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What makes a Missionary Kid?

Missionary Kid (MK) Noah Gillham writes about how his experience as an MK in Namibia shaped his passion for mission. Noah’s parents are former CMS Missionaries Simon & Maggie Gillham, and Simon is the current Director for the Centre of Global Mission at Moore College. Noah continues to be involved in the work of CMS and other mission-related organisations on the home front.

As a Missionary Kid (MK), I’ve heard a lot of stories about myself that pop up in the middle of my parents’ talks. There’s the story where I asked my dad, “Wouldn’t it be great if you got sick and died?” (So he could be with Jesus, of course). There’s the one where I silently ate the inside of a loaf of bread on the way home from the shops, leaving the crust untouched so that no one would know what had happened.

But one of my favourites has to do with how we became a missionary family in the first place.

One day in the middle of CMS Summer School, after attending the primary school children’s program, I went back to mum and dad shocked and appalled. I had heard that there were people in the world who worship Mary! I thought that was ridiculous, and that we should go over and tell them about Jesus.

My parents had already been considering serving cross-culturally for a while. One day, they decided to ask my sister and I, “How would you feel about us going overseas as a family to tell people about Jesus?” We were both keen! And so, off we went (to summarise a rigorous, two-year process in three words) to Windhoek, Namibia.

As MKs, we were part of CMS

That simple question that my parents asked us was crucial to how my sister and I thought about our time over in Namibia. Even from such a young age, we were there to tell people about Jesus, we were part of CMS, we were working to see a world that knows Jesus.

That was why we all had to sacrifice comfort and relationships. My parents hadn’t forced this on me, we decided as a family and so I was committed. Dad was the one working at the Bible College, mum was the one teaching people English, but we were all there to serve God. The main way that I could serve God was to go to school, to make friends, to learn about God and his world and to gradually mature, the same way that I would have had to do if we were in Australia.

The most important news: Jesus saves

From the age of six, I was sold on the importance of sending cross-cultural workers to see the world know Jesus. I am even more passionate about this today. I knew even then that if Christians didn’t tell people about Jesus then the people wouldn’t know about him. And if they didn’t know about him then they wouldn’t trust and obey him. And if they didn’t trust and obey Jesus then they were headed to hell. And so we needed to make sure that Christians were going and telling everyone the amazing news: that Jesus saves!

From a young age, everyone understands that the better some piece of news is, the more we want to share it. If we tell our children that we have the best news in the world, then we better also be showing them how we’re sharing it!

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be a cross-cultural missionary for Jesus when we first went to Namibia. It took years before I understood the impact that that would have on me and my family. I thought that moving overseas would mean that we could speak other languages (I forgot about the whole learning part). I definitely didn’t realise when we first moved over that it would mean constant, life-long separation from at least some of my friends at all times.

But that didn’t stop me from being excited about mission and it didn’t stop me from understanding how important it was. Teaching children about what we are doing and what we are sacrificing for the spread of the gospel, shows them just how good this news about Jesus is.

A missionary kid turns into a mission-minded adult

One of the biggest influences on my decision to follow Jesus and tell the world about him has been seeing the commitment and faithfulness of the believers who make daily sacrifices to see the gospel go out. Meeting people who had left their family and friends behind to evangelise on the other side of the planet. Meeting parents who endured through seeing their children in pain because for them it was worth sacrificing their children’s comfort to help bring one more person come to know Jesus. Meeting families who denied themselves the latest technologies or luxurious trips so that they could give a little extra money to the spreading of the gospel. I was (and still am) stunned at just how much God’s people are willing to give up to serve him.

I am immensely grateful that my parents and CMS encouraged and challenged me to think about being on mission for Jesus from a very young age and their influence has continued to shape me, even now as an adult.

That is one of the reasons that I am a director for CMS Camp Milimani, a camp that aims to teach primary school aged children about the good news of Jesus and what he is doing in the world through CMS. I want to do my best to make sure that some other little primary school boys and girls hear about people in the world who don’t know Jesus and are shocked and appalled. Maybe even enough to convince their parents to do what they can to see the world come to know Jesus.

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Interested in mission and want your children on board? Check out our resources for kids to get your kids learning and praying about the life of families on mission.