Every Sunday morning, my husband and I strap the kids in the car, drive to the front of our neighborhood, and take a little path through the woods to the charter school where our church meets. Every week, my kids spend time in the kids' room at my CrossFit gym three minutes from my house. We can be to my mom's, my brother's, my aunt's, or my in-law's house in less than 20 minutes, and we don't have to drive more than 10 minutes to the library or a brand spankin' new outlet mall.
Our entire world is a small little bubble that we rarely leave. This can be a little dangerous for my kids. It's hard for them to fathom life outside of what they know. They assume every child lives like them: has been to Disney World multiple times, paws through shelves upon shelves of books, and can fill a glass of water from the fridge whenever they want. They barely understand race differences and unemployment in America, much less starving children and human trafficking around the world.
But you know what? I want them to know about it.
I want them to feel compassion and empathy for those who need support.
I want their first response to be, "I can do something about that!"
I want my children to recognize their own rich American life is not the norm, nor should it be.
We sponsor children in Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic to help them connect with kids different from them, but last Thanksgiving, I wanted to do more. I felt like my kids could and should do some hard things.
So I started a not-very-creatively-named idea called "monthly missions."
Changing the world, one month at a time
Each month I introduce my kids to an organization doing big things around the world. We read up on them, watch (appropriate) YouTube videos about their work, then brainstorm ways to support them.
My kids are only seven and almost five, so it's not like they can host a carwash and explain the intricacies of sex trafficking to a potential donor. We've had to get creative, and with each passing month, my kids surprise me with their enthusiasm and compassion for each organization. Over the past 12 months, we have:
- Sold lemonade to raise money to buy fruit trees for World Vision farmers
- Collected nickels to buy mosquito nets for Ugandan orphanages with Sweet Sleep
- Collected paper to help Paper for Water build wells in India
- Had a rock-a-thon to raise money to help Unbound rescue girls involved in sex trafficking
- Prayed for unreached people groups around the world (and have seen them come to know Jesus!)
It's not like we've raised thousands of dollars for each organization. In fact, sometimes the time and energy we put into an activity probably wasn't worth the money we raised. I could have easily sent a check for more money in less time.
But what would my kids have learned? What heart-connections would they make if I had cut them out of our giving and serving? My husband and I could give 30 percent of our income away and our kids would never know. It would never inspire them to do the same as kids, teens, or adults.
In choosing organizations for our monthly missions projects, I wanted to invest in causes my kids could understand: People in Africa can't sleep because of mosquitoes? Families in Honduras don't have water? Girls in Thailand can't play when they want because they are slaves?
This month, we'll be packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. My kids are heart-broken that other children don't get Christmas presents. Let me rephrase that: They are in shock that kids don't get Christmas presents!
One of their favorite things to do is check out Target's dollar spot or the dollar store to find gifts. They have fun filling as many OCC boxes as they can. I love it when the kids say, "I want one of those! I wish I had that!," because they are understanding a little bit of what sacrificial giving means.
My kids are probably not much different from yours. We have too many toys, more bathrooms in our house than people, and spend extra money for organic food. I'm doing these Monthly Missions to lead my kids to pursue a generous lifestyle with passion and a "hey-this-is-totally-normal-and-expected" attitude of serving and giving.
How have you and your children served or given to those in need? Consider taking part in the National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child November 18-25. For more information on how to pack a shoebox, visit their website.
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Amanda White is a stay-at-home mom of two who blogs at ohAmanda.com and is the author of Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands. In her former life, Amanda was a Children's Pastor, overseeing, organizing and developing ministry for kids in nursery through middle school, perfect training for the life she now leads with her own kids!