Thursday, October 16, 2014

Answering The Tough Questions

"Mommy, what's a safehouse?"

My 9 year old daughter had just overheard a phone conversation regarding a safehouse where we minister to underage victims of sex-trafficking. I froze. How was I supposed to explain this one?

"Why did Herber die?"

Rewind to a few months ago when one of the young men in our street ministry died from years of alcohol abuse on the streets. We've known him since he was a teenager and the kids had seen him for years. There was just no way to talk this one away.

A week before the safehouse conversation I was driving my daughter to her violin lesson when I suddenly saw a dead body laying up ahead of us on the street. A man had been struck by a bus and his body was sprawled across the busy street as traffic crawled slowly by. I quickly told my daughter to duck her head and look away. She obeyed and thankfully was spared the scary sight of seeing the dead man. Later that day she asked me, "Mommy, what happened? I thought a gang member was nearby with a gun. Was he going to shoot us?" I told her carefully that someone had been hit by a bus, and that we were not in any danger.

All of these conversations brought a familiar guilt rising to the surface. Her tough questions made me ask a tough one of myself.

"Am I traumatizing my children?"

I find myself questioning this from time to time. Are we denying our children a trauma-free childhood? By taking them out of suburbia and raising them in Central America am I scarring them for life? Do they live in fear? Am I instilling that in them?

I struggle with this even five years into our adventure. A year and a half ago my purse was stolen right from the back of my chair while my kids and I were chatting with friends in a local coffee shop. My children were shaken by the experience wondering if it would be just as easy for them to be stolen from me. That night they huddled next to me in bed crying and shaking...convinced someone was coming for them.

Choosing life outside of our home countries can be a risky venture. I have meet expats who live in fear of being robbed, raped, or murdered. In foreign countries how can we help our children to understand the risks, but not be ruled by them?

Remember that life is not risk free. It's easy to fantasize about a life back "home" free from risks and pain. Life just is not like that and there is no guarantee that we won't be robbed or hurt in some way on home soil.

Find security in our obedience. When we are where God is calling us to be we can trust His provision, and His protection whatever may come. It is important for us to communicate this truth to our children consistently and confidently. If we show an example of fearfulness, they too will be fearful.

Focus on the positives. It's easy to get caught up in the "doom and gloom" of statistics and news stories. In fact, we can focus on this negative press so much that we forget about all of the wonderful joys to be found in learning a new language, discovering a new culture, and embracing all of the beautiful things in our host countries.

Use the tough things to remind our children of God's purpose for our family. It will never be easy to explain to my daughter that some girls need to live in special homes to keep them safe, or that violence exists, or that sometimes people die on the streets. As she grows up, I will share more and more about these things but for now it is enough to simply tell her that pain exists. Sin and suffering have tainted our world, but God is still at work. The amazing thing is that we get to be a part of it, and God has called our family to those who are hurting and that is a special thing.

Pray together. This is the most important and simple way to deal with these tough questions. As moms, we pray for wisdom to explain these things to our kids. When our children feel fear and uncertainty, we can go to our knees together to ask God to protect our family and to protect those we serve. We start and end each day in prayer, and my children have come to ask for it when they are feeling anxious.

It is not always easy to help our children fight down fear and worry, and honestly those are hard things for us to fight ourselves. Those conversations are tough, but our God is big enough for them and it's amazing to see how readily children embrace the part that they can play in serving the world around them. Watching their hearts open in love to the children that are suffering, and to the people without families is a beautiful thing to witness.

I have a few things to learn from my son and daughter as they trust their parents to care for them as they are serving, and to have simple faith that God is looking out for them. Just maybe I can learn to trust Him too, even as I ask Him the tough questions. I can trust that He is keeping us safe and using even the trauma and hard times to make us into who He wants us to be.


  1. Learning to rest in the sovereignty of God while trusting that what He does is always good, always kind... that's one of those lessons I think I'm going to spend all of my life learning.

  2. Great and thought provoking post. I really like your suggestions of how to help kids with these challenges!