One way that we can raise our children to be world changers is to get them to focus on helping other people. When you help someone else and that person’s life changes, you have changed that person’s world. There are numerous ways to help others, from simple everyday things like stopping to help a person at the supermarket or saying a kind word to someone when they need one, to giving someone shelter and food when they have none.
The Bible, which is my guidebook, is big on stating that we need to treat others as we would like to be treated. It also says that we need to take are of the widows and orphans, and that we need to look for opportunities to serve others and bring freedom to the prisoners and good news to the poor. The Bible is big on social justice.
I regularly ask myself the questions, “How am I doing in this regard?”, as well as “How am I bringing up my children in relation to these commands of God?”. It would be easy to make excuses that my children are too young at seven and ten years of age but they are not. When you read the biographies of men and women of old, some of them greatly impacted the world around them at ten years of age.
When we returned from spending three months in Mozambique in 2011, my husband was asked if he would consider helping out at a weekly meal run by our church for folk in the community who were doing it tough. The folk who mainly came were those on disability pensions and/or in the local housing commission flats, many with mental/psychological illness. Our whole family went along and it was Princess, who was eight years old at the time, that wanted to keep going. I still remember the drive home that night. Princess was trying to convince us to keep coming back to help out but we explained to her that we couldn’t because it was a 45 minute drive from our home and Matey had gymnastics at that time which was held a further ten minutes the other side of our home. Princess argued that daddy could get home from work in time to take Matey to gymnastics to free up herself and me to be able to come up and help at the meal. Thus, we began an eighteen month weekly date of helping those who were less fortunate than ourselves.
During this time, Princess was exposed to people who had all kinds of mental illness. One evening there was a fight between two of the men. I had no qualms about Princess seeing this as I knew she was physically safe. There were precautions that we took though, like not allowing her to go out the door and along a windy corridor to the toilets on her own. Sensible precautions. Our 45 minute drive home enabled us to have a good debrief each week. Princess was able to work out different characteristics that various people exhibited and how that was indicative of which mental disability.
You could well ask, what use was an eight year old girl at a meal like that. Many people brought their kids so it was good experience for Princess to be looking at how she could include those kids and helping them to feel ‘at home’. She loved helping serve the food as well. One evening she made enough apple crumble for dessert for 40 people. A number of times, she baked chocolate chip biscuits for supper for everyone. A couple of the girls became friends of hers. This was great as during school holidays we would catch up for a play at those girls’ local park and I could then listen to and speak into the lives of their mothers in their parenting role.
After eighteen months, we needed to reassess the situation. We had had a huge summer of helping people who had dysfunctional lives and Princess needed a break for awhile. Our routine had also changed and the times were no longer suitable for us to assist, especially with the 45 minute drive both ways.
I encourage you, no matter what age your children are, to join a community meal in your local area and serve. The benefits to everyone are fantastic, even just helping your children see that they have life ‘pretty good’ and have no need for complaints.
There are plenty of other opportunities around the neighbourhood. Some ideas that my children have done are visiting elderly neighbours and keeping them company and doing short errands for them such as collecting their mail or daily newspaper, gardening, and checking if they need supplies at the supermarket. We also make several meals for parents of new babies and your children can get involved in this with helping to prepare the meals.
The organiser of the local church’s kids club organises several shipping container loads of furniture, clothes and children’s books to go overseas to missions each year. Thus, the kids are involved in giving their good clothes they have outgrown, good used toys etc to her to send, plus any extra money that will assist with the freight charges. They could instead have a garage sale and sell their belongings and just give the money they raise, but the effort required for the garage sale with the amount of financial return is not always worth it, and the lady loves getting their clothes, toys and books to send overseas.
There has just been a big push here in Melbourne to finish the ‘Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes’. You buy something for a child to wear, to love, to play with, to learn with, to keep clean with, and then package it all in a shoe box. It is then sent overseas to be delivered to a child who receives this as their only Christmas present. That is a great project to be involved with as your child helps select the items and can write a letter to the child receiving the box.
For the last several years, our children have been involved in selecting a tag from the local store Christmas tree and buying a present for the recipient of the tag. The kids love shopping for a gift for someone else.
A very effective way that has influenced the kids is to have missionaries stay or at least visit them when they are home and hear what they are involved in. We get a number of missionary newsletters and it is important that the children get to read these as well. A friend commented to me that she had grown up in a mission loving family but they had never really celebrated or heard of the great things that happened, only the negatives or what needed changing. This had turned her off Christianity for a number of years as she had unwittingly believed that God wasn’t big enough to care. Only yesterday I received a text from a friend of our family who was going into the local prison for the first time with a group of hip-hop dancers to teach the prisoners to dance. They believed they could change the spiritual atmosphere in there and asked us to pray during the three hours they would be in there. I made sure the kids texted her at the end to ask how it went plus to read the reply so that there was an immediate outcome they could read about.
How about starting small and brainstorm as a family something you could all participate in this week. It may be to bake some biscuits for an elderly neighbour. Perhaps all write a card for a relative who lives alone and send it to them. Go to you local shops and see if you can find someone who may be “down on their luck” and give them a few dollars for a drink. Go for a walk and try and smile and say hello to everyone you meet. Have fun coming up with innovative things to do.
I would love to hear about some of the ways you and your family are serving other people.