This year my daughter became a missionary.
It was while proofreading her high school senior scholarship applications that I learned about her heart for orphan ministry. I read how spending Christmas Day in a Mexican orphanage when she was 17 gave her a passion for children without families.
It was seeing her heart, captured by the kids she connected with in Guatemala during her summer there as a college student, which told me, to her, home was just as much on the Mayan mountains as it was in Indiana.
Last month, when she began raising support as a full time missionary with Back2Back, I learned that my place as her mom is on my knees, interceding for her and encouraging her when it feels overwhelming.
Raising a daughter called to full-time ministry is the joy of my heart, but it’s not an easy thing. Here are five lessons I’ve learned about raising a daughter who answers the call of God’s plan for her life.
1. Prayer is the foundation. I didn’t pray for my daughter to be a missionary, but I remember praying that she would love God with her whole heart. I prayed in those moments when I picked her up while she was sleeping and felt her breath on my neck, while I sang hymns of prayer and hope. I prayed in the wee hours, when I couldn’t sleep and would pray beside her bed while she slept. There were the prayers her dad and I prayed when we didn’t see God through the stubborn, rebellious spirit. God hears every single prayer.
2. Let her be herself. She was in preschool when I realized she wasn’t my clone. It was a wake up call that my only daughter didn’t have the same personality and nature I did. Through elementary and high school, it was a challenge to step back and let her grow into her own skin, but it is essential to allow your daughter to find her unique passion.
3. Encourage friendships grounded in Christ. Kate was blessed with a handful of friends who similarly loved God. She expanded those friendships through church camp, going to other youth groups and not being in the most popular clique. These girls went on youth trips and mission trips together, and similarly love God in their own ways. They still encourage and support each other today.
4. Give her opportunities to serve. When she first asked to go on short term mission trips, my fears were natural, but allowing her to serve God in these settings placed the burden for the orphans and underprivileged on her heart. When my instinct was to keep her close, I had to surrender my fears to God.
5. Support her call. She was five when she first evangelized to our unsaved neighbors after she heard about sharing the gospel at Bible Club. I wanted to tell her she couldn’t because “what would they think?” When she wanted to date God her senior year, I also questioned what others would think, but I saw her develop an intimate relationship with her Savior that changed me. When she wanted to go back to Guatemala again and again, I wanted to question the practicality of it, but I had to support her.
God says we are to raise our children to be arrows (Psalm 127:4), shooting them into the air to go far away, perhaps, where God has called them. There’s beauty and contentment in knowing your daughter has learned to listen to God. That’s a great reward.