If we’re honest, sometimes, we are afraid that following Jesus is going to be too costly for ourselves or our children. What if my obedience to Christ turns my children off to following Jesus themselves or it makes them lose out on some amazing opportunities that they may otherwise have? Today, I am having a conversation with the son of one of this past century’s greatest missionaries. You will hear how a childhood spent with parents who were radical in their obedience to Christ prepared him for what God had in store for his life.
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Sometimes we let our children be an excuse to not obey the Lord. As if God can’t take care of them as well if we do what God asks of us. Our guest today is Dr. Samuel Thomas, who is a native of India. He is the president of Hopegivers International, which provides “help for today, hope for eternity” by rescuing orphaned, abandoned, and at-risk children, and assists the needy and oppressed in collaboration with their ministry partners. Hopegivers is dedicated to fulfilling the Great Commission through the empowerment of the gospel. Over the last 60 years, God has used the ministry to plant 70,000 churches and transform the lives of tens of thousands of children. Dr. Thomas grew up in the home of Hopegivers founder, Dr. M.A. Thomas. As a child, the faith and obedience of M.A. Thomas helped shape Samuel for the calling that God has on his own life. He is here to speak about the importance of his parents’ faith and ministry on his formative years, and how serving God and obeying His call on our lives will enable our children to become heirs of the kingdom of God.
S.T.: I grew up in a pastor’s home, who was a man of God. Growing up in the home, what I remember the most is that no matter what, the kids did not start the day without family prayer. At 5:30 in the morning, we had to wake up and read one chapter of Proverbs together. My parents were most concerned that we learn these principles in life:
- Not to lie
- Not to cheat
- To respect our elders
- And to see if we can solve the problem instead of creating the problem
Even if I didn’t join my parents in prayer, my father wanted to instill in me the importance of prayer. My parents served the Lord and believed that the children should be trained in that as well.
J: What did serving the Lord look like in your family?
S.T.: My parents were trying to encourage me that there’s nobody better in life to ask for your things than God. My dad always said: There’s nothing more glorious than serving God. My dad realized that the best way to reach the country without bringing in missionaries from the outside was to raise orphans, who know the language and the culture, to be heirs to the kingdom of God – to raise them to know God and send them back to the people. That is what we do. We now have 47 homes taking care of children all across India. Now Hopegivers has over 70,000 churches through the children who grew up in the homes. Our hope at Hopegivers is not to give every luxury to the child. But every child should have food, clothes, soap, and access to medical facilities; every child should read the Bible (morning, afternoon, and evening). We want to make sure that no child in our orphanage feels like they are an orphan. We give them all the love and care that they need. You cannot ask for a more cursed situation than to be an orphan. Growing up in our home, growing up in the orphanage, its all about knowing that there is God who loves you, who fearfully and wonderfully has made you, and there’s a purpose in their life.
J: Sometimes parents can be called to do something for the Lord, but shrink back in fear that they’re going to be robbing their children by doing it. As your parents obeyed God in their own lives, how did this affect you?
S.T.: Firstly, I thought that they were taking advantage of me because I had no choice. But they were not doing that. They were teaching me how to be unselfish. They were teaching me how to care for others. Did they take away my freedom? No. Did it make me uncomfortable? Yes. But the reality is that there was something my father wanted to train in me. That’s where I learned to value people not possessions. Value relationship, not education. I would not trade growing up in the home that I did. I am thankful to God for the hardship that we had that did not actually take things away; it actually taught me things that I would never have learned in college.
J: High character is not formed from a cushy life. High character is formed when you are pushed out of your comfort zone and you learn that you are not the center of the world and that you’re not in charge of things. It’s through suffering and sacrifice that our character is really formed.
S.T.: Parents, God has given you the greatest wealth, greatest inheritance, greatest treasure – that’s your children. They’ll speak for you for ages to come if you raise them to be heirs for Christ. If you can learn from God how to be humble and if you can learn from God how to love people, no country can stop you from being a missionary for God.
J: You don’t have the luxury of spoiling the orphans, except at Christmas through Hope Chest. What is Hope Chest?
S.T.: Most of the children we bring to the orphanage don’t have any possessions. So, in October and November, we have a tailor come in and measure the children for a new girl’s outfit or boy’s outfit. They will get a pair of shoes, socks, a couple of undergarments, a blanket, a sweater, toiletries, a plate, and a glass. These hope chests are made from a cloth bag or vinyl material. For the entire year, this is the children’s closet. The orphans who have left will tell you that the best moments of their lives were when we gave them the hope chests. Are they spoiled? No. Are they grateful? Yes.
J: Every Christmas, my family tries to think of some way that we can honor Jesus. The past several years, one of the ways we have done this is to give money to Hope Chest. $50 dollars will provide a complete hope chest. This might be a really good entry point for your family. Please, try and make Christmas about Jesus and not about the accumulation of stuff.
J: How can we pray for you, Dr. Thomas?
S.T.: Pray that we will never lose focus – that is to glorify Christ by taking care of the orphans. Glorify Him by life or death. May we continue to finish well.