Food and language and travel and stories are fun ways to learn about the world, but ultimately, PEOPLE are at the center of cultures. It is people we must care about. And loving the people whom God created is at the heart of raising globally conscious children.
This third post in the series discusses the final five suggestions on this list for helping our children learn to notice and care about the rest of the world. (If you missed the beginning, you may want to start with Part 1 and Part 2.)
15 Ways of Raising Globally Conscious Children: A Review
- Travel with your children
- Talk about your travels
- Explore International Cuisine
- Learn (or review) another language together
- Read about people in (or from) other countries
- Listen to world news, not just US-based news
- Know and refer accurately to geography
- Know and refer accurately to people groups
- Teach an accurate view of our own history
- Watch your attitudes, watch your words
- Seek out friends from other countries
- Get involved helping immigrants
- Invest in a foreign ministry run by nationals
- Pray for other countries
- Celebrate God’s view of the world
The final five suggestions focus on the relational and spiritual aspects of knowing and caring about the world.
11. Seek Out Friends from Other Countries
The best way to know and care about others outside our normal circles is to be in relationship with others not like us. If we stick closely to friendships within our own backgrounds, we limit our capacity for understanding and empathy.
Obviously, urban areas present more opportunities to develop relationships with a diverse group of people than most rural areas or small towns.
When I first moved to West Virginia when my husband and I got married, I was struck with the homogeneity of our town. I missed the opportunity to rub shoulders with other cultures that I had enjoyed a bit more in Pennsylvania.
But the longer I have been here, keeping my eyes open, we have begun to see the small pockets of diversity in our predominately white community.
If We Have Eyes to See…
There are the Indian doctors, the Mexicans working at Mexican restaurants, the Pakistani and Philipino families who sent their children to my school when I was teaching.
There is a whole Chinese community, some working at restaurants, others for large corporations, all connected by caring for one another.
There are Japanese families here for three-year rotations while the engineer husbands work for a local truck manufacturing plant.
There are other young mothers from various places outside the US who have found each other here and have developed their own support system of friendship and shared experience.
There are the international college students studying here for a year or more, from Colombia, and Spain, and France, and Benin—all far from their families while working hard in their second or third language to learn and achieve for their future.
People from other countries and cultures are present in our communities, if we have eyes to see them.
Blessings of Meeting Outside Our Comfort Zones
Stepping out of our comfort zones to meet and build relationships with people from other countries may bring comfort and blessing to those who are new to an unfamiliar land and language. But it will also enrich our lives and understandings.
I am a reserved person, but I am so thankful I was bold enough to introduce myself to a Japanese mother I saw with her two little girls at our local gymnastics open-gym day. That summer and fall, we spent time in each other’s homes, and she introduced me to several other young international mothers who frequently gathered in each other’s homes. I learned much from this sweet and gracious woman in the few months before her family moved back to Japan, and I still miss her.
What an opportunity to share this eye for outsiders with our children!
Two years ago when my husband and I taught the preschool Bible class at church, a few Chinese families were coming on Wednesday nights for English practice. One Chinese girl regularly attended the preschool class with our daughter. This little girl didn’t know English and was having trouble adjusting to class expectations, so many children didn’t interact with her. At home, we talked with our daughter about how this little girl must feel to be in a new place with strange people and not be able to communicate. I am so proud of how our daughter went out of her way to talk to her and include her, even though she didn’t at first respond.
That summer and the next we spent more time with this family, getting the girls together to play. They have become friends, and now can communicate much more than before. I am so thankful for this relationship and all the girls can learn from each other.
12. Get Involved Helping Immigrants
Have you ever been in a new place, far from home, stressed by having to navigate unfamiliar territory—and survive—in a language you didn’t understand? (As much as I loved living and teaching in Kazakhstan, it carried a certain level of stress—even though I had experienced teammates to guide me.) God cares, and even commanded His people to look out for the foreigner, the “alien” living among them. There are plenty of ways to come alongside immigrants and help them adjust to a new land, language, and culture.
Perhaps most obvious is helping teach or coach immigrants in English. Bigger cities will likely have more resources for helping immigrants. While teaching English is not something children can do, they can learn much by observing their parents taking the time to do this.
Some programs help immigrant and refugee families find housing and employment and navigate the school system. Some organizations work through churches who “adopt” families and include them in community life. People in the congregation may help them with transportation and doctor’s appointments until they get established and learn the area, as well as include them in picnics and other social events. This is something children can be a part of.
A less obvious need of immigrants is friendship and connection. Depending where they live, they may or may not have a support system of other people from their own language and culture. That can be very lonely.
I heard a sad statistic that only a small percentage of immigrants have ever been inside an American home. (Sorry, I can’t find a link to it.) As a country, we have much to learn about hospitality!
Whether through a program or not, making friends with immigrants and having them into our homes enriches both parties, and is a wonderful example to our children.
One program that addresses all three of these needs is FriendSpeak. In the past couple years our church has begun a local FriendSpeak ministry, which pairs those who want to improve their English with Christians from the church. Together, they read and discuss simple passages taken from the Bible. This serves as a springboard for further English conversations about culture, experience, life.
As friendships develop, readers also get involved in each other’s lives outside of weekly reading/conversation times. It may be social visits, or help with paperwork for school enrollment. My husband and I have been involved in this as our time allows. This has been a rich time of getting to know others and pouring into their lives, and also learning. It grows our own concern for newcomers and strangers. It opens the eyes of the rest of the church to the people in our community. And perhaps most importantly, it develops an interest in our children for knowing and serving others.
International College Students
If you live in or near a college town, there are international students living and working far from their families.
In Kazakhstan, I was having the time of my life teaching students who wanted to learn. I didn’t realize how dreadfully I missed my family—five younger siblings—until the pastor’s wife invited me over to their house. Sitting in that apartment with younger children simultaneously made me homesick, while also filling that need for family connection I didn’t realize I was missing. It was so refreshing to be around children!
Similarly, international college students are bright, talented young men and women, but they are living far from any family connection, and that can be hard.
For a while, our church partnered with a local college for an “adopt a student” program. We had the privilege of “adopting” one young man from Benin. (I never even heard of Benin before this!) Over the four years this student studied here, he was in our home frequently, attended church with us, and became a regular part of our Sunday afternoon meals with my husband’s family. Early on, I helped him with feedback on a writing assignment. Later my husband took him to look for cars, and spent some evenings in Bible study together. During that time, we even got to meet his sister and his mother who traveled to visit him. We still have contact after his graduation. This, too, has been a blessing for all of us.
All these examples are ways for our children to meet people from other countries and to see us caring for them as God commanded.
13. Invest in a Foreign Ministry—Especially One Run by Nationals
Investing in a ministry in another country is another way to learn about—and learn to care about—people and places outside our realm of experience. Finding one run by nationals—not Americans—is an even more culturally sensitive and respectful way to learn and care about people in other places.
In the past, it has been easy for wealthy Americans to develop a “God complex” or a “white savior complex” while attempting to fix problems in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, keeping the control of a ministry in the hands of Americans not familiar with the land, the government, the culture, or the people can have negative results. It often disregards natives’ expertise and local culture, creates dependency, and/or causes unintended problems. (See a fuller discussion of this in the book When Helping Hurts.)
It is better, when possible, to partner with a local ministry who knows the culture and the needs of the people. In doing so, not only do we show true concern for the people, we also learn other way of doing things. It is humbling to realize that American ways are not always the best for all people.
We want to be serving people in other places, not controlling them.
A Ministry We Support
One ministry we feel good about supporting is Remember the Poor, Inc. This organization operates children’s homes for street children rescued from addiction, crime, and abuse. Though the founder (my aunt, Rose Ann Howell) is American, all the workers and most of the board members are Kenyan nationals–some from the local tribe–and serious Christians. They operate the homes in ways consistent with the Gospel and with the local culture.
Supporting foreign ministries run by nationals is a responsible way to help, and it helps us see the humanity and richness of how other cultures help and serve.
14. Pray for Other Countries
We pray about the things we care about.
When we pray, we learn to care more about those for whom we pray.
Praying as a family for people, nations, or events in the world demonstrates a concern for others outside our own country and culture, and begins to instill that awareness and concern in our children.
One great resource for this is Voice of the Martyr’s prayer calendar which they publish every year. Each day has a specific prayer request for a different country where persecution of Christians is prevalent. (They also have other prayer resources.) When we didn’t know much about the country for which we were praying, quickly searched the Internet for pictures or videos of the people of that country; then we could pray more informed. In this way, we were learning and praying together.
Similarly, Joshua Project offers an app (and a calendar) for praying for a different unreached people group each day.
Paying attention to world news or even concerns of our international friends about their homelands provides many opportunities to pray beyond our own political borders. It broadens our view of God, too—God cares not only for us, our fellow citizens, and our national concerns, but about countless other people groups and their concerns, too.
Just this year there have been plenty to pray about: ongoing political unrest and economic hardship in Venezuela. An airplane shot down in Iran, killing everyone on board. COVID-19 shutting down practically the whole world, with many countries mourning unfathomable death rates. Protests sparked by George Floyd’s death ricocheting around the world, igniting people in many places to stand up to the injustices occurring in their own countries. The explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, and the ensuing civil unrest there.
What else will happen this year? Certainly we cannot do something to help every concern in the world. But we certainly can pray, and teach our children to pray.
15. Celebrate God’s View of the World
I end with this one because it is the most important. Perhaps I should have started with this one since it is so foundational to caring about the world!
Unfortunately, some who call themselves Christians have arrogantly twisted the Word of God to exalt themselves over other “races” or people groups.
But from Genesis to Revelation, the entire Bible is filled with calls to recognize God’s image in other humans, to care for the marginalized, and to share equally in salvation.
What God Says
- So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
- When an alien (foreigner, non-citizen) lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
- For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
- If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin…. (James 2:8-9)
- A new song to the Lamb, Jesus:
You are worthy…because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God…. (Revelation 5:9,10)
Do we believe these texts? Do we live by them? Let’s teach these texts to our children AND live accordingly. These Scriptures may need to reform our actions and our attitudes; they need to inform our politics.
Lord God, help us to love the people you have created and Jesus has died to redeem.
If we care about the things God cares about—peace, justice, righteousness, compassion, love, humility, and most of all, people—then we need to teach our children to care about the peoples of the world.
I hope these ideas about raising globally conscious children are helpful in your family’s journey to being good citizens, good friends, good workers, and good ambassadors for Christ at home and abroad.