“I have decided to follow Jesus.”

As a child, I remember singing that with all the passion my little heart held. One of the verses says: “Though none go with me, still I will follow…” While that should be the commitment of every Jesus follower, it sort of leaves out the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Simply defined, making disciples is:  I follow Jesus and you follow me as we both follow Jesus together.

My husband, Trever and I were married on December 29, 1980 on the west coast of Canada. That was long before the elaborate “theme weddings” of today were trendy. In the presence of loving family and friends, we ate our wedding feast under a banner that read, “Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus.” We covenanted Hebrews 12: 1-3 as our life theme.

For the first few years of marriage, God led Trever and I to work with a public high school ministry and pastor our church youth. After our first son was born, we adopted the lifestyle of many Christian parents in a western culture, dividing our days between Mornings Out For Moms, young families Bible Study, parents & tots swimming lessons, “The Strong-Willed Child” rulebook, summer BBQs with doting grandparents. We felt surrounded by godly people who discipled and encouraged us.

a restlessness to look beyond our boundary lines began to grow in us

Then God stirred up the pot of our lives—a restlessness to look beyond our boundary lines began to grow in us. We prayed, fasted and waited on God until He made it clear that He was calling us to a different flavor of life than we had known to that point.

When you begin to cook ethnic foods, you usually have to put aside the ingredients that are familiar to you and experiment with new and exotic ones. That was what leaving our own culture for new unfamiliar ones felt like. With a two babies in tow, we began a journey that took us to the USA, Costa Rica and finally Colombia, S.A.

Crossing borders into different lands forces us to not only examine our new host culture but also our own. We grow up thinking there is a “right” way to do something, but that way just doesn’t fit in another culture or may be misunderstood by those who live with different values or customs. As foreigners in another culture, we are constantly watched, questioned, even critiqued.

In Colombia, we found that to be true especially in the way we lived as a family. We had left a culture that places a high value on things like safety, individual achievement, and thriving through personal responsibility and moved to one that values survival, community achievement, and fatalism (“si Dios quiere”- if God wills it).

With such differing values, how would we know what to retain from our own culture and what to adopt from our host culture and above all, what was best for our kids? Without the support of our culture, church, family and friends, we found ourselves crying out to God to show us His culture – the way to live that would find favor with Him and with Colombians.

seeing our children as disciples really transformed our approach to parenting

Jesus challenged us: If life-on-life discipleship was His call on our lives, then with our children we should naturally have a 24/7 opportunity to live out that call. I think that seeing our children as disciples really transformed our approach to parenting.

If you study Jesus’ purpose of discipleship in the Gospels, it is that His disciples would know, love, obey and be like the Father. Intimacy with the Father is what He modeled to his disciples, so that they would have intimacy with Him also. Because of the Holy Spirit’s wise instruction, discipleship has been and still is our parenting model.

How would we teach children to love and forgive their enemies, be generous to strangers, rejoice in suffering, be peacemakers when as parents we were really learning those things ourselves? In His loving kindness, God led Trever and I through some “thick stews,” in order to teach our children to follow Him also.

As we spoke out forgiveness and God’s mercy over evil men, our children did the same

With guns pointed in our faces, and violent threats shouted over us by our captors, just imagine the joy we felt, seeing our children kneel with us and sing, “But in you I trust, O LORD; You are my God. My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.” (Psalm 31:14-16).

As we spoke out forgiveness and God’s mercy over evil men, our children did the same. As we praised God over and over again for preparing, in the presence of our enemies, a feast of His indescribable peace, our children learned to walk in the same attitude of peace and praise.

Discipling our children in a cross-cultural context, has undoubtedly been the most challenging calling God has placed on our lives. But we wouldn’t trade it for any other! Our three children are all young adults now who passionately love God and love others. We bless them to carry on the commission of making disciples of all the nations as well as the children God will give them!

Joan Godard
and Trever are missionaries in Guadalajara, Mexico. They lead a ministry called the Matthew Training Center (www.matthewtrainingcenter.org) committed to discipling and training workers to serve among the nations, who in turn make disciples in God’s Kingdom for His Glory. They have three young adult children: Aaron (married to Carly), Silas & Kenia.