Kids have the clearest missionary vision

When I got to the camp I was eager to talk to give a seminar on missions to a bunch of youth at a weekend retreat. I was expecting them to be in high school, but it turned out they were actually much younger. They were just 11-12 years old. I immediately started thinking about how I might need to change my message, and I was a little disappointed they were so young. Would these kids really understand? Was this a waste of time?

But as soon as we started talking and I asked a few questions, my disappointment in the age of the group disappeared and I was really moved by their simple and beautiful desire to live for the Gospel.

This was an optional session they signed up for. They chose to come and learn about being a missionary instead of doing the ropes course, riding scooters, or a whole bunch of other fun activities. I asked them why they came here, and why they were interested in learning about the missionary life.

“I want to go help people who don’t have God.”

“I want to go tell people about God who don’t know God.”

They said it with such simplicity, and there was such a genuine concern and care for in their voices as they talked about other people in the world who don’t know Jesus. They really cared for those people they heard about far away. I started to tear up just listening to them.

Their childlike faith and simple answers seemed so different than what I would hear in similar conversations with university students or young professionals. As people get older, their thoughts get riddled with all kinds concerns, fears, goals, and plans that children simply don’t have. And as they look forward to the possibility of becoming a missionary, the road ahead looks cloudier and more confusing.

“Uhh… I’m just really trying to figure out, like, what opportunities there are with my profession, and how I can use that overseas… I mean, I really feel like I can engage more effectively that way… I dunno, maybe I’ll find a different job placement in the future? I need to save up more money now…”

It’s hard for educated, professional, grown-up people to look forward with a simple Romans 15:20-like ambition, because they’re often trying to maintain all these other expectations, desires, or responsibilities. A simple love for God and a concern for the lost can get choked out by all the grown-up desires and plans we develop. But kids don’t think like that. They just look out with one simple goal. “I need to go tell people about God.”

The kids understood the difficulties involved as well. They realized it would be hard to go far away from their families and give up things that they liked. “You might have to go somewhere where you can’t go horseback riding,” I suggested. As soon as one 11 year old girl heard this she put her hand on her chest, bowed her head, and let out a very cute “oh!” of sadness.

We can learn a lot from these kids that see things so clearly. We would do well to shed ourselves of all our sophisticated desires and plans, and look forward with their childlike simplicity and selflessness.

Jesus set a little child up as the ultimate model of a kingdom servant.

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matt 18:2-3)

If we want to follow Jesus, we need to get humble, simplify our ambitions, and live for Jesus like a kid.

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