Sunday, August 5, 2007

Preschool World Travelers

I was reading an article in the Dallas Morning News today entitled "Seeing the world with kids: Parents debate the best age for children to travel abroad." It was written from a purely secular, sightseeing view, but it had some interesting points.

"But Ms. Wheeler said that even if her children, who are now adults, don't remember their first trip to Nepal. they got something else out of their early travels. "I honestly think that it gave them an attitude for life because they learned to be very flexible," she said."

I would definitely agree with this, though I know some people who are experienced travelers and rather un-flexible. There are many benefits of traveling even without a spiritual dimension.

"If they're 4 or under, they might not remember seeing the Mona Lisa and feel the significance of that in the same way that an older child will. But a 4-year-old or 2-year-old will remember the sense of adventure, excitement, and growing curiosity all tied to the sense of travel. You're cultivating that adventurous, curious spirit."

Even more important than an adventurous, curious spirit, the love of God and His people all around the world was cultivated in my heart at an early age. The Holy Spirit began to stir in my heart a calling to missions.

My parents had a theory, and this theory ruined all hopes of normal childhood for our family. Their theory? You can't raise world Christians from within the bubble of suburbia. They have prayed that my brother and I would be world travelers with a heart for missions since before we were born. Since our births, they have gone out of their way to see that we experience what God is doing around the world. This was accomplished by hearing missionaries speak about their experiences, and taking us to the mission field so we could see it firsthand. My brother and I took our first missions trips as preschoolers. I was three when we went to Jamaica; he was four when we went to Russia.

Cultural and geographically changes do not go unnoticed by kids. Shortly after our return from Russia, the Elian Gonzales incident happened. My dad delights in recalling that as my brother and I heard the talking heads on the TV say he would be better off in Communist Cuba, my brother and I quickly refuted that by comparing formerly communistic Russia, which we had just seen, with America. At ages 5 and 9 we could easily see the massive problems of the Communist system, as manifested in the lives and problems of the everyday common people. An appreciation of our American system, and a longing to see justice and freedom for kids around the world, was already planted in our hearts. That kind of insight does not come from living within a bubble.

Looking back, I'm sure there were many moments when my parents thought traveling would be much easier without a pair of tired and argumentative kids. I'm also sure that many families don't feel called to do what my family did. However, I am extremely grateful that my parents didn't
"stick to the Disney and Carnival cruises until the kids are old enough to appreciate what they are seeing."

Even if I didn't absorb everything that happened as an adult would, my childhood and my worldview were forever impacted. My parents took the high road, and I am eternally grateful.

Harpaz, Beth J. "Seeing the world with kids." Dallas Morning News. 5 August 2007: 4I.

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