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3 Things We’ve Learned While Parenting on the Field

“Why haven’t you shaved your baby’s head yet?” our local friend Fatima demanded when we took our baby Samuel to visit her. “You should, or else his hair won’t grow well.”

 

My wife and I came to the field as a couple with no children. Visits to our friends seemed simple back then.

 

All that changed when Samuel came along.

 

All our friends wanted us to visit so they could see him. But as insecure new parents, we had no idea that each visit with locals would be so stress inducing.

 

"Why do you not have enough clothes on him?” they would ask. “You should dress him more warmly. Why does he need to nap? Why isn’t he going to sleep? Why is he crying? Here, give him this to drink. Why not? Well, then give him this biscuit to eat. No? What do you give him to eat? Oh, you shouldn't give him that; you should give him this. No, you shouldn't tell him not to do that; just let him do what he wants…"


On top of all that, it seemed like each visit would bring out the worst behavior in Samuel, probably because his poor parents were so stressed out! We started to feel like making visits as a whole family was the last thing we wanted to do.

 

However, our friends kept inviting us and they always wanted our whole family to come. If I showed up without my wife and baby, their first question was, “Where are they?” and then, “Why did they not come with you?”

 



Visiting as a whole family was the last thing we wanted to do.


 

Besides our friends’ continued insistence, the main reason we kept visiting as a whole family—despite the struggles we initially faced—was our conviction that God wanted us to bless and minister to whole families. In order to see Muslim communities around us transformed by the power of the Gospel, we must focus on families and their extended networks—not just on winning individuals to Christ. Because unlike our American culture back home, individuals here do not make major life decisions apart from their communities.

 

When our second child, Adrianna, was born, we faced the same line of questions and cultural differences in parenting. But this time, we were a little more prepared. We kept visiting, kept learning, and kept helping our kids (and ourselves) be prepared for what to expect.

 

Today, seven years since beginning this cross-cultural parenting journey, we’ve realized that making visits as a family is much more natural and enjoyable than it once was. We delight in watching how Samantha, our youngest child, has become everyone’s favorite little baby—gladly held by anyone, rarely fussy, and full of twinkling eyes and dimpled smiles.

 

We relax and enjoy watching our friends love on our children, and their questioning doesn’t bother us like it once did.

 

Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way as God has poured out His grace on us:

 
Perseverance: We pressed on in visiting our Muslim friends, which gave us frequent experiences that helped us and our children learn what to expect. Sitting on the floor, drinking sweet tea, and eating snacks or meals became normal for them. Adrianna especially likes when we go for a meal at a friend’s house because she knows she'll get to eat with her hands!

Preparation: Before going on a visit, we've role-played greetings with our children and let them know that they're going to be hugged, kissed, and pinched on their cheeks as signs of affection. Before heading out, we pray together for the family we're about to visit.

Language: Our children have seen us learning and speaking the local language during visits, and now they find it normal to also want to communicate in the language. They are very determined communicators, and our local friends greatly appreciate this.
 

Pray for us and our children as we share the love of Jesus Christ with our friends and their families with.

 

 

Third-culture kids, children of field workers living outside their passport countries, play unique roles in helping their parents demonstrate the life of Jesus Christ to Muslims.

 

Read the story of Emily, a third culture kid whom God uses to reach Muslims in her neighborhood. 

   

 

**This account comes from a long-term worker. Names and places have been changed for security.**