The First Year {And Wondering if Maybe Missions is Screwing Up My Kids}

by Laura on April 9, 2011

This year has marked each of us, uniquely. And I wonder, today, what my kids will say about their SE Asia experience, thus far.  I wonder if they’ll be excited to use “elephant riding” as a truth when they play “Two Truths and a Lie” at summer camp some day.  I wonder if they’ll have hearts that beat for the impoverished, that bleed for the little girls on street corners, that pray for a Kingdom-of-Heaven Justice, and I wonder if those hearts will be birthed in part because of their time in a foreign country. I wonder if they’ll be proud that they know how to hail a tuk-tuk, climb a waterfall, and use chopsticks, and I wonder if they’ll have greater confidence because of their travel experiences.

But, I wonder at another side, too.

I wonder if they will resent us for taking them away from their friends and soccer leagues, and I wonder if they’ll think of this first year in SE Asia as the year that robbed them of parents who easily-laughed.  I wonder if they’ll get behind in school academically, if they’ll struggle socially, or if they’ll rebel spiritually because the Christ-following of their parents has cost them so much, too.

I wonder.

And I know I won’t know.  Time will tell, I suppose.  But, maybe it won’t, either.

Perhaps I’ll never fully understand the role SE Asia will play in their young hearts, their personal faith-walks, the shaping of their Stories.

And maybe that’s where I have to Trust,



On when my son packed his suitcase and wanted to go “home”

On my husband’s struggle in leadership

On missing family, back home

On serving in a foreign country, with small children

And, to date, perhaps my favorite video of my kids in SE Asia, taken from the first house in which we briefly lived . . .



How about you?  What are some ways your choices as a parent have affected your children? How do you deal with the fall-out?

This post is a continuation of a series reflecting on our first year in SE Asia. You can read the rest of the posts HERE.

  • Michelle

    I pray your children (and mine) will realize what a rich life they have been given outside of the “box” of North America. I pray they will have the eyes to see the world as Jesus sees it – and their humble beginnings in Thailand (or in Africa) will grow into a deep, deep faith in their little hearts. Faith that will move mountains for others. And a faith that will stand in the gap for those who do not have the power to do so themselves. Bless you five… from us five in SA… and BTW, the worm video needs to be turned in to World’s funniest videos!! 😉 That was fantastic!!!

    • Laura

      Michelle–this was a beautiful comment, a beautiful vision for our children. Blessings to you guys in S. Africa, new friend!

      Love that you are visiting here . . . means a lot that we’re not alone on the journey, doesn’t it?

  • Jasmine

    I was just referred to your blog from a friend, and I’m so glad she shared it! I have really enjoyed reading through your archives!
    I moved to Chiang Mai in November, after my husband and I got married, and now we’re expecting our first child. My husband was an MK here and has lived here for 14 years. I gain a lot of peace from seeing how the choices his parents made to serve here made him the amazing man he is, but at the same time, it’s really scary to be a first time mom, newlywed, and living in a totally different place. Thank God for His peace!

    • Laura

      Jasmine– what a neat perspective you have on life overseas– married to a man who grew up overseas! And congratulations on your first baby! Such an exciting, thrilling time. So glad you are visiting and love the insight you gave about your husband here:
      “I gain a lot of peace from seeing how the choices his parents made to serve here made him the amazing man he is . . .”

      Love that, Jasmine. You’ll be a great mom, I am sure!

  • @ngie

    What a beautiful family picture!

    When I read the missionary biographies from centuries past it seems that the wives and children occupy a tragic few lines hushed over quickly to make more room for the retelling of exploits.

    In more recent missions history this trend has changed. Women have began to take roles of dignity and impact. Even single mothers have become effective missionaries.

    But the question comes back to an individual evaluation of the long term effects our decisions are making on our own precious children. What histories are we writing for our kids?

    Personally I think it is right and good that we thoughtfully consider these things. Though I do think we need to choose, as you say, to trust. And then dwell the possibilities that they will be grateful.

    I write about the attitudes we foster in children here:

    You commented over there so I know you read it. I just think that as mothers we have the privilege of wooing our children to fall in love with God in such a way that they choose to overcome the temptation to become resentful… just like we have to do on a daily basis.

    This first year series is just wonderful. Thank you for bearing your heart before us. And I wish for you only pleasant bug-eating experiences. Gah! 😛

    • Laura


      read @ngie’s from Bolivia. Then go visit her. You’ll be glad you did.

      @ngie– your comments I think are sometimes better than my posts. :)

      • @ngie

        Aw, thanks for the shout out, Laura :)

        Your blogs lend nicely to interesting conversation. Thank you for creating a space to chat about important things. Quite a feat considering you connect continents.

        I hope you are well, friend.

  • Creative2xmom

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. My husband is passionate about pastoring and dying to plant a church. Still in my heart, I can’t help but wonder about all my children will have to give up in the process. And I grieve for them. Although we would be stateside, it’s a very hard idea for my to accept when it comes to my kids. And yet, what do you do? It’s a bit of being between a rock and a hard place, because if God calls you to it, you really have no choice.That’s where my trust journey is anyways. Not very Christian, huh? :-)

    • Laura

      Creative Mom,

      It IS a hard process of trusting, of encouraging a husband to follow a call and battling what the fall-out could look like for you and the kids. Trust me, the place you are IS a HARD ONE. Keep wrestling is all I can say. And you are so right when you say that if you believe that God is calling you, then it has to mean that He knows the impact on your kids– and still is calling you. It’s just a hard place to get to say that you KNOW for sure that whatever IT is is what God wants, and not us wanting something– ya know? Anyway, glad you stopped by and loved your honest comment. Hang in there, and keep asking and being willing to trust– and I think asking hard questions is one of the MOST “Christian” things you can do.

      Love to you and yours from here,

  • Laura

    Also, Creative Mom, I think it’s important to really wrestle with the cause behind the hesitation– is it FEAR? Because one thing I kept coming back to when we moved out here is that “Perfect Love casts out all fear” and that “God is Love”– so fear-only shouldn’t really be the sole reason I say “no” to a path before me. Your thoughts? Anyone??

    • Tamara

      “Perfect love casts out all fear” is my verse for flying! Yes, I think you’ve hit the nail well, Laura in asking what’s behind the hesitation.
      You all are such great moms to be so concerned about the effects of ministry choices / callings on your children. My experience is from the military angle of the choice to be in the military and all that that means to the children. What I’ve seen over and over and over again is this: Love God. Love your spouse. Love your children. No matter the situation – ministry or military or big business – the kids will thrive through it! (Maybe not moment-to-moment, but year-to-years.)

  • Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight

    Laura – You can trust this:
    Your children are in the Palm of God’s Hand. This time in Thailand is not a mistake in their lives…it is not a parental-blip…it is not something you’ve ‘done to them.’ Just as God has a plan for you, unfolding for His purposes – He has a plan for each of your children. And you can know that you know that you know – His plan is also unfolding for them, according to His good and perfecting purposes.

    • Laura

      thanks, Teri . . . love your words of encouragement. they ring true, i know this.

  • Ann Kroeker

    Another great “crossing cultures” story, this one involving the children. Would love to see this linked up at the Community Writing Project for, as well.

    You might appreciate learning about TCKs, “Third-Culture Kids,” so that you can see some of the gifts you are giving your children by raising them in a culture other than yours. My friend Ruth Van Reken literally wrote the book on TCKs, and speaks around the world helping families in global transition.

    My husband is a TCK, as well (a missionary kid who grew up in francophone Belgium), and like any childhood, it had its ups and downs; but overall he sees how amazing (positive) it was and would never trade it.

    A couple of sites:

    • Laura

      Thanks so much Ann. I appreciate all of your encouragement and your real-life testimony that MKs CAN “turn out” quite all right!! And, OF COURSE, they can. I’ll link this up over at THC, too, and will check out your friend Ruth, too! Going to google her today . . .

  • Hazel Moon

    May your children experience the heart beat of Jesus during your stay in Thailand. Home school them is best. I believe when Missionaries send their children to boarding school, that is the heart break of the child. Let them participate in your ministry. Children love to bless others no matter how small the task is. May God Bless you in your work for Him.

  • @bibledude

    I can totally relate to this, because even though I’m not half-way around the world, I sometimes feel like as Christians in a very non-Christian environment that we are THAT different sometimes.

    I have an eight year old boy that is noticing that we do many things very different than many of his friends at public school. And yes… it’s a tough balance making sure that they don’t loose their faith because they resent their parents for being different than others…

    I’m with you, and praying for you and your family. And I LOVED the video!

    • Laura

      THanks, @bibledude.

      Yes, it is hard when the choices of the parents make the kids feel different– and yet, I know, too, that there is a deep goodness in being different and learning the confidence to grow up into that freedom to not be one of the masses . . .

  • laura

    Giggles are the same precious music no matter in what country you reside! I came over from Dena’s today and really enjoyed both of your posts. Blessings to you and your family for what you give to further the kingdom. I don’t have the experience that Ann does, but I have to agree–such an amazing gift you are giving your children in modeling life this way.

    Many blessings!

  • Tara

    After our first three years out of the states, we’ve been stateside for 6 months raising support to return to Argentina next month. The time here is has been wonderful and hard all at the same time. And during this time it has given me even more confidence about the experiences my kids are having as TCKs. I hear them talk about life in AR and I hear compassion for the poor and wanting others to know Christ and it makes me praise God more. One of my mentors on the field has often said to us newbies…..God has his reasons for bringing you to this place, but he also has a plan for your kids to be here too. That has brought me great solace thru our first term… I thought many of the thoughts you mentioned above and cried many tears wondering if our life choices were truly negatively affecting our kids. But God has a purpose for your kids too….while living in Thailand. Isn’t that so freeing?

  • Megan Willome

    I haven’t walked in your shoes, but I have a lot of missionary friends who have. I can tell you that when they do come here, they find American culture extremely challenging and can’t wait to get back “home.”

  • Nicolette

    I pray the Lord’s sweetest blessings on you and your family today and everyday.

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  • Pam

    You wrote “I wonder if they’ll think of this first year in Thailand as the year that robbed them of parents who easily-laughed.  I wonder if they’ll get behind in school academically, if they’ll struggle socially, or if they’ll rebel spiritually because the Christ-following of their parents has cost them so much, too…..”
    your posts remind me so much of things that happened in our first years – some 28 years ago.  I remember when some guests came near the end of our first term and we laughed together..I remember thinking…”wow, I haven’t done this very much lately.”  Yes, our kids have struggled in some ways, but still I would never trade follow after God’s heart.  He didn’t call you there and forget about them.  He loves them OH how He loves them.  

    • lauraparkerblog

      Oh, Pam, I LOVED the last line of this comment. It was such an encouragement to me today, truly. Thanks for stopping in.

      love from here,

  • mrs bigtopp

    Thanks again for your writing: sorry to be commenting so long after the fact!
    I really related to this post. When we got here (closed country SE Asia), I had a team and visa requirement to do full-time language learning. This meant that first the first time in 7years, I was going to leave our home and not be the constant in our home and for our children.
    It sucks – it still sucks now and I only have 2months left of a 20hour weekly language commitment. And although I cry and cry and feel like the worlds worst mum and missionary at times.. God gave me a moment. I was reading through the account where Abraham took Isaac up to sacrifice him. I have always considered this from Abraham’s persepctive – but what about Isaac. It reads that there came a time he grasped what was happening… where he needed to be bound and he lay there with his own father’s hand stretched out to slay him.
    I never thought God would ask me to sacrifice time with my kids. I was prepared for transition to culture but not to lifestyle. I realised I was only willing to sacrifice to God what I thought was worldly (possesions, status and such). But if sacrifice is giving to God the best of what we have – then I needed to releas the grip on my kids hearts. I need to say yes – God. I think this is a terrible way to raise them but they are yours… and trust Him to be their constant. Their supply and the keeper of their heart.

    I am praying desperatly that God covers their aches and gurts and confusion and praise Him that when Iwhispered like Abraham “lay still and trust God loves us both” That God delivered a way-out for our family. Just like He did for Abraham and just like He did for sin. So that is how I;m dealing with the fall out. That and chocolate and crying in the shower. :)

  • Sunny Seng

    I don’t have time right now to write more and I don’t want you to think this is flippant – you have valid concerns – but you don’t really wonder if your kids will resent you for teaching them to eat vegetables or healthy food. Life has happened to you, you’re in a different place than maybe where you thot you’d be growing up but there’s no way to guarantee that staying “home-side” would have resulted in all those positive things you listed above – you might not necessarily have had ready smiles as parents if you had stayed (and ready smiles are overrated). If you live this experience as “life” and try to keep from comparing with what would/could have been, I think your kids will pick up on that. And I truly do believe that they will be well rounded individuals (: maybe with a little weird (a relative concept) mixed in, which will make them that much more special. They possibly will have some major hangups in the future, no one knows what that will bring, but hangups can happen anywhere. Take it from an MK (: …and if this sounded preachy, I’m not preaching, I just thot you might want to hear something reassuring from someone who’s been there from a toddler – and who has had/has hangups and comes from parents with hangups.

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