Confession 89: My Kids Don’t Like Church

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I don’t know how many of you are currently raising kids who don’t like going to church. But if so, I’m joining the club.

At ages seven and five, I find it a travesty that I am already facing this issue in my home. At that age, I thought church was the coolest place on earth. My friends at church were my closest friends. And I couldn’t wait for Sundays, Wednesdays, or other church events to roll around each week.

But in my house, on Saturday nights, without fail, I hear these words from my little ones:

Do we have to go to Haitian church?

Why can’t we go to English church?

The kids at Haitian church are mean.

I don’t understand Haitian church. 

It’s a fact: my kids are beginning to not fit in in their own country. Living in Haiti, without ever stepping foot on American soil, they are already becoming American. Being raised by two blans from Tennessee, this transition for them is inevitable. Put us in the states and the change in them would be considered natural. But for our family, who still resides in the birth country of our kids, the change from little Haitian children to little American children adversely affects many aspects of their life.

Six. That is how many times I heard someone at Emmaus House last week tell our kids in mid-conversation that they are forgetting their Creole. We speak some Creole in the house, especially when we discipline. And our kids hear Creole around Emmaus House, when we go into town, and at church. But a majority of their week is filled with their English speaking parents, English school, English music and films, and even those who speak English at Emmaus House. And so the more and more my kids are soaking up their second language, the more their first one is being diminished.

Besides language, their context is completely different than most kids in Haiti. They no longer relate or know how to socialize with the average Haitian child. They may live in the same culture as the kids around them, but their reality is extremely different. They live in a house with 24/7 electricity, eat mostly Americanized meals, have educated blans for parents, are homeschooled, have their own bedrooms and countless toys, and enjoy the luxuries most of the neighborhood kids could only dream about.

Not to mention their personalities are grossly different than most Haitian children. Their life experiences, the games they like to play, and they stories/jokes/memories they like to share aren’t typical down here. Although Nalandson’s favorite toy on the planet is his tin box of marbles, he has no idea how to make his own kite from plastic bags or a toy car made from a recycled Tampico bottle. And he took his first bucket shower the other night since moving out of his dad’s house almost two years ago.

Dalencia, who has lived with us twice as long as her brother, is even more far removed from her own culture. Just the other day, I had someone ask me if she was Jamaican because she has no trace of a Haitian accent. And with her favorite things under the sun being ballet, Frozen, and peanut M&Ms (She is MY girl, after all) other than the girls in her dance class, she barely knows how to relate to other Haitian girls her age.

Which takes us back to Haitian church. A place where all the kids in children’s church speak fluent Creole and zero English. A place where the Bible is read and songs are sung in French (A language my kids no nothing about). A place where a majority attend Haitian school and receive a far different education than my own. A place where the teaching style is simple rote memory and repetition (A learning style unknown at our homeschool table). A place where the kids dress the same, have similar homes, comparable routines, and have never heard of the movie Frozen. And even a place where kids treat my kids’ white parents as local celebrities. As my kids run out of their classroom to meet us on the street after church, they typically have to race and fight off a half-dozen other kids to get our attention first. Their fellow classmates want to touch us, grab for my long, straight hair, ask me for my jewelry, and look to Hunter for money. And when they don’t get the answers they like from us, they turn to Dalencia and Nalandson to assist them for a handout.

Because of this, my kids dread Sunday mornings. They beg us, often with tears streaming down their face, to go to church with other Americans. We do this periodically, both for our replenishment and their sanity. Worshiping with our American friends, our kids can pray, learn, socialize, and sing with others in their new language. There they can play with kids who look like them, speak like them, and who also love to sing Let It Go. There they can be seen with their parents and not feel different. There they can be themselves.

I hate Saturday nights. I hate them because I hate the church conversation with my kids. I hate that in effort to keep a good relationship with the local church and oversee our teens, I am having to push my kids’ needs aside. I want my kids to love the church like I grew up loving it. And at the pace we are going right now, Sunday mornings are their least favorite of the week.

So what is a mom supposed to do?

Honestly, I’m asking…

~ Jillian

Related Posts of Mine:

Confession #2: I’m a 1st World Gal Learning to be a Mother in the 3rd World

Confession #78: My Little Ones Have White Parents (and they are starting to notice) 

 

5 Comments on “Confession 89: My Kids Don’t Like Church

  1. Jillian, I haven’t met you, but it feel like I need to have you over for a cup of tea and a long chat. Our kids can play. Thanks for your heart and honesty. This post described so many of my feelings and questions to my own missionary parents growing up in Zimbabwe, I don’t know if I have one answer for you, but I can tell you that as difficult as it is… Keep doing it. Keep taking them, keep talking to them about why you’re doing the work you do with the Haitian church family. Keep helping them connect. There was always a bit of relief in my ten year old soul when we stayed in town for church on Sunday, going to the village took so much energy and time, and I didn’t always know what to do or say… But you know what? They are precious memories now. They are memories I am proud of, and my eyes fill with tears and my heart longs to hear the Shona hymns and smell the smoke of cooking fires and taste the love offered fellowship food.
    Things I wish my parents had encouraged more strongly: really, really learning the languages we we’re exposed to, more time in the places that were foreign to us, and more time as I grew older really learning names and faces
    Things they got so very right: listening, loving me when I was my bookish introverted self, allowing my brothers and me breaks from family ministry obligation, days off to be just family, and always always explaining what you’re called to do and why you want them to experience it.
    It’s hard, and now having littles of my own I marvel at how my parents, and grandparents raised us all to love the Creator and have balanced, almost normal lives in the big world… But I wouldn’t have it any other way… You’re teaching them to love the church, not just church service, that is the greatest gift.

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  2. Jillian, Stefani’s comment is wonderful! It is great to hear from someone who has “been there” and she offers excellent advice. On the other hand, they will be going to an English speaking school and someday they will live in America. No easy answer.

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  3. Pingback: Confession #93: I Quit Homeschooling (& I Don’t Feel Guilty) – Jillian's Missionary Confessions

  4. Why torture them? There is no real tangible way that you can teach your children how to be Haitian when you yourself are not. They will only be able to learn about this culture and people through Americanized eyes. Big deal. The most important thing they need are parents that love them, and teach them to love Christ and others. The rest that needs to fall into place, will do so of its own accord.

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  5. Does either church have a service at a different time so you could go to both? Can you take turns each Sunday? Or maybe just know, as young as they are, if the adoption is completed, and you move back here, they will be glad when they are older, for having memories of their birth culture. Plus, about the time other kids may be losing some interest in church here, when you move, your kids are are going to be thrilled with church here and are are going to set their youth group on fire when they come! I truly believe there are no wrong choices here, that there is no perfect answer as to how to have two very different cultures in you (I see this very much with my “African grandchildren” who live here. ) The important thing is they will know, and already do to some extent, that the same loving God is in both cultures. However you do it, there will be some conflict and confusion. It’s just the way it is. Part of the process. They may have a layer of conflict other kids don’t have but they will also have a rich multicultural layer of understanding and experience that others lack. Whatever God gives you, He provides and uses to the good. You are doing a wonderful job. And if this wasn’t the question of the moment, wherever you were, wherever your kids came from, there would still be these moments of wondering how to spare your children from some kind of pain or another. It’s universal. So take heart. And know they grow from experience, even painful ones, so long as they are loved and protected in the process. And they actually will feel safer, and grow stronger, when parents are calling the shots. One disadvantage we have as Americans, I think, is that we have this little part of us that thinks everything is supposed to be a democracy, and that everybody’s wants are equal. When this spills over into family life, things get a little messed up. It is absolutely good for your children to be shown, from an early age, that there are things bigger than them, that there are reasons they may not understand, and that obedience is important in a benevolent and loving family, and that their wants and desires are not the center of the earth. You’re doing a great job!

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