Prayer Letter - June 2022 (copy of letter sent by mail)


Heartfelt greetings to our friends and family,

It has only been four months since Arwen slipped quietly into eternity – there to rest continually in the presence of our Lord Christ. We knew that our sorrow would run deep, but that hasn’t lessened the blow of grief as the reality of her loss continues to leave a massive hole in our lives. Arwen’s presence is sorely missed. Without her we are still a family of seven, yet the dinner table feels empty. We constantly feel as if we’ve miscounted our children or as if we are forgetting something. We miss Arwen’s singing and her laughter. We constantly feel like she’s just around the corner or about to arrive home from somewhere. She was more than a daughter and sister to us; she was a dear friend and a beautiful soul.

On the morning of Arwen’s homegoing, our neighbors and friends, Derek and Chris, were in our home to collect Arwen’s body. Another neighbor and friend, Tom, was also visiting to comfort us. Tom offered to pray with us when little Irene responded that she wanted me, her papa, to pray too. Though uttered through tears, this was and still is our prayer:

Father, you are good in all things even when we don’t feel it, but we are thankful that you do show us your goodness so often and even now in our sorrow you have shown us your goodness. For me and for my family, I choose thanksgiving. We are thankful to you for the outpouring of your rich blessings in our lives. We’re thankful that you have given us Jesus Christ as an assurance of hope in our lives. We thank you that because of that assurance we know that Arwen is with you now and that we will see her again because of what you have done through Christ. I don’t have much to ask of you because you have already given us everything in Christ. I ask only that you would allow us to see your goodness and that we would become truly grateful for all that you have done as you open our eyes to your goodness. Thank you for the chance that you have given Arwen and us to show you to those around us as we trust in you, even in the weakness and frailty of our bodies. May your son, Jesus Christ, be glorified in our lives. May all of our words and deeds point others toward Him. You are good in all things, Lord. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

As much as we would not and could not choose such sacrifice, we accept the circumstances that the Lord has given us. We understand that in all things, even this, He is giving us good and righteous works that we might walk in them – all to the praise of His glorious grace.

In Christ, we are finding our way forward. We still have joy and hope, though we take turns crying and comforting each other as well. Arwen’s work here is done, but the Lord has left us here to carry on for a little while longer. Ultimately, the true work belongs to the Lord God and we are but humble servants whose calling is that of simple, trusting obedience.

Work in the hospital and clinic has continued to bear fruit. There are encouraging days when those who hear the gospel of peace respond with faith in Jesus. There are several recent examples of lives immediately changed by the work of God – attitudes and hearts softened. Also, there have been several patients recently who died in the hospital after long and involved admissions to our service but who accepted Christ before entering into eternity. You can find more details about these patients and their stories at our hospital’s Facebook page, (or visit

There have also been many encounters which do not lead to immediate responses, but we choose to faithfully share the truth in obedience to God’s word. There have been a string of palliative patients, those with terminal illness, who have heard the gospel, seriously contemplated the truth, and rejected the Lord. These moments can be discouraging, but it is the Lord who will bring about the increase according to His sovereign will. Arwen’s testimony of faith and hope in God has been instrumental in many such encounters. Pray with us for these souls.

The other children have all but completed their studies for this year. We hope to expose them to more ministry opportunities both in the hospital and villages as we find a better sense of balance and calm in our lives. Irene has endured several flares of her bowel disease, so we continue to pray for wisdom regarding that.

Be in prayer for our family as we plan a brief retreat this summer to collect ourselves and rest for a time as we continue to process the changes in our life. Pray for Irene’s health and for mental and spiritual peace for each of us as we grieve and seek the Lord as our comforter. Pray for ministry opportunities here in Togo, both within the hospital and outside. Ask the Lord to open the door for mobile clinics and for the right church plant for our family to become involved with. Pray for opportunities among the local unreached and Muslim peoples. Pray, above all, that the Lord Jesus would be glorified through the work He has given us here.

Know that we love and appreciate you all. We pray for you also, that the Lord would be glorified in your lives and testimonies. Do not cease to pursue Him.

Seth, Becca, Caspian, Elora, Gwynevere, Irene, and Kalmar

Glory in Jars of Clay

There are days in a mission hospital that remind us of the fragility of our mortal selves, the delicacy of our bodies. Approaching the hospital, the missionaries must walk past the small shed used as a morgue. Some mornings, a stretcher sits in the grass near the small building, sunning after being washed down. It’s challenging to avoid the heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach…somebody died last night

The hospital morgue

We recently had a patient, a young woman, who was being treated in our hospital for an infection deep in her abdomen. She improved significantly and was transferred out of the intensive care ward to a general bed. However, she ended up taking a turn for the worst without any clear explanation and died within a few days. We are perplexed by such hard realities often.

We know from scripture that we continue to carry the curse of sin in our mortal bodies. This curse includes the many trials of life that God uses to refine us into the image of his son, Jesus Christ, and to exemplify the glory of God. During our ever-so-brief time on this earth, we are exposed to all kinds of afflictions, perplexities, persecutions, and ultimately even the death of our bodies. Yet, while our flesh is exposed to such things that should crush us, drive us to despair, cause us to feel forsaken, and even utterly destroy us, the Father of Light shows Himself to us and the world by preserving us and allowing us to be joyful even in the worst circumstances.

The Lord of hosts extends His power to His children so that the life which is Christ is made known, even in this cursed world through our frail, dying bodies. How encouraged is the body of Christ when the Lord makes Himself known in such a way? How perplexed and intrigued is the world who witnesses the oxymoron of joy within sorrow, of life within death!

Pray, pray, children of the Most High. Ask the Lord to keep our eyes fixed on Him, our minds bent towards Him, and our hearts always seeking the only way to the Father, Jesus. Let us encourage each other to maintain a perspective which is eternal. This life is so momentary. Take every hurt and affliction to a loving Father. Yes, we are free and able to ask for what we want and what we need, but let us desire also to cherish the opportunities to display the Way, Truth, and Life in the weakness of our bodies. What a privilege to be used of God. May He be seen, known, and gloried.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 
always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
            2 Cor 4:6-11

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
            2 Cor 4:15-18

but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 
beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 
by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 
through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 
as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
            2 Cor 6:4-10

Washing Feet and Loving to the End

Have you ever caught the significance of Christ’s exchange with Peter regarding washing Peter’s feet? In reading the thirteenth chapter of John, we find Peter refusing to be served by his master in this way. That’s the job of the lowest servant! How could someone let his better – the Messiah no less – undertake this task? It reads this way:

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (vs. 6-8)

Jesus's words often had a double meaning. So much of what Jesus did and said was not immediately understood by those who watched and listened. Imagine Jesus holding a wet cloth when saying those words: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” I can only imagine that Peter was somewhat startled to think that he might not be a part of the Messiah’s kingdom if Jesus didn’t bathe him. Peter’s response seems only natural:

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (vs. 9)

If I need to be scrubbed down by the master to be with him, then let’s get this done! Wash me! Peter did not yet understand the significance of what Jesus was telling him; of course we know that he was referring to his coming sacrificial death on the cross. Christ must wash us in his cleansing blood. It’s amazing to gain the cultural perspective of the type of embarrassment or awe that we – those of lower status, the created – should sense when our better – God, the creator – would humble himself to the point of a death for the lowest of the low in order to serve us.

Peter reoriented pretty quickly when he realized that the only way to belong to Jesus was to allow himself to be served by Jesus. Yet Jesus had another point to make:

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” (vs. 10a)

What a stunning statement! Christ has already alluded to the redemption that he is about to purchase with his blood on the cross, and now he essentially states that the work is already done. It’s a done deal. You don’t need your whole body cleaned because I’ve as good as cleaned you by the work that I am about to undertake. You are “completely clean.” What then of the foot washing? Consider Romans 5:10:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

We come to recognize that we stand clean and justified before the Father because of the blood of Jesus, but we are not abandoned or left alone to finish the race. I’ve heard the above verse explained this way: in God’s willingness to put his own Son to death to save us, he has already proven that he will go to the greatest extreme. That is to say, the hardest part has already been done. Therefore, we can trust with certainty “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6) If Christ’s sacrifice for us made us clean, then in his resurrection we find that the cleansing of our feet is our sanctification.

Let me draw your attention to the first verse in John chapter 13:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The profoundness of this verse causes me to stop every time I read it. On its face, his “loving them to the end” introduces a scene where Jesus is loving his disciples, serving them in a meaningful way one last time before his death. More than that, though, is the deeper meaning of the true service that Christ was preparing to perform. It takes my breath away to try and understand “loving to the end” in the sense of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

Remember, though, the washing of feet. Christ has made us, dirty and pitiful as we were, clean before almighty God. He “loved us to the end” to the point of death. The hardest part is over. God allowed the blood of his own Son to be shed. How much weightier now is the promise of completing his good work in us? The hardest part is over! Not only did he make us clean, but it is he who continues to clean us and make us perfect and holy before God.

Do you feel the weight of the love he has bestowed on us?

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when it appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)

Can you see how heavy and how real his love is? If so, what Jesus said after washing his disciples’ feet should profoundly affect you:

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (vs. 12-17)

Look at what Jesus said: “do you understand what I did to you?” This was no mere act of service; Jesus did something significant to them. The King humbled himself for the sake of his inferiors. He showed his disciples and us that as he was about to serve “to the end” and love “to the end” for those who are not his equal – how much more are we to serve and prefer and love others “to the end.”

It turns out that a part of our ongoing cleansing – our continued sanctification process – includes imitation of Christ to no small extent:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:1-2)

There are no shortages of applicable, real-life situations to which this can be applied or practiced. Yet, I have found myself thinking about the washing of the feet in relation to missions work. There are times when it’s difficult to work at a mission hospital. Sometimes I get called in to the hospital at night or on a weekend. I am being called to wash feet. Maybe it was supposed to be my day off. I am being called to wash feet. Perhaps I find out that I was called to take care of someone else’s work. Christ is washing my feet. I can’t remotely accomplish anything like what Christ has done in service to us, but I can imitate him in loving and serving “to the end,” to the end of myself.

What’s even more amazing in the above account is that Christ washed the feet of Judas along with the other disciples. Judas had no share in Christ, but Christ served him anyway. Who then can I pass over? This causes me to ponder, what act of service is God calling me to today? I have been finding that the more I adopt this attitude, a Christ-like attitude of service toward other people, the more often I have been blessed with unique opportunities to share the gospel with individuals.

Here’s some food for thought. In this context of Christ continuing to wash our feet, how much more significant are the “shoes for your feet,” which are “the readiness given by the gospel of peace?” (Eph 6:15) How much more beautiful are “the feet of those who preach the good news?” (Rom 10:15) The harvest is ripe. How is the Lord calling you to wash feet? How would he have you love unto the end?

Shipping the Container to Togo!

For those of you who prayed with us concerning this or for those who are simply interested, here is a brief account of getting the container on its way!

For months we had been packing our belongings, ordering supplies, and acquiring furniture in order to fill our 40-foot shipping container to be sent to Togo. Thanks to the generosity of many of you, it was filled and ready to go by December 6th. I spent more than one cold and dark evening rearranging furniture and crates to try and make everything fit (it didn't all quite fit in the end...we had to leave a few pieces of furniture behind). Yet, the doors were closed and the container was ready to be hauled by December 6th.

Because the container was located on a hill, in the forest, up a curved driveway, on a dead-end dirt road, our goal for months had been to beat the Michigan snow in the hope that we'd be able to load the container without too much complication. Unfortunately, the forwarding company was having a hard time finding a crane company who wanted to drive out to our small patch of nowhere and lift the thing. Eventually, a truck to pull the container and a crane were scheduled to come and remove the container on December 14...two days after we had our first real snow of the season (oh no!).

The crane operator showed up a little bit earlier than the scheduled time of 10 am, and despite the snow he didn't have too much trouble setting up on top of the hill near the container.

The trucker, on the other hand, had some difficulty finding the place. Driving in from Chicago, he called around 10 am, concerned because he was driving into what looked like a "forest." Yeah, he was in the right place but running a little late.

When he finally arrived around a quarter after, the crane operator explained how he would need the trailer BACKED up the circle drive, around a corner, up the hill, and right up next to the container. The truck driver did not feel that he could get up the driveway at all given overhanging branches and the thin layer of snow-turned-ice on the drive.

We acquired a chainsaw and the crane operator set to work on removing branches from a few trees while I drove to the nearest hardware store for salt. Upon returning with 160 pounds of salt, I learned that the truck driver did not believe he could turn his truck and trailer around to back up the driveway. At this point, the trucker was threatening to give up and leave. The crane operator convinced the trucker to back half a mile back down the dead-end road, turn around, and then back all the way back up to our driveway. We salted the driveway for the next half hour while the trucker did this.

Once the truck was backed up to the drive, trees trimmed, and drive salted, the driver started to make attempts to back up the curved, uphill, now muddy driveway. It was probably around his 6th or 7th try that I had Rebecca put out a call for prayer. The driver was consistently getting stuck about half way up at the point where he needed to turn. He probably tried 15 or 16 times unsuccessfully. It was at this point that the driver told us again that he might just have to leave. Once again, the crane operator saved the day by suggesting a different approach to our problem. He convinced the truck driver to unhitch the chassis at the tricky bend...

...and the crane operator would lift it up the hill and into position. Of course, the crane had not been set up to turn so far in this direction. After tying all the rigging to the trailer, the operator had to reattach everything to the container to move that out of his way to swing far enough over to get to the trailer. This happened a few times, actually, as there was little room to move the container and he kept edging it over, climbing out, undoing/redoing all the rigging, etc.

Now several hours past the expected timeframe, we finally had the chassis up by the container. It was much easier for the trucker to back up the drive without the trailer attached, and he was re-hitched after just a few tries.

Once everything was in place, it was "simply" a matter of reattaching everything to the container and slowly lifting it up.

The operator did ask that the driver and I turn and direct the container once it was in the air. The driver preferred to wait in his truck, so I managed that part myself. Turns out 25,000 pounds isn't too hard to manipulate once it’s in the air!

All said, it took several hours longer than we hoped, but by God's grace it was accomplished! We are so thankful that God sent the crane operator that he did. That gentleman was so experienced and capable, and I don't think we would have shipped the container until spring if it had not been for him. As it is, the container was carried down to Chicago to be loaded on a large cargo ship and should arrive in Togo sometime around January 26th!

Pray with us, if you would, that the rest of its journey would be smooth and that the process of delivery and unloading (in front of customs officials) would also work out well.

To help with these and other expenses, feel free to donate to our mission account:

God Has Not Given Us a Spirit of Fear

God has given us a spirit of power. “No guilt in life, no fear in death – this is the power of Christ in me.”

Our two-year-old likes to listen to music on YouTube. She’ll often come up to us and request a certain song “on the TV” because she enjoys watching the video associated with the music. One children’s song that she listens to puts these lyrics to a catchy tune: “Walking in the jungle, walking in the jungle; I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid.” Although the region in Togo where our hospital operates isn’t full-on jungle, it is a rainforest setting. Whenever this children’s song plays (and I will have it stuck in my head for days after), I remember a lot of our time in “the jungle.” We were sometimes confronted with things that might have given us cause to fear, but we knew and chose to believe that any anxiety we experienced was not something God had given to us.

As natural and understandable as our fears were, they came from something other than the Lord. We were confronted with the prospect of viral hemorrhagic fever in West Africa, not to mention malaria and Typhoid fever. The possibility of civil or governmental unrest were constant. Our financial situation as missionaries wasn’t necessarily stable. The capital city where we did our grocery shopping wasn’t considered the safest place in the world. We were concerned about venomous snakes both indoors and out. All of these things were realities whether we lived in fear or not, and if we allowed ourselves to imagine that any of that was truly in our hands we would become afraid. When we look at ourselves and our ability to control the situation, we see how weak we are - how small we are compared to the problem. Yet it’s by God’s own power that we are able to function and even thrive without fear. He is the one big enough to handle these big problems “according to His riches and glory.”

More than feeling secure in life, ultimately, God’s children should not even remotely fear death itself. Each of us is appointed a time to die. It seems that some good Christian people fall into the same pattern of fear to which the world around them naturally falls prey. The world, “sons of wrath,” have every reason to fear death, but the spirit of power which sons of God have been given provides a confidence in life that shows no fear of death. Why? Because “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

What do we have to look forward to in eternity? Sometimes my imagination is vivid. Let me paint a picture. I imagine opening my eyes and truly seeing for the first time – there is light everywhere. The burden and weight of fleshly pain and any care of the world is forgotten. The host of angels who rejoiced at my repentance are present, rejoicing still and worshiping the Lamb. There is a “cloud of witnesses” to greet me. Famous figures from the Bible and history who influenced my faith, those who directly impacted my faith, and those whose faith I may have impacted stand in radiant mass. Family and loved ones who have already entered eternity embrace me with overwhelming joy before turning and pointing further up and further in, pointing at the great source of light, the source of palpable lovingkindness. If you think there are no tears in God’s presence, I’ll remind you that “He will wipe away every tear,” and my eyes are full of joyful tears. To finally greet my King and brother and to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.” That is my greatest joy and aspiration. It is the power of this kind of hope that destroys fear.

God has given us a spirit of love. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”

Yes, to die is gain, but to live is Christ. When Paul wrote these words to the Philippians he was debating with himself whether or not to willingly surrender to what he wanted (eternity) or to hope to live a while longer in order to serve the church, to serve the Lord here on earth. He ultimately communicates his desire to live as long as he is able in order to promote Christ and build the church. This is something so unique to God’s children, that we can seek to lovingly serve friends, strangers, and enemies despite opposition, difficulty, and disaster, and we’re able to do this without fear because of the power of God and the spirit of love which He has given us.

Love is another remedy for fear. Imagine a father rushing into a burning building to save his small child. True love trumps fear. As children of God we grow and mature in our faith, the process of sanctification, to a point where we do actually love other people. We know from Ephesians 2:10 that God has prepared good works for us in order that we can carry out those works. This love that we have, a desire to serve others in humility, is made useful when it helps us to overcome fear so that we can act in obedience in our service to others. This Christian mercy in the face of fear is what brought about medicine and hospitals as we know them. The love which God has given us allows us to overcome fear in order to serve others and accomplish God-honoring work here on earth. This is the reason my family and I are able to serve in a part of the world which may be considered dangerous by some. It’s the reason Christians at home and abroad are able to go out and serve their brothers and sisters, their communities, or the vulnerable despite fear of plague or pestilence. Love overcomes fear.

God has given us a sound mind. “Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Soundness of mind in this particular passage is also translated as self-control. This is a two-edged sword when it comes to countering fear. Consider a current predicament – either personal or global. There is probably something in your life which might cause you to be afraid or anxious. Most likely this won’t be a problem forever, but there will be something else to occupy your mind soon enough. Those who do not practice self-control give in to fear with abandon; they are controlled by fear. God has given His children the ability to stop and think and practice wisdom. God has given us the option to turn our thoughts and prayers toward Him. Isaiah 26:3 states “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” We have found this to be true when tempted to fear. Whether practicing medicine in West Africa or walking with our twelve year old daughter while she battles cancer, we have had the opportunity to turn our attention toward the God of peace. You can as well.

The other side of the sound mind coin is that we temper our enthusiasm. Christians have been given a spirit of power and love and we are therefore capable of overcoming any fear, even fear of death. That does not mean that we have license to be careless. Overcoming a fear of heights does not mean we believe we can fly. In my medical opinion, not every viral outbreak is as concerning as news outlets or the masses make things seem. Yet, that does not mean that we don’t practice caution on some level. In Togo, our hospital had a plan in place for the event of managing Ebola or Lassa Fever. Missionaries everywhere have evacuation plans in case of civil unrest or medical emergencies. Regarding our daughter’s cancer, we choose not to fear but continue to steadily seek what treatments are available. God’s children are given the means to overcome fear, the motivation to act in the face of difficulty, and the wisdom to know when action is necessary. A sound mind helps us discern hysteria from danger but also allows us to understand when we can lovingly take action in the midst of difficult or dangerous situations.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim 1:7

One last reminder. In Philippians 4 Paul entreats the reader to not be anxious and then gives some more “antidotes” to anxiety: prayer and thanksgiving. He tells us to make our requests known to God, but then says nothing about having those specific needs met. Rather, he tells us that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Not that God does not answer prayer: we continue to pray for our daughter’s healing. Yet, healing isn’t a guarantee – peace is. I encourage you to look to Christ today no matter what you might be facing.

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Christian parents, you are tasked with mission work

My wife was raised on the mission field as a missionary kid, an “MK” as they are known. She felt the Lord calling her to a life of service in missions when she was ten years old. Likewise, I was only seven when I felt the Lord calling me to medical missions one day. Both my wife and I loved learning about missionaries when we were children. Most of our heroes were, in fact, missionaries. Names like Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Nate Saint, Adoniram Judson, and Gladys Aylward were names well known to us from childhood. Certainly, these were important kingdom workers. Having been called to mission work ourselves, we had likely idealized the work and lives of these brothers and sisters. Perhaps you have as well.

While working toward our goals and eventually on the foreign field, we quickly came to realize that “the mission” isn’t just given to a select few among the body of Christ. Sure, each member has different abilities and functions, but every one of God’s children has been given a gift worthy of sharing. Not only should we as Christians share the gospel simply because it is worthy, but we also should do so because Christ commanded us to “make disciples” (Mat 28:19). Some are called to take that work to “all nations.” While some are indeed called to send those whom we have labeled as missionaries, no believer in Jesus Christ is called to withhold the good news. None are exempt from the imperative to make disciples.

Another thing we learned in long-term mission work was that living and working overseas, as exotic as it may sound, is in many ways just living and working. Things which seemed so strange, cultural differences for example, grew familiar. While walking to the mission hospital some mornings, I would marvel at the mundanity of life even in the midst of foreign ministry. Getting up in the morning still was a chore. We still brushed our teeth and had bills to pay. We walked the same earth under the same sun. I found that I still had to be intentional about ministry in the midst of life and work: sharing Jesus with the world didn’t become automatically easier just because we were in a foreign land. One part of life which also continued as normal was the raising of our children.

We moved overseas with four children, had a fifth on the mission field, and have since been joined by number six. Even before moving overseas, we had recognized one of the greatest ministries that God had given us: our children. Raising a family can seem like one of the everyday things that just happens while we accomplish other great things in life. Certainly, a family can be raised passively. Most parents are probably, at least sometimes, guilty of simply getting by rather than focusing on the actual task of raising children.

My wife and I have become more convinced than ever that, during these few precious years that we have with them, one of our primary ministries is to our children. This does not diminish the other work that we have, any more than it does for anybody else. Remember, each believer in Jesus has the responsibility to make disciples. What a joy and a privilege for my wife and myself to have been given six children to whom we can teach Jesus Christ. Eighteen years of discipleship is no small thing! As parents, we have such an opportunity, such a ripe mission field. This is true no matter where the Lord has placed us. While we are called to be ambassadors to the world, what better place to start than with the family God has provided. I encourage anyone who still has children at home to make every effort to make their own children their primary mission field.

Scripture supports the teaching of God’s word to our children. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 highlights the importance of “laying” or “fixing” God’s word in our own hearts and then teaching it to our children. Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 22:6: “train up a child in the way he should go.” Paul also charges fathers in Ephesians 6:4 with discipline and instructing children in the Lord. These passages are not describing a passive process of cohabitation and provision of food. This, like any other ministry, is a true spiritual battle, and our children are no small heavenly conflict. If you want to know what spiritual battle feels like, it’s choosing to do things that take energy when you are tired. It’s pushing yourself to repeat chores which are mundane. You fight by forcing yourself to talk about things which are difficult to people who do not want to listen.

More than that, any person in ministry must tend to their own spiritual nourishment and growth. Paul implores Timothy to present himself before God as approved and as a worker who needn’t be ashamed but rightly handles the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). This is also a spiritual battle to be undertaken with seriousness. Fathers, I entreat you to look to your spiritual growth, toiling and struggling with all of Christ’s own energy (Col 1:29). Each of you love your own wife as you love yourself by leading in discipleship (Eph 5:28-29). Mothers and fathers, fix God’s word in your hearts and teach it to your children (Deut 11:18-19). Make this spiritual battle a priority. Take the time to have regular family devotions and discipline your children in the Lord. If you are God’s children, you are ambassadors to the unsaved; and if you are parents, you are missionaries to your own children.