Education is Not That Important
“Education is Not That Important” by Marten Visser (July 2006) was a wonderful article.
Education is Not That Important
“Education is Not That Important” by Marten Visser (July 2006) was a wonderful article. I remember my field supervisor once asking me which of the five tribes in the general area where we were sent out would be the least likely to be reached with the gospel if we didn’t bring it. Once we could answer that question we could work out the details (which included education) to make that happen.
We were never forced to go to the tribe “least likely to be reached.” My supervisor would have understood if my wife and I had raised the education issue. But we felt God’s other children were just as important to him as ours were to us. We couldn’t help but wonder if other people made decisions based on their children’s educational needs. If most missionaries were of childbearing age when they started their projects, when would the “least likely” ever be evangelized? We felt that if God called our family to go, he must have a plan for our children’s lives that would incorporate the lessons learned from the varied experiences and challenges faced on the mission field.
I am not convinced the “least likely to be reached” should always be the determining factor in mission placement, nor am I convinced that children’s educational needs should never be the determining factor. God can use children in his service even if they haven’t gone to international schools. If missionary parents forget the value of practical experience in their children’s education, the next generation of missionaries will have an even harder time reaching the “least likely.” My wife and I really struggled over the whole education thing and wondered if we were neglecting our God-given parental duties by living in the “stone age” and not being able to send regular progress reports to the home missions office. Yet, all of our children survived their jungle experience. They all made it back to the US and despite the confusion and bumps of re-entry, found their way into the US job market. The greatest objective I had for my children’s education was to prepare them for God’s service. In many cases I believe this can be done among those “least likely to be reached” just as well as in an international school.
—Dale, Adventist Frontier Missions
Marten Visser (“Education is Not That Important,” July 2006) is correct when he states that the pressing need/priority in frontier church planting should not be contingent on the education of MKs. Marten observed that the perceived schooling needs of MKs often “take precedence over serving God to the best of our ability.” Yet “serving God to the best of our ability” surely includes shalom in the home and especially the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of our children. A functional loving family is one of the best bridge builders and witnessing tools in the missionary arsenal. A seasoned missionary with adult MKs told me, “It is easy for Marten to make assertive statements while his children are still small. I would like to talk to him in ten years to see if his assertions have changed.” There are many challenges that consume the energy, time and concern of missionaries, but the well-being and adjustment of their children seem to trump the rest. Each family is unique, so it is difficult to make sweeping statements about how others choose to educate their children.
My wife and I were following one path of education for our children, but everything changed when one of our children was diagnosed with a learning disability. Marten is fortunate to have multiple educational options (which was not true when we ministered on the same field years ago). Looking back, we are amazed how God enabled us to do pioneer church planting while raising four MKs. Certainly the ideal is to have your children with you all the time. However, home schooling is not for everyone. Balancing the needs of the Great Commission in relation to the shalom of your family is never an easy proposition (whether you home school or happen to use an international school).
—Dr. Larry Dinkins, OMF International
I generally do not write letters to the editor, but Marten Visser’s article, “Education is Not That Important,” (July 2006) prompted a response. From my sophomore year in college to the present day, I have worked with missionaries and their children in a wide variety of contexts. I have been exposed to many of the relevant issues and have heard about them both from the perspective of the children and their parents. Mr. Visser asks, “Since when do the perceived needs of our children take precedence over serving God to the best of our ability?” My counter question is, “Since when does serving God to the best of our ability not include caring for the needs of our children?” Yes, I did exclude the word “perceived.” Unfortunately, the highways and byways are littered with the children of missionaries who gave their perception of ministry priority over their role as parents. There are sacrifices inherent in the missionary life and calling. Our children should not be among them.
—Dr. Marshall Gillam, executive director, Lutheran Bible Translators
Response to Gillam:
That the Lord does not ask child sacrifices has been settled since Genesis 22. That missionaries have the tremendous privilege and obligation to love and nurture their children just like all other parents goes without saying. However, I still believe that for our generation of missionaries, taking Christ’s words in Luke 14:26 (“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”) seriously is a greater challenge than seeking the best, especially in education, for our children.
Six Challenges for the Church in Missions
The July 2006 issue of EMQ was a great issue! You deserve whistles and bells, applause and thanks. Generally I do not like people saying that one issue was the best ever, but I feel this issue deserves this title.
David Mays’ article, “Six Challenges for the Church in Missions,” was right on. Mays really stuck his neck out here—in the right way. He was right on with putting the lostness of people as his number one issue. In today’s world, millions of dollars are raised for AIDS, relief, orphans, NGOs, etc. Mays’ article calls us to a renewed compassion for the lost. We can feed them—and we should. We can clothe them—and we should. We can heal them, liberate them, educate them and house them, but they will all die—and then what? If we have not shared the gospel, they could be lost forever. We need compassion like Jesus had which calls the lost to be found. The angels in heaven truly rejoice when a sinner repents! So do I. Thanks to David Mays and to EMQ for the reminder.
—Fred Holland, coach for evangelism and church planting, Brethren in Christ World Missions
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