Am I a Horrible Parent for Moving my Kids (back) to Africa?

If anyone has ever asked us about what our family life will look like in Cameroon, you probably heard “Oh we have no idea.” Or if you asked how exactly we would manage to homeschool the kids and do a linguistic analysis of a language, we likely said “Oh we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”
Not worrying (or thinking) about tomorrow has more-or-less been our modus operandi these past few years as we’ve sought to conquer one stage of life at a time. But the “tomorrow” of Cameroon is less then a month away and thus I am forced to ask myself the questions that my friends and family have been asking me for years, namely…
What in the world am I doing?! How can I pull my kids from a life they love and take them to one of the poorest, diseased-filled places in the world for a cause they do not (yet?) believe in?!
Currently our kids are used to playing the Olympic stadium that is just around the corner from our house. They know where the neighborhood castle is and if ever we visit a different city they are always on the lookout for that city’s local castle. They go to a school where they are being taught how to properly brush their teeth, how to recycle, and of course how to speak French. It is not uncommon for me to come home with a handful of birthday invitations that their little friends gave them at school. And if they cannot go to school, they cry. America is a faint memory but France is their home and being surrounded by the amazing Alps is their “normal.”
And here we are taking them to a remote, poor village in Africa without electricity, nor school, nor a nearby hospital. Dave and I are now their teachers, their school buddies are now their brothers and sisters, and their parents are going to make them wear long sleeves and long pants in the hot African weather to avoid being bit by malaria-ridden mosquitoes (sorry kids!). Not only that, but our household pets will be a dog (yay!), a cat (yay!) and cockroaches (yay?). There will not be swimming lessons, gymnastics, little league or Sunday school. There might be a DVD on a really sunny day if our solar panels can generate enough energy. Oh and say goodbye to ice-cream and snack foods….forever.
I have to ask myself the question: Am I a terrible mom? Can I really ask my kids to do this? These haunting questions have forced me to turn to the Word of God and I have walked away with the following responses:

It Is Better for Children to Learn That They Are Not the Center of the Universe

A child’s first word after “mommy” and “daddy” is typically “mine!” Why? Because we are all by nature selfish. I would argue that most children go through their day thinking, not what they can give, but about what they can get. And if this attitude is not corrected, these kids turn out to be adults who swear at the poor cell phone rep because the iPhone color they wanted was all sold out.
Thus, it is a service to children to expose them to those whose problems are bigger than their own. It is a service to show them poverty, suffering, the effects of AIDS, and the reality of death. This, by God’s grace, can show them that it is absolutely absurd to complain about what their mom made them for dinner when there are children literally outside their window who have not eaten all day. It serves them to see that it is ridiculous to complain about their 14 sets of clothes when their village play-mates are dressed in rags. And maybe, just maybe, the Lord will use this exposure to suffering to take their eyes off themselves for just a minute and enter into the life and pain of another. And when this happens there are no limits to what they can accomplish in service to humanity (as discussed in the final point).

I Have Duties Outside of Being a Parent

I am a Christian first. My first love is not my family, my first love is Jesus Christ and thus I follow not the ever-changing whims and desires of my children, but I follow the eternal desires and commands of my Savior. And as it turns out, I have yet to discover a footnote to the Great Commission that says that it was intended only for singles and that mothers and fathers are exempt from “going and making disciples of all nations.”

This is the heart of my Savior, that people from every tribe, tongue and nation bow before him, that the poor of this world be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, and that those who are weak in the world would shame the strong, that his Word be spread all over this world. So, as a Christian, his priorities become my priorities and I am honored be a small part of his redemption of the World.

These Duties Do Not Contradict What I Am Called to as a Parent

And yet, I have other priorities as a mother, but in the wisdom of God, these duties do not contradict the priority of the advancement of the Kingdom of God. If one reads the book of Proverbs, he will find that God calls parents to be channels of his wisdom to their children. For example, Proverbs 3 starts with “My son” and then we find the rest of the chapter instructing this child to trust in God, to not be wise in his own eyes, to fear God, to turn from evil, to not envy a man of violence, and so on.

I have yet to find a verse that commands me to make sure my children have a balanced diet, are involved in extracurricular activities, and are well socialized. Now these are wonderful things that I strive for, but I often need to remind myself to not feel guilty for taking something from my children that I was never commanded to give them. According to the Bible, my success as a parent is measured by my faithfulness to raise my children in the discipline and teaching of the Lord, and this is something, but God’s grace, I can do anywhere.

But I Can Still Dream Big and Pray Big

I admit that raising kids in a remote village in Africa is, in some ways, less than ideal. Yet, my hope cannot be in what age they begin to read, their opportunities to play team sports, or if they have good Christians friends. Instead my hope needs to be in God who often saves and uses people from less-than-ideal backgrounds. Thus I am forced to turn my eyes from the opportunities I can or cannot give my children and turn my eyes to God who hears my prayers.

And in the mean time, I can still dream and pray big for my children. I pray that my kids will be able to step outside of culture and evaluate it biblically. I pray that they will be used to change the continent of Africa. I pray they will learn how to do oral Bible storying and spread the Word of God to children in Cameroon. I pray that they will be deaf, not to the cries of the poor, but to the allure of entertainment. I pray that they will help orphans. I pray…
To conclude, I do feel somewhat bad taking my kids from the Alps to Africa, but I do not think these feelings stem from God. When I let my mind rest on the desires of God in bringing the nations to Jesus and on his power to answer my prayers for my kids, I can move to Africa and not look back.

Author: Stacey Hare

Stacey is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator. Right now she is working creating literacy materials so the Kwakum people can learn to read and write in their language. She is also working on translating Old Testament stories into Kwakum with her husband and local Kwakum colleagues.

16 thoughts on “Am I a Horrible Parent for Moving my Kids (back) to Africa?

  1. Nice post, Stacey! We are looking forward to your arrival. And I think "Uncle" Nathan & "Auntie" Lala will be able to hook your kids up with some homemade ice cream from time to time. -Laurel

  2. Wow! Interesting read. Interesting to see this from your perspective. As a born and raised Cameroonian now living in the United States, I have questions as to whether I would want to raise my kids in America. I guess it has more to do with our definition of "ideal" circumstances and all. Btw, which village will you be based in in Cameroon?

  3. Although this is a awesome thing you are doing for your kids, I am totally against this. As long as you have God in your heart and soul and you teaching you're children the same..why do you have to subject your kids to something the are unfamiliar with? Most people go to Africa to adopt kids to get them out of poverty situations.. I'm just saying BC to me it will traumitis them more than teach them..but God be with them!

  4. You are an inspiration and evidently being led by the Spirit of the Living God!It is a blessing to see that you are "setting your affections on things above and not on things of the earth! You are dead and your life is hidden with Christ in God." The world needs MORE kids whose parents are willing to lay down their lives and in so doing, teach their children to do likewise. Godspeed.

  5. Anonymous,
    My parents raised me in Africa for six years. They were the most incredible years of my life. Absolutely no regrets, and now I am raising my own children on the same continent.

  6. This was one of the most encouraging/challenging "mom" posts I've ever read. We need more moms like you and I pray The Lord would give me faith to be one. Wow!! Thank you for posting.

  7. I have raised my children overseas and I have to say Stacey- you have it right! We are all supposed to be unfamiliar in this world. It is not our home, we are just passing through! In fact you may find the transition is so much easier for the kids than the adults, but that does not mean we send them along alone because it is easier for them. No families stick together and you ALL have a purpose. My children handle the 120 degree summers so much better than I do and picked up the language faster. They will be a great addition to your team and you will ALL learn so much. I admire your audacious faith. God bless you!

  8. Your article was forwarded to me by a missionary friend, for "obvious reason" as she said. My wife and I were your family exactly 25 years ago: on the verge of leaving France, with 4 girls under 6 years of age. Destination: Cameroon! Things rarely happened as we had planned. But we are confident it went as God planned. Along came our son in 1991. Providentially, God closed the door for us and the 7 of us returned to the USA in 2000. God cared for us in Cameroon even as he has here in the States. God bless you as you embark on the adventurous service for Jesus. God will be your provider and protector, but likely not as you expect.

  9. Thank you God for this message. Perfect timing. We are preparing to leave the comforts of life in the US to live in Cambodia. I relate with everything you said. My heart hurts as I have been dealing with my 16 year old daughter and her resistance to going. God spoke to my husband almost 2 years ago and once he "surrendered it all" the doors started opening to where, when and how we were going to be used by God to advance His kingdom. The one point you made about taking our kids and how we are to really raise them, the Biblical teaching on parenthood, was the perfect reminder, as I was crying because I felt I was hurting my daughter. Reality hit, that I am hurting my daughter more by living the way we have. Her "its all about me" attitude is so far from God that I really need to be on my knees thanking God that he is speaking so clearly to us to Go. Thank you for the post, your honesty and your desire to love God with your obedience and servants heart no matter the cost.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. Our family of five will be leaving in just a week and a half for Nepal. Where life is so different from life here in America. I have often struggled with this but God has reminded me that He loves my kids more than I do and my job is just to raise them in the ways of the Lord. Thank you again.

  11. So nice! Gives good answers to some of the ponders I have always had in mind when I meet a foreign missionary in an area I myself as a Cameroonian cannot afford to live there, except I adopt this mindset! But there are equally beautiful portions of Cameroon, and u know, no place like home, for us!

  12. Please keep in mind that this blog was written by a person whose oldest child is 6 and who is taking African children back to Africa. Taking a 16 year old from the U.S. to Southeast Asia is nowhere near the same thing. Even if your 16 year old daughter was in full agreement with your calling, you would be in for a far different experience than what this author is going to encounter. If your 16 year old daughter is resistant, and if you insist on taking her now instead of waiting to go until she's in college in 2 years, then I pray that your sending agency has stellar member care.

  13. I am an MK and am eternally grateful to my heavenly Father and my parents for raising me in a "less-ideal place". Although I have to handle issues I would not have to struggle if I hadn't been raised cross-culturally it gives a richness, colourfulness and depth to my experience of life and God that I would not trade for anything else! May your children experience the same.

  14. I grew up in Cameroon. I did not make the decision to do so. My parents made it for me. But, I will say this: It was the most beautiful gift they ever gave me. This is not always the case. I know kids who didn't appreciate being moved away to a strange land. But, inevitably each decision that our parents make when we are young affects us. My parents happened to choose to raise me in Africa without my consent. Had they stayed in the US it would have also been without my consent. I cannot answer for everyone, but I also cannot stay silent. I LOVE my country. My country is Cameroon. And, my parents chose it.

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