A friend recently asked Pamala to describe what a missionary child does on the mission field. She did such a great job replying that I wanted to share it here:
What does a “kid-missionary” (not only a missionary kid) do?
Takes naps at odd times during the first few days after arriving on the mission field. For us there is a 7 hour difference. When it is noon for you and you are eating lunch, it is evening for us, and we may have already have eaten our supper that same day. When we fly here, our bodies need several days to adjust to the different time zone.
Learns some of the language. Depending on the situation, the boy or girl may learn the new words of that language at home with Mom, or at home with a teacher who comes several times a week, or may go to school, hardly understanding anything at first and having to rely on hand motions, or if he or she went to school or preschool there previously, the language would already be familiar. To learn a language we have to do it one word at a time. In our family, each morning at breakfast time I teach or review some words with the children. Today we reviewed names of furniture and phrases about the weather. Yesterday we reviewed colors, counting by ten up to 100, and the days of the week. This summer I will try to have some children from our church who know both Hungarian and some English over to play. I hope they will speak in Hungarian so my children can hear them. It takes lots and lots of time for anyone to learn a new language. Our kitchen walls have pictures they have drawn and I have written the Hungarian word on so we can see it anytime. This helps us to learn it faster.
Shares his toys and house with others, whether they speak the same language or not. We often host team meetings and have frequent overnight guests. If the guests have children and are also missionaries, this means fun sleep-overs for our children! Sometimes guests who don’t know much English stay here, and our children need to be polite by smiling and shaking their hands even if they don’t know what the guest is saying. Sometimes the guest will stroke their hair or even kiss their cheek. That is because where we live that is a normal, nice way to show kindness. Oftentimes adults kiss each other, once on each cheek, as a normal greeting if they are good friends, just like in Bible times during the New Testament era.
Has other people’s stuff in their garage. Sometimes missionary families going on their furloughs to their home country store their things in the garage of another missionary family. Sometimes things in the garage might be for giving to others who need to learn about Jesus. These things might be tracts or Bible study books or even toys. In our garage right now we have some of those, including brand new Legos that are from the Lego company which another missionary gave us to give to the Gypsy children. When our team holds children’s clubs, they will give these out.
Visits small towns (villages) with their parents. In a few weeks our family will go for a day to a village almost 2 hours away where we will join in a Gypsy festival by eating their food, hearing them sing, seeing their colorful clothing costumes, and watching their folk dances. We will also do a Bible club for the Gypsy children. Our children will sing a song with the other adult missionaries in another language (which I must teach them now), and be at the club. Our children will not understand most of the language, but they will know the Bible stories by the pictures that will be shown. It will be good for them to be able to hear the language spoken by lots of people that day.
Prays as a family for the ministries that are happening and thanks God when people get saved.
On furloughs our children are sometimes asked about what it is like to live overseas. They often travel many weekends with us to different churches where they hear the same sermon or missions presentation their daddy shares. Sometimes these trips mean staying at a grandma and grandpa’s house if the church is close to their home. Sometimes they get to stay overnight at a friend’s house or a cousin’s house (if they are old enough) instead of traveling overnight with Mom and Dad. When we came to Texas several years ago, they got to swim in a pool where we stayed and enjoyed the chickens in the yard! (Thanks!)
On furloughs they get to eat fun food at the church dinners like jello, something we don’t have here unless we bring it with us! Some of the other fun furlough foods include Oreos, graham crackers, oyster crackers and saltines, hot dog relish, flavors of ice cream we don’t have here like chocolate chip mint, hard taco shells, sweetened coconut, Doritos, root beer, Kix cereals as well as a few others.
On furloughs they get to see their grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and other friends. This is usually every 2 years for many families or one year every 4 years. We do Skype with some of the relatives sometimes when we are not on furlough. That is nice for the children to see their faces or at least hear their voices. In our case, our children have 2 big brothers and one big sister who live in America, so it is very exciting to see them. We Skype with them several times a month.
Next month our children will also be part of a week-long English camp with us where they and some other missionary kids will have a VBS for them each morning while we parents teach English through the Bible to Hungarian High school and college age kids. The afternoons will be game and fun times. We will eat our meals with the Hungarians in a big hall. Some of the Hungarians will hardly know any English, while others will know quite a bit. I am sure they will talk to our kids to practice their English words. Some of the Hungarians will be saved and some are not, but we will be praying for them as the Gospel is clearly presented that week. Our children can be a “sermon in shoes” by showing Jesus’ love to them through their kindness to each other and to the Hungarians, being friendly and polite.
This picture was taken before last Christmas when the kids and Todd took the train to downtown Budapest to hand out cookies and tracts at the train station.