them, offer to teach them the rules to a sport you enjoy. Help them learn what a batting average is and what it means, or invite them to your fantasy football league and offer to guide them through it.

6. Work on a project together. This could be a ministry you're already involved in (Steven, would you like to help me run sound for worship practice on Saturday?), changing the oil in your car, starting a scrapbook, work in the garden, etc.

7. Once you get to know the MK, ask them to teach you something. It could be a hands on instruction (cook something, make a craft), or a hypothetical instruction (if I were to get on public transportation in your country, how would I avoid getting robbed?) It doesn't have to be specific to a foreign culture or ministry, just to their story.

8. Find out something they miss from their home (the field) and visit an international supermarket or hunt it down to surprise them! You'd be surprised what you can find if you look hard enough--especially if you live near an international community.

9. Send them a note or a care package as they travel. Or hand something off to their parents to give to them at a later time to avoid postage and timing. Extra hint: American candy is often coveted! (skittles, m&ms, snickers, milky way bars, nerds, twizzlers, etc.)

10. Don't let the brevity of time deter you. Trust me, MKs are used to making friends on short notice. It's a second nature survival skill that comes with the territory. If an MK is only at your church for the weekend, see how much time you can devote to spending with them and do it! But don't be discouraged if they've had their fill of saying goodbyes and aren't interested. It's not you they're rejecting, it's the pain of saying goodbye to friends over and over again that they're having to work through.

Next up: 10 ways to encourage MKs who have returned from the field (for good).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Today we celebrated our first year in Costa Rica. While we're getting use to things taking longer than expected (the biggest adaptation thus far), there are some things that still baffle us. For example...

I went to pick up a package today at the post office. Home delivery rarely happens and is challenging when your address literally translates to this: "San Francisco de Dos Rios, From the pharmacy La Pacifica, 400m east, 10m south. The garage is grey". That's great except the pharmacy is now a bread store and has been for 8 months. Somehow telling a taxi driver this always gets me home.

Anyways, this is the process for getting our package once at the post office:

  • sign with passport at the guard shack with written proof of receiving a package
  • receive a lanyard badge
  • go to the back of the post office
  • go to counter 1
    • give letter telling you have a package
    • show passport
    • receive a stamp on letter with your signature and passport number
  • go to counter 2
    • show stamped letter
    • acknowledge what is in the package
    • again, stamp, passport number, and signature
    • (the person has retrieved your package, but you cannot touch it)
  • go to counter 3
    • give stamped letter
    • pay a handling fee and/or customs (it was about $3)
    • receive a receipt that is stamped
  • go to counter 4
    • show receipt
    • wait to retrieve your package (it got moved from counter 2 to 4)
    • show receipt again to receive package
  • check in again at guard shack to confirm that it is your package
  • return badge
Some days you really question your effectiveness with how little you can accomplish each day. Then you realize it's just life here. Pura Vida!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Different Beliefs, One Bible

One Bible question I often get is, how can so many Christians who have the Spirit living inside of them read the Bible and come up with differing doctrines? If you ask this question, maybe this will help:

"Some would challenge the call to humility in reading the Scripture by arguing that the Spirit shows us what the text means. He is our teacher. But when two "Spirit-instructed interpreters" argue for mutually exclusive positions, a problem arises. Who brings the correct message taught by the Spirit and how do we decide? We would argue that this question emphasizes the Spirit's teaching work at the wrong place, by stressing understanding of content. John 14-16 describes the work of the [Spirit] as a ministry of convicting the world and instructing the saints through encouragement. In other words, the Spirit works in our hearts to convict us of the truth of what we read in Scripture and to encourage us with regard to how we apply what is said. There is a difference between understanding what the Gospel says, and accepting it. Those who crucified Jesus understood His claims, but they rejected Him as not being from God. Our contention would be that the Spirit is primarily concerned with our responsiveness." 
Craig A Blaising and Darrel L Bock.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Patrick's Morning Adventure

Today to kick off our family morning, Patrick practiced his climbing skills in the back yard! He did great climbing our mango tree, and went up 3 times! It was pretty exposed, so it gave me a good excuse to break out our rope and harnesses!