I will never forget the day when my son Hudson, at age three, learned what an orphan was. A close family friend had just returned from a trip to Haiti where she had visited an orphanage and taken heartbreaking photos of children in desperate need of loving homes. As a wide-eyed three-year-old, Hudson stared at the pictures of the forlorn and sickly kids. He asked, "Who dose kids? Why dey sad?"
I explained that the children in the photos were orphans. Hudson asked, "What's an orphan?" I gave him the best definition I could think of: "An orphan is a child who doesn't have a mommy or daddy to take care of him." Stunned, Hudson said nothing. It had never occurred to him that somewhere in the world there were children without parents to take care of them. When I told him that there were lots and lots of orphans, he was even more perplexed and disturbed.
A Childlike Faith
A few days later, after giving the matter some serious thought, Hudson came to me with a proposal. "Hey, Mommy, know what? If we bring dose kids in our family, dey won't be orphans anymore."
Without realizing it, my three-year-old had just articulated God's solution for the orphan crisis around the world (Ps. 68:5–6). Hudson was convinced that he had a perfectly good mommy and daddy, so why not share them with kids who didn't have any parents to care for them?
Even a three-year-old child can discover the joy of loving others sacrificially for the glory of God.
He went on to propose that we go to Haiti and adopt twenty orphans. I smiled at his childish enthusiasm and then informed him that I didn't think we'd have enough room in our house for twenty children. "Where would they all sleep?" I asked him.
Hudson didn't have a ready reply, but a few days later, he came bounding down the stairs and told Eric and me he needed to show us something. We walked to the upper level of our house and discovered that Hudson had created orphan beds all around our house. Each orphan bed consisted of a blanket, a pillow, and one of his favorite stuffed animals. There were two orphan beds in Mommy and Daddy's room, one or two in the hallway, a couple in Harper's room, and about five in Hudson's bedroom. (He'd taken the greatest burden of caring for these orphans upon himself!)
"See?" he exclaimed. "We do have room!"
Eric and I stood blinking back tears at his childlike solution to the orphan crisis. To Hudson, helping orphans wasn't a complicated issue. It simply meant selflessly sharing what we have with those in need.
For several years, God had burdened our hearts with the needs around the world—especially the needs of vulnerable children. And now we were realizing that even a three-year-old child could carry that same burden and discover the joy of loving others sacrificially for the glory of God.
Giving Kids a Bigger Vision
It's easy to see the child-raising years as a season built around soccer practice, play dates, homework help, and piano lessons. While these developmental activities are important, we are also called to train our kids to be ambassadors of the gospel of Christ. That means teaching them to turn outward, to get outside their comfort zones, and to live a lifestyle of serving others. After the experience with Hudson and the orphan beds, we learned that it is never too early to start this process.
Since the time Hudson first became burdened for orphans, it has been our desire to cultivate an outward focused attitude in our children and train them to serve others sacrificially. Instead of asking the common question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" we have started asking different questions: "What does God want you to be when you grow up? How does He want to build you into a rescuer for His kingdom?"
Moms have an amazing opportunity to demonstrate a lifestyle of sacrificial love by children about the needs around the world and helping them become part of the true solution, Jesus Christ.
It's been amazing to see how this mentality has shaped our kids' desires for their futures. Sure, they still have moments when they dream of starting a theme park like Disneyland or training dolphins to do cool tricks. But more often, they talk about their dreams of changing the world for Christ and rescuing the weak.
When Eric and I visited Haiti, we brought Hudson along. He was seven years old. Seeing the needs and destitution of an impoverished nation firsthand made an incredible impact upon him and gave him a vision for doing something bigger with his life than just playing with Legos. He sponsors a little boy in Haiti and prays for his sponsored child daily. He writes him letters and sends him special gifts.
If you are a mom with kids at home, remember that you have an amazing opportunity to demonstrate a lifestyle of sacrificial love by teaching them about the needs around the world and helping them become part of the true solution, Jesus Christ.
Turning Outward as a Family
Even if your children are young, you can still find ways to help them be Christ's hands and feet to the weak. For example, as a family we've begun to study the needs of the persecuted church around the world (Voice of the Martyrs at persecution.org is a great resource), and our kids send letters of encouragement to pastors who've been imprisoned for their faith.
All four of our children have a heart for adoption. When some friends of ours brought their older adopted boy home from overseas, our kids made welcome signs for him and left special gifts in his bedroom that they bought with their own money.
I always notice that when we give our kids the opportunity to serve others, they experience an incredible, lasting joy that can't be manufactured any other way. Visiting your local nursing home, making a meal for a sick friend, and offering yard help to elderly neighbors are simple things that can help your kids develop a delight for loving sacrificially.
I encourage you to ask God to show you ways that you can help your kids discover the joy of serving. It might take a few times before your family fully catches the vision, but as they practice becoming Christ's hands and feet to the lost and dying world, they will find a greater exhilaration and joy than new toys or a trip to Disneyland could ever offer!