The president of Compassion International tells his story of childhood abuse and deliverance in a West Africa boarding school. Wess Stafford | posted 5/07/2010 09:08AM
Mission policy dictated that all MKS leave their parents at age 6 and travel 700 miles (a week by truck) to this isolated jungle school. They, like me, had experienced unspeakable cruelty in this place. The people in charge were missionaries who had gone to Africa to save souls but, I don't know, perhaps did not measure up linguistically or cross-culturally, so instead had been assigned to the least desirable task on the field: taking care of other missionaries' children. Unsupervised, they took out their frustration and rage on their most convenient targets: the children in their charge. I learned early that terrible things can happen when children are deemed unimportant, the lowest of priorities.
There is a companion article to the one above (A Badly Broken Boarding School) which gives some more of the background of this situation. These articles caused me to recollect some very unpleasant matters.
This is a worst-case scenario, of course. But consider what has happened with missionaries in some cases in which the boarding school was a good one. Missionary children are separated from their parents for most of the year. Missionary children grow up without their parents.
During our Bible college years my wife and I made many friends with the children of missionaries. Some of them had gone to boarding schools far from their parents. And while the parents were saving the world, some of them lost their own children. The ones we knew were not lost to the faith, but resentment was clearly present.
It wasn’t just missionary kids. (I must assume that is what ‘MKS’ means in the article above, though that is never directly stated.) At Bible college we also knew plenty of PKS - ‘preacher’s kids’ who clearly, while they were never sent to boarding schools, were clearly out of touch with their parents who were busy ‘saving the world.’
Here is something interesting I have noticed. Alexander Campbell, perhaps the brilliant mind behind the Restoration Movement in the United States, was absent from his home much more than he was present. As important, influential, and brilliant as he clearly was in the early American church, none of his children seemed to have been much involved or important in the church. My survey of their attitudes – to the extent it is possible and which I admit is limited – seems to reveal some of the same attitude I found among my friends who were MKS and PKS.
What better day to say this than Mother’s Day, though Father’s Day would do nicely too: the Great Commission does not supersede the Parental Commission:
You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:19)
Generally speaking, the ‘them’ here is the word of God. Notice how the very assumption is that parents will be with their children most of the time.
If you think God has ‘called’ you to anything that takes you away from your children, you are very wrong. The Great Commission does not trump Deut. 11:19. This does not mean that parents of young children cannot be missionaries. But it does mean that, if you are, you must never neglect your primary mission field, which is your children. It could mean that our modern sent-to-a-foreign-land missionary work might have to be worked around one’s children. It might mean that many things ‘churchish’ have to be worked around the Godly attention we owe our children. It is not at all ‘noble’ to devote oneself to the ‘professional’ ministry in any way that neglects one’s children.
No amount of so-called ‘leadings’ or ‘callings’ can ever trump the Parental Commission. If you want to devote your entire adult life to traveling to a far away place that will make it impossible for you to fulfill the Parental Commission, then you had better not have children. There is far too much emotional baggage that is often thrown around Christian circles about this matter, but the truth is very clear.
If you think you have saved some part of the world, but you have neglected you children in the process, you are definitely NOT making happy the One Who said, “Let the little children come to Me . . .”