In a world of iPhones, big-screen TVs and screen-time addiction, there are many ways for our children to get distracted from developing a kingdom perspective. With a plethora of merchandise, Amazon makes it easy to have almost anything in two days if we can’t find what we want in a store. Whether we realize it or not, our children are growing up in a culture that is saturated with materialism. They are blessed to live in a country where it is possible to be part of the world’s top wage earners. Most of us have money not just for food and housing, but also for hobbies, home décor, cell phones and entertainment. How blessed we are! Along with these blessings comes the temptation to forget where these gifts come from and to narcissistically believe they are meant only for us to enjoy.
When Israel arrived in Canaan, God knew it would be easy for them to brush aside the fact that He was still the One providing for them. Once they started working their own land and didn’t depend daily on the miracle of manna to survive, they could easily forget Him. To keep this from happening, He cautioned them in Deuteronomy 8:10, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” He provided a constant reminder to them that their abundance was a blessing from Him and was meant to be shared with those around them when He set up a tithe to provide for the poor (Deut. 26:12). He also directed the Israelites to leave the corners of their fields for anyone who needed it (Lev. 23:22) and commanded that they share their festal bounty with the poor, widows, orphans, Levites and foreigners (Deut. 14:23-29, Esther 9:22) But while God’s culture constantly focuses on Him as the source of blessing that should pour out through us to others in need, our culture makes it very easy to focus on only ourselves.
As parents, we want our kids to remember these lessons that God taught Israel so long ago. However, living in a culture where abundance is at our fingertips, it can be hard for our children to notice how much God has already blessed them, or even to see that there are people less fortunate than they. It is very easy for all of us, parents and children alike, to compare ourselves to others and decide that our houses are too small or outdated, our iPhones are not the newest model, and our clothes are not fashionable enough. Viewing life through the lens of our materialistic culture, we become easily convinced that we don’t have enough. If I could view myself through the eyes of someone in an underdeveloped country, would I still feel I didn’t have enough? Would my house still feel cramped? Would I distinguish differently between my needs and my wants?
Becoming a student missionary allows young adults such an opportunity. Whether they work in a poverty-stricken area or in the middle of a modern city, none of them will remain untouched by the experience.
When I signed up as a student missionary, I didn’t think the European country I was going to would be that different from my own. I had no idea how much even the seemingly small differences would change my view of my own culture. To give just one small example, everything in Europe, from homes to appliances, was smaller and more compact. How do they survive? I wondered at first. But as the year progressed and I observed how people lived and interacted with what they had, I realized that bigger isn’t necessarily better, and hard work for more stuff actually means less time to relax with your family and friends. As I gained appreciation for the culture, I was able to see the blessings I had at home that I had not fully appreciated before. The revelations didn’t come all at once, but they laid a strong foundation for the eventual realization that I could live with less, and by doing so, I could do more for others.
By donating to the AFM Student Missionary fund, you are giving our young people a chance to immerse themselves in a new culture. Most student missionaries are excited for the adventure and the thrill of serving God in a foreign country, but the experience will also change them in ways they can’t imagine. Each one has the opportunity to come home with a larger frame of reference for wants and needs, a fresh sense of what they can do to bless others, and most importantly, a deeper reliance on God and the blessings He gives them. These changes will forever affect the way they view the world and the ministry trajectory of their lives. Go and make disciples—not to materialism, but to God’s kingdom (Matt. 28:19-20).