Ken and I have been very cautious about talking to our kids about going back to Africa. It’s not a far off strange place to them. Africa is a place where our kids most closely identify with and remember vividly, and those memories are not all positive ones. Actually, most of them are not.
We also wanted to account for the different personalities of our kids. Addie is emotional and spontaneous. She loves easily, laughs easily, and forgives easily. She also has the gift of intercession. While she may struggle with communicating complex thoughts otherwise, she does not when she prays. Addie is a mighty prayer warrior wrapped up in 80 pounds of chocolate brown skin.
Palmer is our logical child. He analyzes, reasons, and thinks through things. He asks tough questions and doesn’t settle for easy answers or half-truths. He wants the whole story, he wants to follow the rules, and has a heart for what is fair. His question to me, “Mommy, why are there so many doctors in America and not in Africa?” shows his level of a sense of justice in the world — and not for himself, but for others.
It was at an evening dinner in August when we finally broached the subject. I began, “Daddy and I have listened to your stories about Africa, and they are very important to us. We know that had there been a doctor there, or someone to tell you about Jesus, your lives might have been very different. We are thinking about moving to Africa to help people there when they are sick or need Jesus. What do you think?”
Both kids faces fell in disappointment. The pain of their memories was written in furrowed brows and downcast glances.
Ken continued, “But we are not going to go there unless we go there as a family. We will not make you go. We all have to decide this is right for us. And we promise that while you are there, you will never go hungry. You will always have a home to live in. You will have toys, and books, and even video games. This is not the Africa you remember. This is Africa with our family.”
“I’d like for the two of you to think about it and pray about it. God speaks to you, just like He speaks to Daddy and I, and we want to know what He is telling you. That will help us know if we should go or not.”
“Should I pray right now?” Addie asked enthusiastically.
“You can pray anytime,” I giggled in return, “but I would like you to spend some time in your room after supper praying and asking God if moving to Africa is what we should do.”
To be honest, I was a little surprised by the kids’ reactions. I was expecting that they would be excited to go back to their homeland. But their faces said otherwise. Dinner ended much more quietly than it had begun.
A few hours later, I was working on a lecture in the living room when Addie came skipping by. “He said ‘yes’” she verbally tossed my way.
“Daddy said yes about what?” I inquired, not being clued in to the real subject at hand.
“I just got done praying in my room, and God said He wants us to move to Africa. And He wanted me to tell you.”
What Ken and I had wrestled with for months was settled in the mind of our 8 year old daughter in a matter of hours. What we had made complicated, Addie had made simple.
Luke 18: 16-17, NLT
“Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’”
We had Addie’s answer. We would have to wait much longer for Palmer.