Upstream co-founders, Larry McCrary and Caleb Crider, are living in very different places: for Larry, Madrid, Spain; for Caleb, Richmond, Virginia. Along with their families they’re not just teaching Tradecraft missionary skills, they’re also applying them. So we wanted to tap into their unique experiences and at the same time parallel their local and global perspectives. So “Adventures with Larry and Caleb” will be an ongoing series throughout the year where we ask them one mission-related question at a time. Here’s the question for this week:
How do you involve your family in the mission?
When we first moved overseas 14 years ago, we had a family covenant with three commitments:
Be humble in our new culture
Try our best to learn the language
Smile as much as we could (for a smile can open a lot of doors)
As simple as this sounds, we felt that if we did it faithfully we would be able to have some good spiritual conversations that led to the gospel. We believe that God has honored this throughout the years, no matter where we have settled. We prayed that all of us would be salt and light in our city. We tried to teach our children that their attitudes and words made a difference. When you live in a place where there are few Christ-followers, you have the chance to live this out every day and in almost every place.
Here are a few aspects about how our family has served. We have always tried to:
See what we do as a family as being one of the most important parts of the mission. All of our activities, whether it is play or work, have been opportunities to show God’s love to those around us. It was not just my work or my wife’s, but all of ours to be a part of.
Serve in a local church at some capacity.
Connect in natural ways through clubs, sports, hanging with our friends, etc.
Give hospitality and also receive hospitality from our host culture.
Pray as a family for opportunities to share not only the gospel but our lives as well.
My family is on mission together. Why else would we send our kids to a school that isn’t the best academically? Why else would we pay more to live in a city which has been largely abandoned by people who are like us? Why would we walk and ride our bikes when we have a car? What’s the point of being involved in community meetings or going to neighborhood events? We’re on mission, and this is our mission field.
Being on mission is the best way for us to be unified as a family. On our way to school each morning, we talk about the opportunities we’re going to have that day. We prepare for the inappropriate things we’re going to hear by filling our minds with Scripture. We pray for protection from the ungodly things we’re going to be exposed to throughout the week, knowing that those we live among are slaves to the sin that they flaunt. We talk about the people we interact with over the course of the week – not as projects but as people we want to love and learn from as we point them to Jesus. In the evenings, we celebrate little breakthroughs like praying with a friend, telling someone about Jesus, or making peace in the midst of conflict. We sometimes express our frustrations with those to whom we’ve been sent, but we always finish the day praying that God would one day be glorified by these people we live among.
Besides this, my job as a father is to disciple my kids into their sent-ness. My friend, author and missionary Nik Ripken, often reminds us that we identify with Christ in our own sent-ness, but we identify with the Father in raising up our children to be sent out as ambassadors for Christ. For us, this means my wife and me deliberately putting our children in situations where they are not in the majority, where they become quite accustomed to being surrounded by people who are very different from us. Because the world is urban and we want to prepare our children for it, we intentionally spend our family time in the city.
Together, my family actively seeks out opportunities to be a blessing to our neighbors. We look for people who are hurting, lonely, and fearful and tell them how Jesus makes it all make sense. We look for people who are passionate, who are celebrating, who are creating, and we join them in those things. We’re God’s sent ones in this place, and we take that seriously. We often hear other Christians say, “Sure, I’m supposed to be on mission, but I won’t sacrifice my kids for the sake of mission.” But this mentality shows a profound lack of faith in the God who promises to sustain us with His presence on our mission. I cannot, in good conscience, teach my kids (directly or indirectly) that their own preferences, comfort, or safety is an option for us as God’s people. Our family is on mission, and that is the filter through which we see our life together.