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The Dynamics of Being a Dad on the Mission Field

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What’s it like being a dad on the mission field?
Being a dad on the mission field isn’t easy. Is there a way to balance Christian ministry with good parenting?
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By Galina Hitching, interview with Brian Janssen

What’s it like being a dad on the mission field? As the daughter of former missionaries, I’ve only looked at this question from the perspective of the child. Brian Janssen, a missionary in Taiwan, joined me to share his experience as a dad and to discuss the struggles and blessings of being a father in missions.

Q: How does being a Christian impact your role as a father?

“I think being a Christian should and hopefully does impact every aspect of my life. I think of my role as a father as one of the most important roles God has given me. It does impact the way I live and the way my kids are watching how I live my life.
It impacts the way I’m interacting with them and specifically what I am teaching them about how to live and how they can grow in their own faith.

I think of my role as a father as one of the most important roles God has given me.

I want my children to be grounded in understanding that the gospel is the reason we live the way we live… so they know the gospel and know that Jesus Christ died for their sins. I want them to learn they need to not only ask for forgiveness but to repent and turn to him on a daily basis to live out their faith.

I would say that my own Christian faith is impacting my life, which hopefully overflows into their lives in what I say and what I do. And also, my walk with Christ affects the way I treat my wife, Faith, and then other people.”

Q: Which comes first, work or family?

 “When I came to the mission field I remember saying, ‘I’m going to fail as a missionary before I’m going to fail as a dad.’

I’ve seen too many people who get so passionate about ministering to others that they forget God has given them an important role in loving their kids.

So, while my wife and I work really hard in what we do and we are passionate about what we do, we believe our ministry flows out of a health family life.”

Q: What do fathers need to learn?

“I would say, the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control … these things you want to be living out.

But, the command is actually to be filled with the Holy Spirit. So, I desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes in parenting, that patience part is hard. Maybe more for me than for others. I struggle to be patient, but I seek God’s strength to allow me to be patient at all times. But also, to know when to be firm with my children and to encourage them.

The culture of our world is shifting so fast I want my children to become young people of courage. I desire for them to live out their faith with courage, to love others boldly and to stand for what is right, even when it is difficult.

We have a lot of broken families around; to minister out of a broken family isn’t necessarily the best thing. We desire to live out a health family life that is grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ.”

Q: Should your children be a priority?

“I saw my parents’ love for us come first. At the end of the day my kids know we love them and that we would do anything for them.”

“I saw my parents’ love for us come first.”

“Last year I was out three nights a week for ministry. Then during some weeks, extra ministry activities came up and it became four or five nights. Faith and I talked about it and I decided to go down to two nights a week for ministry. With university ministry you’re often out of the home, plus I’m leading the team which has more responsibility. It’s a balance.

My kids know they are loved and they are a priority and if something came up that was important, I’d be willing to cancel commitments for them if needed.  They also understand that we are committed to ministry in Taiwan.  There are times when either myself or my wife will need to be gone during the week for ministry.

Our kids are a priority, but so is ministry.  We are called to make disciples here in Taiwan.  Most of those disciples are Taiwanese, but two of those disciples that we desire to grow in their faith are our daughter and son.”

Thoughts from a missionary’s daughter

 As I listened to Brian share his thoughts and experiences about being a father, I was surprised and encouraged by his desire to place his family before his ministry. In Christian ministry, the needs are great. When faced with these needs and the demands and expectations of others, it can be easy to lose sight of the legitimate needs of our family.

While Christ has called us to give up everything to follow him, he has also commanded us to love others. Your family, your children, are part of that command. As Brian shared, loving others begins with being filled with the Holy Spirit so we overflow with his love onto our family and then the world.

 If you are a father who is struggling to balance your calling and your relationship with your family, reach out to someone who can help. Your family needs you.

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