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Taking Our Kids to Hard Places

April 03, 2018
By Mike Skaggs

In Six Reasons to Take Your Kids to Hard Places, Jamie Dew, Dean of the College at Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC encourages Christian adults to intentionally expose our children to “places where poverty and brokenness are rampant, the places where pain and suffering abound.” This thought was heavy on me a couple of weeks ago as I accompanied a TCA I-Term team for a week in Chicago.

It was not a fun trip.

Don’t get me wrong...we laughed, ate good food, and made great memories. In short, we had loads of fun, but but it was not a fun trip. We worked! Over the course of that week, our team served meals to the needy, sorted and bagged over 6.5 tons of potatoes for distribution, taught ESL classes to refugees, loved on low-income children, and gave dignity to the homeless by engaging them in meaningful conversations at a men’s shelter.

While we were always safe, there were times of real physical and emotional discomfort. Still, I never heard a word of complaint. In fact, as the week drew on, I heard our students say things like:

  • “He had a life just like us before coming to America” (about a refugee from Myanmar)
  • “They just want love and attention” (about kids at a childcare facility for low-income families)
  • “She is really smart, she just doesn’t know English yet” (about a refugee from Afghanistan)
  • “The only real difference between him and us are a few bad breaks or poor choices” (about a man spending the night in a homeless shelter)

Our first instinct is often to protect our kids from difficulties, but over the years, I have seen great benefit to stretching our kids (and ourselves) in service to others. At times this can include risk, but we don’t have to be reckless to take a trip to a nursing home, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter. It is there that we can give our kids the gift of an authentic look at what life is like for those who are oppressed or suffering. Don’t forget, those are Jesus’ people. He sought them out, and so must we.

As you read this on April 3, plenty of time remains (within proper limits dependent on age and maturity) to make plans this summer to expose our kids to some of the difficult realities of life. And for good reason! Here are a few Drew gives in his post…

  • It helps our kids see the difference between good and evil.
  • It can teach gratitude and thankfulness.
  • It nurtures a concern for other people.
  • It helps us consider the potential impact of our own lives for good in the world.
  • It drives us to pray. When burdens are overwhelming, there are times when we can do nothing but ask the Lord to intervene.
  • It follows the example of Christ.

May we see the world as Jesus does, for only can we respond to it as he did.