“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament sheweth his handywork.” —Psalm 19:1 (KJV) My favorite missions experience was our Acteens trip to help the Wyoming Rodeo Ministry. On this trip we were intentionally sharing the gospel with people we met. Though I have been involved in different missions events and activities, this trip taught me so much and was truly a treasured experience. Prayer I learned about the power of prayer on the missions trip to Wyoming. On the way to Wyoming we prayed over the trip, but we did not just pray for safe travels. We asked for boldness and guidance. We prayed that people would give their hearts to Christ and be saved. We prayed over our booth and for the people as they visited. While someone in our group was talking with a person about the gospel, another Acteen would pray for the person’s salvation. People were saved! Hearts were changed! God protected us! He gave us boldness and courage to continue sharing the gospel even though it was tiring. We gave God control and stepped out on faith! Faith During this time in Wyoming, this time of serving God, this time of worship and trusting God, I learned about faith. We prayed for hearts to be changed. We prayed, gave our words, deeds, and thoughts to Him. This taught me more about what it means to serve and have faith and that God is in control. While there, one night I prayed and I asked God to send someone to me who needed to be saved. I prayed that He would work in their hearts and let their hearts be open and hear God calling them. I asked Him to speak through me and bring people to Him. I wanted to see someone be saved — even if only one person. The next day I spoke with three people and God gave me the privilege to watch as they accepted Christ! I saw His power and wanted to sing! He spoke through me and He called them. All I did was let Him talk! He called them! He brought them to me and then spoke through me. They heard Him and accepted Him. Awe My time in Wyoming was a great time of learning and growing in my knowledge and awe of God. Learning about His majesty, His love, and His glory was such a privilege. I was able to grow stronger in my walk with Him. Seeing Him work through us each day to bring others to Him demonstrated His amazing power and great love. “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24 KJV). “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God,” (Rom. 13:1). I had the privilege to watch the beautiful miracle of someone coming to Christ and it caused my desire to glorify Him to intensify even more. Not only did I get the opportunity to witness many get saved, I also had the privilege to see a piece of God’s creation I had never seen before — mountains! As we drove through the Bighorn Mountains I was struck with awe. The God who made the majestic peaks which reflected the first light of the setting sun, turning them a glowing gold, is the same God who loved me so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and take away my sins. The God who made lakes like living blue mirrors which reflect the mountains and the sky around them perfectly is the same God who rose from the dead on the third day. The God who is bigger than the tallest peak or the loudest waterfall is the same God who lives in me and who is always walking with me. The missions trip to Wyoming taught me a lot about God’s power, glory, and love. I learned about prayer, faith, and letting God take control. I was able to see different kinds of beauty, God’s work, and what He can do. I saw a person get saved. Hannah Rickman, a 2023 National Acteens Panelist, is from Kingsville, Texas, and attends Retama Park Baptist Church.
What’s it like to have hundreds of thousands of Southern Baptists praying for you? Matt Lahey knows. Matt and his wife, Ruth, North American Mission Board missionaries in Saint John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, were featured in the 2023 Week of Prayer for North American Missions. “We got letters upon letters, so many we couldn’t count them all,” said Matt. “We’re used to working in the background because we’re here out here on an island. But those letters were deeply encouraging in a way words can’t express.” God used your prayers to produce an even more tangible benefit for Matt and Ruth. Last summer, the Laheys’ church plant, Kilbride Community Church, was forced to leave the community center where the church had been meeting, and Matt and Ruth were not able to find any other available, affordable space. But then, a Southern Baptist who’d been following their story stepped in and helped provide the congregation with a new, permanent home. In a community that up until recently had no evangelical witness at all, Kilbride Community Church is thriving and growing. “We have a new home where we can gather and not worry about losing it,” Matt said. “The Lord is moving powerfully here and in so many different ways. He used the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering to see His kingdom come and His will be done.” The 2024 Week of Prayer for North American Missions will be observed March 3–10. To learn more about how you can join in this season of prayer, visit wmu.com/aaeo and anniearmstrong.com. As you pray for the missionaries featured in the week of prayer and give generously to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, know your support has real and tangible effect.
With the end of Jesus’ earthly life drawing near, John 14 gives insight into one of His last conversations with His disciples. First, He tells them they shouldn’t let their hearts be troubled because He is going to prepare a place for them (vv. 1–2). Then, for those wondering how they will find this prepared place, He assures them that He is the way to get there (vv. 3–4). Throughout the dialogue, Jesus continues to remind them that He and His Father are one. In fact, He says that the Father lives and works through Him. More amazingly, for those who believe in Jesus — the Father can live and work through each of them and has the potential, through the living power working in them, to do even greater works than Jesus did. Wow! Jesus promises to send His disciples a helper, the Spirit, who will guide them, give them peace, advocate for them to the Father, and show them the truth. Lastly, Jesus reminds them in verse 23, that if they truly love Him, they will keep His commands and trust Him so they don’t need to fear a life without Him physically walking alongside them. I am a missionary in Botswana. I recently met a father who came to Botswana six months ahead of his family to prepare everything before their arrival. As I read John 14, I tried to think how to put this conversation in contemporary terms to better understand it. This man’s last conversation with his children probably went something like this, “I will be leaving you now. I know it may seem sad, but instead, you should be excited. When we reunite again, I will have a really cool place prepared for you. So don’t stress. I will see you again. And, I am not leaving you alone. Your mother is here, and she and I are one. We will talk and I will speak to you my children, through her. If you love me and trust me, please obey her. She represents me and it would bring me joy to know that you are obedient.” When parents ask children to be obedient, it isn’t to exert power. It is because parents truly do know what is best. As a parent, all I want is what is best for my children. Having lived life much longer, I have learned what I think is best and have established right from wrong. When I give instructions, it is solely out of love and a desire to see my children enjoy life to the fullest. However, many times my children don’t see this. They think I am trying to cramp their style. I totally understand why Jesus, who knows everything and has lived eternally, would tell His children, “If you love me, you will obey my teachings.” He knew what they would encounter. He knew the temptations and the persecutions they would face. He knew the doubts they would feel. In response to what He knew they would feel, He begs them to obey and reminds them that if they truly trust Him and love Him, they need to trust Him to guide them — even in His absence. Only in obedience to do what He has taught them can they live in the peace and power He wants to give them! Let me close with some of Jesus’ last words in John 14:25–27: “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV). If you are a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives inside of you. Experience His presence today as you obey and feel God within you. Ashley Thaba and her family live in Botswana where they use media as a platform to teach biblical family values on an international level. They do this through television in Botswana and through weekly national newspaper columns in Zambia, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. They also work with the government to lead village-wide campaigns that promote biblical family values.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace.” —Hebrews 4:16 (ESV) Prayer is a beautiful gift we have been given by our heavenly Father. And children’s leaders and parents have the special privilege of discipling children to pray. We can teach children to come before God with our praise and adoration, our worries and troubles, our joys and happiness; anything and everything, without ceasing, is sent before God as an offering. While prayer is certainly not something we are born knowing how to do, the more we practice praying — and show the children we lead how to practice — the easier prayer becomes. As we consider our Southern Baptist missionaries, it is humbling to realize we can participate in their work through prayer, which is able to break strongholds, open doors to the gospel, and protect the vulnerable in terrible situations. How can you help the children in your missions discipleship group (and their families) engage more in prayer, especially in prayer for our missionaries? Resources for Discipling Children to Pray Prayer Activities in Missions Journey: Kids Curriculum Every weekly session plan in Missions Journey: Kids Leader includes a prayertime activity that includes prayer for the missionaries featured for the month as well as for the “Missionaries of the Week” listed in Missions Journey: Kids Adventure. The prayertime activities are always interactive — possibly different from the way in which most children have been traditionally taught to pray. Different is good! As leaders, we want children to understand that there is no right or wrong way to come before God in prayer. If we are to pray without ceasing, that means we may pray while eating breakfast, pray while driving our car, pray while we teach, and so forth. Children can learn how to pray in any and every situation. Each quarterly issue of Missions Journey: Kids Leader also features a “Prayer Plan” article. This is a wonderful resource with lots of different, interactive ways to pray. You can use these ideas during sessions or make copies to send home with families. Encourage parents to pray at home with their children, so they have an opportunity to disciple their children in this practice as well. Parents can use some of the “Prayer Plan” ideas with their children to pray for the missionaries! Missionary Prayer Calendar WMU also offers a missionary prayer calendar that lists International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries on their birthdays. The missionary prayer calendar is published in Missions Mosaic, on our website at wmu.com/prayercalendar, and as a daily email. Click here to subscribe to the prayer calendar email or one of our other newsletters, including the Children’s Missions Newsletter! You can use it to pray for our missionaries, and you can use it in your children’s group sessions so you can pray for the missionaries with children. The “Missionaries of the Week” listed in Missions Journey: Kids Adventure are a selection from the main missionary prayer calendar. Let the families of children in your group know about the missionary prayer calendar, too, so they can also sign up for the daily email and pray. Weeks of Prayer for North American and International Missions The Week of Prayer for North American Missions held in March and the Week of Prayer for International Missions held in December provide special, focused time of prayer for Southern Baptist missionaries. Prayer guides and resources are available each year for the weeks of prayer. The prayer guides for each week of prayer provide brief stories of eight missionaries, plus prayer prompts for each one. This would be a wonderful tool for families to use as a devotional each night, and to help direct their prayers in a specific, needed way. If your church provides prayer guides for the weeks of prayer, give them to the families in your children’s group. You can also find the prayer guide for North American missions at anniearmstrong.com/resource/prayer-guide and the prayer guide for international missions at imb.org/pray/week-of-prayer. Prayer as a Part of Missions Melisa Argueta, whose family was featured in Missions Journey: Kids curriculum in January 2024, shared how much the prayers of all the groups meant to them: “We were chosen as the missionaries of the month of January by [national WMU], which means that many churches are praying for us, especially women and children. It has been an amazing experience. God has encouraged our hearts in a way I couldn’t explain.” Please continue praying for our missionaries and discipling children to pray. Please continue to equip the families you serve to pray. This is how we will continue to advance God’s kingdom!
This blog is part of a series on Fostering Healthy Minds in Children at Church that provides strategies children’s leaders can use to foster healthy minds in children to whom they minister. And, hey, you may even pick up a tip or two to help those in your personal circles! If you’re new to the series, we encourage you to check out the introduction here. Feeling connected and capable go hand in hand. When children feel connection and belonging, they are more likely to persevere and push through difficult tasks, demonstrating persistence and resilience. This translates into a child feeling capable. Feeling capable as an adult is a core belief molded early on, so this is one of the most important things children need to learn and know about themselves. And it’s a core belief you can help foster. No pressure! This concept goes beyond just making children feel like they could make a cute craft or complete a page in Missions Journey: Kids Adventure. As a leader, you are discipling children in how to pray for missions, learn about missions, support missions, and do missions and tell about Jesus. All of these characteristics require persistence and resilience. Here are some things you can do to help mold a healthy belief in children in your group that they are capable of doing hard things. Provide Opportunities As an adult, one of the hardest things is to let a child do something you really think is going to fail. Ask yourself, why are you scared of letting them fail? Hiccups and failures don’t have to be scary. They are opportunities for growth and learning. Don’t be afraid to let children try out their ideas or participate in challenging activities. Don’t steal their opportunities for growth! Validate Promote resilience while children learn they are capable by acknowledging a child’s emotions and challenges. When something goes awry with their plans, reflect (repeat) back to them that you understand it may be difficult and frustrating. Even if you think something is simple or easy, it may not be for the child. Let children know you are there and they aren’t alone. In any case, do not dismiss the difficulty for the child. Children’s perception is their reality. Focus on the P’s Two things leaders need to focus on during a challenge or a failure are process and progress. Let’s start with process. Too many times, both intentionally and unintentionally, society focuses on the end result and not the process. In fostering resilience and helping children overcome challenges, we have to focus on their process. Help children understand you care more about how they worked through a problem, regardless of the actual end result. Sometimes things don’t work out, and we can’t change that. In everything, a child is more than what they produce! (As a bonus, maybe this hits home for some of you chronic over-workers!) Now on to progress. It is imperative we focus on individual progress and goals when considering how to encourage resilience in children. Comparison truly does crush the soul. Make sure you praise and encourage individual growth and progress: One child’s 100% might look like another child’s 50%. And guess what? That’s OK! Everywhere we turn, comparisons to other peoples’ success are blasted in our face. This can do a number on our self-esteem if we aren’t careful. Let your group be one place children feel protected from comparison. Debrief What I am about to say is super important — the part your teacher tells you to highlight because it’s on the test: always debrief. When your group does something challenging, when something doesn’t go as planned, or even when you experience an epic fail, debrief! As someone with personal experience with epic fails, I can assure you this is crucial. As a group, or individually (depending), talk about what happened. Talk through what was hard and why. Talk about what you could do better next time. Talk about what went right. Address strengths and weaknesses. Finally, always talk about what you learned through the process. This helps everyone to process together what you experience and understand that mistakes, failures, and mess-ups are OK and ways we learn! As always, pray for the children in your group. God has a plan for them, whether it is as a construction worker, a mom, in a desk job, as a pastor, or even a missionary. No matter where God uses them, they will need resilience and persistence when they are faced with life’s challenges. Brooklyn Hancock is Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Registered Play Therapist, mom, and former Certified School Counselor. Her passions are working with children, adolescents, teens, adults, and parents to navigate life’s toughest challenges. Disclaimer: The information shared on wmu.com is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.