“What about your kids?!” was one of the biggest and most frequently asked questions we heard as we were preparing to leave the States and plunge into a strange new world, new culture, and new language with our family.
I have to admit, I’ve asked God the same question quite a few times since we’ve been here. After all, they didn’t choose to come here like Jevon and I chose for ourselves. I have to believe that God did not overlook any one our little ones when He called us here. This incredible journey that we are on as a family is as much His plan for their lives as it is for ours. But sometimes its hard for them, too! It’s not easy trying to learn their third language while they still haven’t gotten very comfortable in their second. It’s not easy being so different all the time. And when Dad and Mom face difficulties, they find themselves a part of those difficulties, too.
That just makes it all the more precious to us when they step out on their own and choose to trust and follow Jesus.
Cali’s decision to be baptized didn’t happen in a vacuum. She was struggling to process her own fears and emotions related to the tapir attack – she had heard her own dad’s screams as he fought in the dark jungle and she had watched her own mom get knocked down and bit by the animal right behind the house. We both came out okay in the end. But in the days that followed, she couldn’t help but wonder: why would the Good Shepherd let His sheep get attacked? Why does God let His servants face difficulties? It’s not just missionaries, we told her. Everyone faces difficulties. Everyone has their own share of life’s struggles and hurts. But God has been with us every step of the way. And He’s worth following.
We read the story of Nate Saint as a family, and she didn’t like it. At least not at first. She didn’t want to hear about somebody giving their life for a people group that wasn’t even seeking the Lord. We told her that Nate Saint isn’t sad. He isn’t defeated. He triumphed. He won the crown of life that is laid up for those who are faithful unto death. She didn’t want to hear it. But even though her initial reaction was extremely negative, she was thinking. One night after I kissed her goodnight and turned out the light, she called to me.
“How many crowns of life are there in heaven?”
I stood quietly in the dark, wondering how to answer. “As many as there are faithful to win them, I guess,” I said.
We prayed for her. We talked. We asked questions. We gave her time. We asked other people to pray for her too.
But she really caught us off guard when she announced her intentions to be baptized.
We hadn’t seen that one coming!
We thought she was still mad at God!
We thought she was still afraid to embrace Him as her greatest treasure and choose to follow Him, knowing full well that there is a cost to following Jesus.
But she said, “I was thinking…if God is so nice to people who don’t even love Him and don’t even believe in Him, how much more will He take care of someone who loves Him and believes in Him.”
And with a thoughtful look in her eyes, she struggled to explain, “I’m not afraid anymore.”
“Well,” she continued in her ever-honest way, “If I see eyes in the dark, I would probably be afraid. But otherwise I’m not afraid.”
That was a few weeks ago.
This morning she followed her dad down into the water of the Amazon river, and based on her own testimony of faith, in the presence of lots of witnesses – both believers and unbelievers – he baptized her in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Her two cousins were also baptized at the same time by their own dad. They are missionary kids, too. And so two missionary dads had the joy of seeing their own kids become disciples.
And what better place to see God at work, than in our own home, in the hearts of our own kids? What greater joy could anyone have? We came here because we believe that God wants to make disciples here in the Amazon jungle. But the first disciple that Jevon had the privilege of baptizing was his own daughter.