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Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

I really love my children.  Because I really love them, I’ve always thought it was important for them to love other people.

I also really love God. Because I really love God—who really loves people—I think it is important for my kids to learn to love other people.

Some children are just naturally more people-oriented than others. We have one little granddaughter whom we have to be a little cautious with because she is so easy with people that she will walk up to strangers, introduce herself, find out if they need anything, then proceed to try to take care of them. I once watched her at an ice skating rink–where she could just barely stand herself—find two teenagers who were less certain on ice than she was, introduce herself , and spend the next hour with them, teaching them how to ice skate.

Other children are just more shy, more self-conscious, more inhibited—pick your adjective! I don’t think parents get any credit for either of these types., nor should we think that either is more righteous than the other.  The fact is a person can be very gregarious and not love people. But you can also be reserved and not love people.

If we want our children to have a heart for the mission of God, then we must teach them to have the heart of God for people.

Here are a few suggestions for teaching your children to love others.  We’ll start with the most obvious tip of all.

  1. Show your love for others both publicly and privately. Being civil and polite in public, but critical and abusive about people in private will only teach your child to be a hypocrite. 
  2. Actively teach love for other people, starting with brothers or sisters. Encourage familial love. Don’t just stop abuse; encourage, reinforce active love for one another.
  3. Teach friendliness. Teach your child to introduce herself to people that she meets with you. Teach him to shake hands if people you are with are trying to be friendly. Teach them to look at people when your friends are talking to them. (I’ve tried to qualify all of these situations to recognize the danger of being too friendly with strangers—but don’t let fear keep you from teaching your child to be friendly.)
  4. Encourage your child to make new friends in appropriate situations. It’s not easy for the more naturally timid or fearful children, but that’s why God gave them parents!
  5. Take your children with you into appropriate community-building situations. I love the trend back towards children in worship with adults, in service projects with adults, even in team building/community building activities with adults.  Sharing experiences are where adults learn to love! It is no different for children.
  6. Expose children early to Diversity—before they even recognize it as Other! Kids barely notice “unloveliness” until they learn it from adults.  Be an adult who helps your children’s innocence develop into appreciation—even love for Others!
  7. Be aware of your child’s friendliness level. Be aware of their socialization skills. Be sensitive to their willingness to show love for others. Make it a point to talk about what you see with your child, so that they know it is important to you. Don’t ignore unloving behavior—ever! 

Kids can be friendly—all kids. Kids can act lovingly—all kids.  No excuses! As they grow in their capacity to love others, they are growing their capacity to have a heart for the mission of God.

 

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Being afraid of foreign things is part of the Fall, I suspect. I know that we have encountered this same fear in children all over the world.  In Africa, the little children who have never seen a white person run away crying. In Japan, the little children cautiously want to touch our “round” eyes.  The Chinese can’t keep their hands off the blonde hair of some American children.  If we want our children to have a heart for the mission of God, then we have to begin helping them not be afraid or put off by foreign things.

In fact, what would happen if they loved foreign things? God so loved the world . . . which was very foreign, so perhaps learning to love foreign things is learning to be more godly!

Here are a few ideas for you to help your kids (and yourself) love the world—the whole world, not just your small corner of it!

  • Never talk disparagingly about foreigners and foreign things! We all know that prejudice and bigotry are passed on from generation to generation, but sometimes only very subtly.  You don’t have to wear a white cap and robe to teach your children to be racists.  Just your typical racial jokes or stereotyping will suffice. The same with their attitude toward foreigners. What do you say about the men who cut your grass or the teaching assistant that is difficult to understand? What do you say about foreign cars, foreign athletes—even about immigration issues?
  • Expose your young children to foreign foods. Instead of just Happy Meals and hamburgers, take your kids for a gyro sandwich on pita. Some of our grandkids like Sushi (I don’t), but all of them think that the Hibachi steakhouse is the best treat ever for special occasions. Our son’s family found a German deli where they could buy Brötchen and other German things, so we had a very fun German breakfast together one morning!  Take your pick from all the countries of the world and explore their foods. Remember, they are all going to be at the banquet of the Lamb!
  • Encourage your children to start learning other languages as early as possible. I love that Dora the Explorer and other kid shows expose the pre-schoolers to Spanish. Did you know that only about 1/3 of American children take any foreign language in school!  No wonder we are internationally illiterate. I just read that 200 million Chinese children are learning English and only 24,000 American children are learning Chinese.  Who do you think will influence whom in the future?  For us Christians, the question is not political; it is who will share their heart for/against God with whom?
  • Watch foreign movies! (Now I’ve really crossed a line, haven’t I !!) With all the rental possibilities now, you have access to children’s movies from around the world. Yes, they may be subtitled, but unless you make a big deal out of that, your children won’t.  Maybe start with films from England or India in English. There are also cartoons. Sure they are different—that’s what foreignness is!!  You might even try some yourself!
  • Look for schools that offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program! The IB program, which is an internationally recognized curriculum, is gaining some popularity in the U.S,  You do find it in public schools as well as private schools.
  • Give your child an early experience abroad—anywhere! Lots of soccer teams, choirs, bands, etc. are doing international trips. Encourage this. Of course, a mission trip would be even better.
  • The absolutely best thing you can do is to take your children with you overseas—especially on a mission trip. The combination of watching the people they love and admire the most, interacting with foreign people and foreign situations, together with their own unique opportunities to experience foreignness are the best heart-forming experiences hands down!

I do need to warn you that loving foreign things is not very American—to our own shame! I do believe, however, that it is very Christian.  Perhaps we should take Paul’s words more seriously when searching our own hearts to discern our attitudes toward foreigners:

“Remember that at that time you were separate . . . excluded from citizenship  . . . and foreigners . . . But now you who once were far away  have been brought near through the blood of Christ . . . .Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people!” (Ephesians 2:12-19).

As God loved us foreigners, so we should love other foreigners—and teach our kids to do so also. By doing so, we will certainly see a heart for the mission of God grow in them.

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I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have heard someone say the equivalent of, “Don’t we have enough to do at home? Why do we need to go overseas? Shouldn’t we take care of our neighborhood first?”

When Sherrylee and I were newly married and committed to going to Germany with our newly-formed mission team, I asked a very prominent preacher whom I knew for help raising support. Without thinking about what the implications were, he said, “Man, if only you weren’t going overseas!” I mistakenly took this as criticism back then, but I know now that what he really was saying was that American Christians prefer to support local over foreign outreach.  Bad decision!

Remember how God allowed persecution on the earliest church in Jerusalem and “scattered” people, forcing them into other countries, even to the Gentiles (Acts 8:1,4,19-20). I don’t think He used the same technique with American Christians—although WWII was the real beginning (not the earliest) of foreign outreach in churches of Christ—but I do believe that He has worked in time and space in our day to wipe away our tepid excuses for not sharing the Good News with people different from us.

Look at this snippet from Wikipedia about U.S. Immigration:

As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined. Since the liberalization of immigration policy in 1965, the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled, from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007. 1,046,539 persons were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008.

If Christians hesitate to “go into all the world,” then why shouldn’t God bring all the world into our neighborhood?  It’s not punishment—it’s who we are and what we are about!!

Let’s Start Talking is best known probably for its short-term, overseas mission programs, but as early as 1990, LST was also training Americans to reach out to international students, immigrants, and non-English speakers in our universities and neighborhoods.  FriendSpeak is LST’s program for training churches to reach out cross-culturally in their own communities—and it is huge!

Rather than tell you about it, I want to give you a link to the Christian Chronicle which just ran an online article and asked for feedback from those who might have used FriendSpeak in their churches. Just click this link and you will see firsthand what can be done here at home for the whole world:

http://www.christianchronicle.org/blog/2010/08/reader-feedback-tell-us-about-your-friendspeak-experience/

Local versus Foreign—not even a legitimate argument anymore—if it ever was. There is only, “Who can I talk to today—and who can I talk to tomorrow—and who will talk with those people over there?  Sure, I will.”

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As a young missionary, I remember (with embarrassment now) my own disappointment the first time I visited a mission church in Paris and realized that although there were 40-50 people in their worship service, virtually none of them were Parisians, only a handful were even French, and the rest were internationals from the French-speaking world.

Let’s Start Talking, which Sherrylee and I direct, works with many Japanese churches, who breathe the air of a culture with strong tendencies toward uniformity, conformity, and all things Japanese. Some Japanese leaders are very hesitant to invite foreign Christians to work beside them and reticent to think of the international communities in their city as a mission field. They want national churches—churches that look like them. I have seen the same prejudice (and I use this word consciously, but not pejoratively) on every continent, including North America.  Such churches rarely thrive.  Great churches overcome prejudices and present the Gospel to all people whom God brings into their lives.

  1. 1. Great churches see their community as it is today, not as it was! From the US 2000 Census data:  Between 1990 and 2000I the foreign-born population increased by 57 percent, from 19.8 million to 31.1 million, compared with an increase of 9.3 percent for the native population and 13 percent for the total U.S. population.  A small Texas city has a colony of Armenian Turks. A Michigan suburb is home to thousands of Albanians. Chinese residents are the second largest number of foreign-born population after Hispanics.  The neighborhood has changed!  The world has come to our doorstep. Has the church body changed with it?
  2. 2. Great churches find strength in diversity. The church in Paris that reaches out to Africans and uses them as well as other Internationals in church leadership has created “growing edges” for greater outreach and service. Instead of serving one community, this church now serves at least three—and sends the message of “welcome” to even more.
  3. 3. Great churches find resources in diversity. No longer (if it ever was) is the U.S. church the headwater for all missional gifts; African churches, Korean churches, Brazilian churches, yes, Chinese churches are sending resources and people out throughout the world with power, vision, and the gospel. These precious resources are used by great churches—regardless of nation of origin.

I’m just pretty sure that the greatest churches will reflect “the glory and honor of the nations” which the Apostle John saw in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21).

Questions:  Does your church intentionally seek to reflect “the glory and honor of the nations?” How?

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