Missionary life is challenging enough for adults.
Can you imagine how difficult it is for children?
Missionary kids often lead isolated lives and struggle with cross-cultural identity.
As one woman discovered, though, there’s a ministry made just to support those kids!
Nat Hall, a volunteer coordinator for the aviation ministry JAARS, knew she wanted to go on a short-term mission trip. But she couldn’t perform the physical labor involved in most short-term trips.
“I have grandkids!” she realized. “Dealing with children is something that I can do.”
And there was a perfect opportunity for her to minister to children — specifically, the kids of missionaries in Papua New Guinea. A ministry called Refuge 139 needed her help to minister these children.
Missionary kids, or MKs, are often overlooked in the missions process. It’s easy to forget that they didn’t choose the missionary lifestyle of their parents, and they have needs that are difficult to meet on the mission field.
Many MKs struggle to understand their role in their parents’ missionary work, their place in a new culture, and their individual relationships with God.
That’s why Refuge 139 was born! This ministry seeks to answer the question of “What about the kids?” by providing childcare, games, educational activities, and more for MKs around the world.
Nat was excited to travel with Refuge 139 to Papua New Guinea, where she and her team had the opportunity to love and care for MKs while their parents attended meetings and conferences.
“We want to show we care what…missionaries are doing…and support them in every way we can,” Nat shared.
“If, when [the parents] are in their conference, they can leave their children with us and know they are safe, entertained, learning about Scripture and playing games, it takes a load off them. It lets them relax and not worry about their children.”
But Nat and her team weren’t just concerned about supporting the missionary parents. They wanted to pour into the MKs, who needed encouragement, attention, and love.
These MKs had experienced the struggle of being foreigners in Papua New Guinea. They felt lonely, isolated, and distanced from their home culture in America.
And even worse, when they traveled home to America on furlough with their parents, they were treated as foreigners there as well, due to their acclimation to Papua New Guinea.
For a child, these constant transitions are incredibly difficult. Many MKs struggle with depression, loneliness, culture shock, and a sense of responsibility for the success of their parents’ mission work.
“I didn’t understand what MKs were before,” Nat admitted. “Spending that time with them in Papua New Guinea [was eye-opening in] seeing how different cultures and different lifestyles can impact families.”
Nat and her team threw themselves into serving the MKs, hosting games, Bible lessons, and other fun, educational activities to give the kids a chance to release stress and grow closer to God.
“This is the happiest I have ever seen my girls,” said one missionary father, watching his daughters run and play with Nat and the other MKs.
“One thing I liked about this group is that they weren’t afraid to let the kids have fun,” agreed another missionary. “Lots of physical activity, water games, mud slides…my boys came home every day wet, muddy, exhausted, and happy!”
Refuge 139 exists to encourage MKs and give them a break from the stress of the mission field. The ministry takes its name from Psalm 139:9-10: “even if I settle on the far side of the seas, even there your hand will guide me…”
The ministry knows that the hardships of MK life are unavoidable in the missions process. But MKs should be able to have fun and see God’s light and love as well.
Nat was deeply touched by the opportunity to serve MKs in Papua New Guinea. “We showed them that we care because Jesus cares,” she shared.
“It broadened my understanding…of the Great Commission in my life,” she added. “I don’t have to sit and be comfortable in my house and just pray. I can go and do something that is effective.”
Serving MKs is definitely an effective ministry! Nat’s encouragement and love will help these children to persevere in their lives on the mission field and pursue God in deeper ways.