A Note From Kelly King: Some of the most frequent questions we receive at YOU Lead events are about connecting the generations. In today’s article, guest writer, Gayla Parker, shares their family’s personal experience of taking their entire family back to the Philippines where they served as international missionaries. I pray you will consider ways you can connect the generations within your family. Leading well begins at home.
“Only be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves, so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren.” —Deuteronomy 4:9
When my husband and I came home from the mission field, we knew one day we wanted to go back with our sons and their wives. Our three boys grew up in the Philippines, and they are as much Filipino as they are American, which means sometimes their wives have no idea what they are talking about or why they do some of the things they do. So we began planning for the day our boys would have their own families and we would bring them to the Philippines. This past year that journey finally happened. We took our three sons, their wives (two of them expecting), and our three grandsons (ages 3, 1, and 6 months) to experience the place we had called home.
We Had No Idea All That God Would Do On That Trip
We had no idea God would begin using our trip as a way to share His story from the moment we arrived at the first airport in Little Rock, Arkansas. A traveling family of eleven together draws attention. People began asking if we were on our way to Disney World (after all we had three toddlers with us). I wish all of you could have seen the expressions when we answered with, “No, we are going to the Philippines.” After the shock, the next question was, “Why?!” As we told our story, the door opened wide for sharing the love of Jesus before we ever stepped foot on the first plane. It didn’t stop there, the pilots and flight attendants heard our story from other passengers and wished us well along the way. Passengers at the next layover heard our story from other passengers and came up to meet us. New flight crews heard from former flight crews and came out to meet us. From Little Rock to Detroit to Tokyo to Manilla to Davao City, there were strangers asking questions. It would start with, “Are you the family traveling to…” They wanted to hear our story, and by telling our story we got to tell Jesus’ story.
We had no idea God would use our three-year-old grandson to demonstrate God’s love and give them hope for a future. First, we drove three hours to General Santos City, where our sons had spent most of their time in the Philippines. Our work there had been with indigenous peoples in the mountains. All eleven of us hiked up one of the smaller mountains to attend a reunion at one of the churches we had started. The first thing we saw was a giant banner that had been made by using pictures from Facebook. We did not expect to see that! Hundreds of Filipinos came to the reunion, some we had not seen in years. While we were worshiping in the open air nipa church, Levi, our grandson, was outside giving away all of his snacks to Filipino children. He said, “They don’t have any food. I have lots. I can feed them like Jesus fed people fish and like you fed them when you lived here.” All afternoon he gave away snacks, toys, and hugs. When all the food and toys were given away, he played and played and played. When it was time to leave, he cried asking, “Who will tell them about Jesus now?” The pastor, with tears in eyes said, “Maybe he will be the one to come back and help us keep telling the story and showing the love of Jesus just like his grandparents.” It was Levi’s sweet tears that gave them hope for a future generation of missionaries to walk alongside them.
We had no idea God would show all of us so much of the fruit of our labor. From hundreds of tribal believers, to multiple unexpected Muslim background believers, to a church that is now sending its own missionaries. For our sons, it was the first time they realized that the Philippines was so much more than the place they called home. They had always seen it as the place where they had a blast growing up doing things that American kids did not get to do. They went scuba diving over a coral reef every week, they had a pet monkey, they hiked (sometimes hours) to get to church stopping to swim in the streams along the way, they ate exotic fruits like we eat apples, they built fresh water wells, and they spoke three languages. It was home. God showed them on this trip that it was the place where He had done a mighty and magnificent work, where a few churches had become 84. Their response, “I called this home; God called it His field. We had no idea God was using you (mom and dad) to do all this! We just thought it was where we grew up.” What a blessing for our children to see the work of God they were a part of!
There is nothing I could ever write or say that could equal the impact of our ten days in the Philippines on our family. For our sons, they now know our years in the Philippines were more than they realized as kids. Our daughters-in-law now join in the conversations about the Philippines and can put faces with the people we talk about (and they understand our sons’ Filipino mannerisms). Our sweet little grandsons played with the children of our sons’ friends and know why their dads call the Philippines home. Most of all, they experienced what it means to “make disciples as you are going” beginning with check in at the Little Rock Airport. That is the legacy we want to leave them!
Don’t forget the things God has done. Tell and SHOW them to your children and your children’s children that they too might have the confidence to step out in faith to God’s call. It took years to save for our trip, but in the end it was priceless!
Gayla Parker has served for over 30 years in ministry in various roles. This fall she will be joining the staff of Ouachita Baptist University teaching Women’s Ministry. She is the author of two books and a contributing writer for the revised The Devotional for Women coming this fall. She loves being in God’s Word, sharing Jesus, running, and spending time with family and friends.