Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Releasing Arrows into the World

Leslie Basham: Ann Dunagan challenges us to approach parenting with a sacrificial, mission mindset.

Ann Dunagan: If we are going to be raising up the next generation to have an impact in this world in different spheres of society, it may mean that God is going to call one of our children into an area that might make us uncomfortable.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, August 7.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We're talking this week with Ann Dunagan about something I think is so important, and that is how to develop mission-minded families. Of course, the starting place is being mission-minded ourselves, being kingdom-minded, being Christ-centered, being gospel-centered women, but then influencing the next generation to think that way as well. Ann, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Ann: Thank you.

Nancy: Thank you for writing this book, The Mission-Minded Family: Releasing Your Family to God’s Destiny. This book has a lot of very practical tips, hints, and resources, missionary stories, examples, illustrations, hymns, Scriptures, lots of things that you can use. It’s a great reference book for moms who want their children to be more mission-minded and kingdom-minded.

There are some great missionary stories in there, and I hope our listeners will take advantage of this book. It’s available through our resource center. Go to, or call us and we’ll tell you how you can get that book for a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

Ann, we’ve talked about the importance of being eternity-minded if you want to have a mission-minded family. But one of the other emphases that I appreciate in your ministry is that being mission-minded and kingdom-minded is really about submitting our lives to God in every area—the big things and the little things. It’s not always this big, grandiose way that we can serve the Lord, but sometimes it’s just in the immediate tasks that God gives us as a wife, as a mom, as a woman. Being faithful in that can sometimes be the most mission-minded thing we can do.

Ann: Absolutely. There was a time when we were kind of new in ministry. We were young, newlyweds. I had a little toddler, and I was pregnant. We were smuggling Bibles into China, and it was exciting. I mean, I was on a mission adventure.

Even though we were disobeying a law of the land, which, it was illegal to be able to bring the Word of God into China, we knew that it was what God had called us to do, to bring the Word of God to people in Communist China who desperately needed God’s Word.

Anyway, about a week later we were going to do it again through another entry point, through Macau. On this particular morning we woke up, and my husband felt like, “I just feel today like—I don’t know why, but I just feel like you’re not supposed to go.”

And I was like, “What do you mean I’m not supposed to go? I’ve traveled all the way here across the world. I’m supposed to go!”

And he’s like, “I just think you’re just supposed to stay here.”

And I was like, “Well, the Bible says we’re supposed to go into all the world and preach the gospel. I’m not going to come all the way across the world and just stay in this little room!”

I thought that I was justified in defying my husband because I had the higher Word of God. I mean, I had the Bible that says, “Go into all the world.” I thought, Yes, I’m pregnant, but I’m not too tired. I’m not too tired. I can do it!

Well, we packed up our bags, and my husband’s like, “Oh well.” We went with two other pastors. We went up to the entry point, and the two pastors and their Bibles, they went through. Then my husband and our son, they went through the security checkpoint with no problem whatsoever.

Then I just—I was all confident. I stuck my bag up there on the conveyor belt, and somebody opened up my bag, started talking in Chinese, and started yelling, started calling guards over. They went and got my husband and our little son, and they took us into this stark room—it was just brick walls, and it was dark. They brought in an interpreter, and they just started yelling at us.

And I knew that I had disobeyed God, that I had disobeyed my husband, and I had wanted my big way, to do some big thing for God instead of staying at the room where we were staying and praying, just staying there and holding back and not going so that they could go and get through.

I’ll never forget the moment when we got into China without our Bibles because they had all been confiscated. It was like, "Okay, now what do we do?" We were supposed to meet some people. We were supposed to go to this secret meeting place and deliver our Bibles, and now we had to distance ourselves from those other pastors and try to look like just normal tourists.

So we walked for a couple blocks, my husband and I, without talking to each other. He didn’t have to say, “I told you so.” The Lord was dealing hard on my heart. The Lord just began to show me that I needed to submit to him, that I needed to submit to God, Himself, and that I needed to have a heart of submission. God was concerned about not just the outward things we do; He is concerned with the inward motivations of our heart.

We’re trying to do something for God, but our motives are wrong or our family’s out of whack. I want for us to live our lives in a way where it’s for eternal crowns, and that is just loving God and being in obedience to Him in whatever He says either to do or not to do.

Nancy: Sometimes that obedience is in matters that seem to be insignificant and trivial, just the care of children, the keeping of a home, can be the most godly, mission-minded thing we can do if that’s the thing we’re supposed to be doing at that moment.

Ann: Absolutely, I mean, God works even through a pile of laundry that just is like Mount "Neverest." We have seven kids, so laundry is a big part of my life! But it helps teach things of character and diligence, and it’s important. It is an important part of God’s call on our life that I keep up with the laundry pile. It’s part of God’s mission for my life.

There was this other time that I was over in Uganda. I was doing a women’s conference over there, and I got up early in the morning. It was actually a pretty large conference with about 5,000 women, and we had these tents set up.

I went over to this one place, and there were mamas up early in the morning. They were just praying, praying, praying, praying, praying really hard, and I thought, Wow, this is awesome! These women just love God.

Then as I looked over in this one section, there were these mamas that were just praying their hearts out, and right on the ground were their babies. These babies were just sitting on the ground in little puddles because they don’t wear diapers over there. So they were just sitting on the ground in these little muddy, wet puddles, crying, and the mamas were just oblivious to their babies.

I remember I just walked over by those mamas, and I picked up the babies and gave them a little hug and handed them to the mamas. The Lord began just stirring in my heart. It’s like, "What do you think God thinks about the prayers that are being prayed when He sees the screaming babies in the puddles?" It’s like, "Is God really hearing those prayers, or is He saying, 'Come on, mama, pick up your baby! Your baby’s crying!'”?

As I took a little walk, I thought, Okay, I’m going to talk to the mamas about this, about the importance of taking time to love and to care for your children, but then the Lord dug at me. The Lord began to just deal with times in my life when maybe I’m busy in the middle of a writing project or just one more chapter I’m typing on the computer and trying to finish up something.

Nancy: One more email

Ann: One more email—and then maybe just let the kids watch another video. And the Lord just dug at my heart and said, “There are times that you’re just like those praying mamas with the screaming babies.”

I said, “Oh Lord, oh Lord, forgive me. Forgive me. Help me to keep things in balance and see things from Your perspective.”

Nancy: And to realize that the most godly, mission-minded, holy thing you can do is whatever God has given you to do at that moment and that that is what is sowing seeds that will reap the kind of fruit you want to reap in the next generation.

I know your burden, Ann, and Jon’s has been to not just nurture your children, but to see them sent out as God’s arrows into the world. In fact, you’ve talked about a verse that I love from Psalm 127 that says, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth” (v. 4). How has that word picture, that image in Scripture, affected the way that you parent and that you think about your children as they’re now entering into young adulthood?

Ann: We actually have at home a set of African arrows. I got a quiver, a little African quiver, and I found seven arrows that I have in my little African quiver. I realize that each of our children are arrows, so it is allowing God to direct each of our children, as a family that we would be strategically aimed, as a husband and wife that we would be strategically aimed, and then for each of our children to be aimed for God’s purpose and plan for their life.

Each of our kids are different. They’re unique, and there’s so many needs in the world. God did not make the arrows and the quiver to just be a decoration on the wall . . .

Nancy: . . . or the arrows to stay in the quiver.

Ann: Or the arrows just to stay in the quiver! It’s not enough just to keep your teens—just holding on to them really tight. We want to begin to release them during their teenage years, to give them opportunity to make choices, to give them opportunity to try out different things so that they can find out what is it that God has called them to do?

Nancy: I think that word release is probably really scary for a lot of moms because it means you’re not in control anymore of where those children go, what they do, how their lives are used. It may mean that they aren’t close to you geographically. It may mean that they aren’t necessarily making what you would consider a secure living if God calls them into some sort of ministry that doesn’t have a secure income. Talk about the fears that mothers might face when they think about releasing their children and how they can process that.

Ann: Sometimes we come from this attitude that the goal is that we keep our children from evil. We train our children to be good, so that they can stay pure, and they can have happy homes, and they can maybe buy the property next door. Let’s all live as a big, happy family and just stay away from bad and don’t have any bad come near us. Let’s just have this little kingdom.

What I see as we have traveled to different places around the world is that there is a lost and hurting world out there that desperately needs Jesus Christ. There is darkness, desperately dark darkness—abortion and people who are just trapped in immoral lifestyles. There are hurting young people, and there are people who are starving to death. 

We need to raise our children to be sensitive to God’s voice and not just hang on to them. It’s like Hannah. I mean, Hannah desperately, desperately wanted a child. But she finally got to a place where she’s like, “Okay, Lord, if you give me a child, I will give him back to You.” Hannah released her little Samuel into the hand of Almighty God.

Sometimes if we are going to be raising up the next generation to have an impact in this world in very different spheres of society, it may mean that God is going to call one of our children into an area that might make us uncomfortable. If God would call one of my children to a different country, even my son going into the military, I mean, that was a big one to be able to release my son to that, but there’s grace. There’s grace for a mother for whatever He calls for her children to do.

Nancy: I think there’s a lot of this issue today where you have many in this younger generation who are wanting to be bold warriors for Christ, who are wanting their lives to make a difference, and who are making some radical—are willing to make some radical sacrifices of their lives for the kingdom of Christ. But I sense in the parents’ generation some holding back, some fear, some afraid of the risk that would be involved. “That’s a dangerous part of the world. What would make you think of going there?” How do you process this, and how can we encourage moms to be willing to release their children even where there may be risk or danger involved?

Ann: There’s a quote by Oswald J. Smith that says, “I have seen the vision and for self I cannot live. Life is less than worthless till my all I give.” We need to give our children to God. I mean, for me, even as a wife, my husband goes into very dangerous war-torn areas on a regular basis. I mean, I have really just had to pour out my heart to God and give to Him all my dreams.

It’s like, “Okay, God, I’ve got this dream for our twenty-fifth anniversary and something really special that I want to do.” I’ve just poured out my heart and said, “Okay, God, you know this dream. I desperately want for my husband to be there when our girls get married." I want for him to walk them down the aisle. But I just have to surrender it to God and just say, “God, You know what is in my heart, but I give it to You, and I surrender my husband into Your purposes, and I will not fear.”

Elisabeth Elliot, when her husband, Jim Elliot, was killed, she said, “This is not a tragedy. God has a plan and a purpose in all things.” I have always admired Elisabeth Elliot. I have admired her faith and how she released her husband. If you read Passion and Purity, they had a deep, passionate love for each other. They were only married about five years! But think of how their love story has touched multitudes. It’s amazing. 

I just want whatever God has for each of our kids, whether it’s big, whether it’s small, what He has for us, that we would just obey God and love Him.

Nancy: So what do you pray for your children?

Ann: “Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” I have to give to Him my ideas. Sometimes I try to make things happen. I really enjoy godly romance, thoughts of courtship ideas or different things with my big kids that are off at college. I just have to give it to God, and the Lord just really shows me, “Ann, My ways are higher than your ways. My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” Just pray and God will lead each of the kids.

Nancy: What do you say to your children that instills vision in them?

Ann: I really encourage the kids to think long-term. If we’re dealing with a decision like what should we be doing this weekend, a particular choice, maybe particular thoughts about schooling or friendships . . . I’m a very visionary sort of person. I’m a big picture sort of person, so I always bring it to, what’s this going to look like ten years down the road?

This is a little bit off subject, but in being mission-minded, one of the most important things with raising our children and our teenagers for Jesus Christ is to guard the gates of our home. God wants for us to raise the bar. God wants for us to guard the gates, guard the eye gates, guard the ear gates, guard what comes out of our kids’ mouth, guard what comes out of our mouths towards our children.

God wants us to raise our children in a way where they realize, "God has a call on my life. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. I don’t know if that means I’m going to be a preacher, but God has a call on my life. So I need to raise the bar, and I especially need to guard close friendships." I mean, we’re friends with lots of people. We reach out and share the Gospel with people who don’t know Jesus. But we do have as the close, inward circle of friends, both for our children and for us as families, of who are our closest friends, because who our friends are shows exactly where our heart is right now. So we really guard that in our home.

Nancy: As I’m listening to you, Ann, I’m thinking about so many things that God moved my parents to do without, I think, even realizing what they were doing as I was a child. I think of the conversations with my dad where he would convey to us that he didn’t care if we were rich or famous. He was a business man. He really didn’t want any of us to get into the business. He wanted us to serve Christ in whatever way that meant, whatever that looked like, whatever that required, any place in the world that would mean living.

He somehow conveyed to us this sense that our lives were not our own, that we belonged to Christ, that we were on loan to our parents but that our lives belonged to Christ, and we were to spend our lives doing whatever would bring God the greatest glory. To cultivate that heart, they had missionaries and pastors and godly people into our home, keeping the television out of the home. I know that’s a lot harder task today with the myriad of entertainment forms available. But they got us reading good books, having conversations that were centered around the Lord and His Word.

I will say, as you’ve said about your family, ours was a very normal family in many respects—a lot of outspoken, opinionated kids, a lot of debate and not quiet family meals, by any stretch. But there was this underlying sense of focus and orientation around the kingdom of God. I’m thinking about the map of the world that hung on the wall of our family dining room and pictures of missionaries around the border of that map with yarn strings tied to tacks at different countries where those missionaries were serving.

I’m thinking about Sunday lunches where my dad would bring to the table letters from the missionaries and would read those to us about what these Wycliffe missionaries and others were doing in different parts of the world. Day by day, little by little, he was planting in our hearts a love for the kingdom of God.

Then I think about all these young people growing up today who love music and entertainment and games and sports and jobs and money and themselves more than they love and have a passion for Christ and His kingdom. I think we have to ask, "What are we doing to stimulate, to cultivate that passion for Christ and His kingdom?"

When my dad died on the weekend of my twenty-first birthday, he left behind a forty-year-old widow with seven children ages eight to twenty-one. He had done all that he could do. Now I fast-forward thirty years, more than thirty years, and say, “Thank You, Lord, for the seeds of kingdom devotion that, not just my dad but my mom with my dad, planted together, the sacrifices they made, the resources they were willing to invest."

I think of my dad taking us, different ones of us, on mission trips when we were little. I can remember flying into Mexico City at night and seeing all the lights of that huge city. I’m like a seven, eight, nine-year-old little girl, and my heart is inflamed with a passion for the millions in that city who have no knowledge of Christ or the gospel.

I then remember being with my dad in a little village outside of Mexico City, or in some remote part of Mexico, where he is giving his testimony with an interpreter. We've got nursing moms and animals in the aisles and just a very rough, open, little church area. I can see my dad proclaiming the gospel and then see him walking down the aisles after the service button-holing different people and saying the only phrase he knew in Spanish, “?Esta el Jesu Cristo en su corazon?” “Is Jesus Christ in your heart?”

To experience family vacations that were ministry vacations, sitting on little wooden benches in a small, black church in Haiti, being involved in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, ministering to the needs of people . . .  I just want to say to moms, and dads who may be listening, the choices that you’re making now, the values you’re living out with your children, these are seeds that you are planting that are going to take root. They are going to produce fruit for better or worse for generations to come. 

My prayer for you as a mom, as a dad who may be listening, is that the seeds that are planted are ones of righteousness, ones of faith, ones of purity, and ones of kingdom-mindedness, mission-mindedness; that God will raise up a next generation who will have a passion and a heart for the kingdom of God.

Leslie: When the parents of Nancy Leigh DeMoss were taking her to Haiti and Mexico City, they didn’t know exactly how those seeds would take root. They didn’t know there’d be a ministry called Revive Our Hearts, proclaiming God’s Word in English and Spanish on the radio and around the world over the Internet. But Mr. and Mrs. DeMoss were faithful in teaching their children to be mission-minded.

You have no idea what the future holds for your children. Imagine that someday they could be saying, “My parents gave me a heart for building God’s kingdom in this world.” The book you’ve been hearing about from our guest, Ann Dunagan, is a rich resource to help you in the process.

The book, The Mission-Minded Family, will show you how your home could become a hub for kingdom-minded activity. You don’t have to be a missionary or an expert in global affairs. Just be faithful and take a step toward engaging with your kids on this issue.

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount, we’ll send you the book, The Mission-Minded Family. Just ask for it when you donate by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or donate at

When you visit our site, you can interact with Ann Dunagan today. She’s participating in our listener blog. Find today’s transcript at and scroll to the ends. You can read comments from Ann and our listeners and join the conversation.

So say you want your children to be mission-minded. But then your daughter comes up with a crazy, risky, mission-minded big idea. Do you give your blessing when you think her life might be at risk? We’ll hear from a mom in that situation. Please be back with us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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