by Jill Richardson
Our almost-twelve-year-old daughter, Becca, rocked the Chinese baby slowly,
back and forth, her voice low and soothing. “It’s OK, Amber. You’re OK with me.
Such a sweet baby.” She touched the infant’s upper lip, gently but without
hesitation. She traced the indentation there, a lip shaped in an odd way she’d
never seen before. The deformity had caused this baby’s mother to abandon her at
a hospital, but it didn’t offend her new champion. “How could anyone ever leave
you? I wouldn’t leave you. I love you, Amber.”
My husband and I had talked about the idea of a short-term mission
trip for three years, but it never seemed to feel quite right. Yet as our
girls got older, I saw them adapting more and more to our relatively
easy life in the suburbs. Most of the kids in their schools look, dress,
and think alike. Most live in well-above-average homes. For those
willing to pay (and most around here are), every want and need can
be found within a fifteen- minute drive. Yes, we went to church every
week and learned the evils of sin, but what about the evils of
complacency? I feared that our culture of prosperity and instant
gratification would slowly numb them into being careless Christians,
unaware of and unconcerned with the hurting world beyond their
Being countercultural shouldn’t be news for Christians. Jesus sent us
“into the world” (John 17:18) yet maintained that we were “not of this
world” (John 17:16). For 2,000 years, we’ve been trying to puzzle
through exactly what that means. Not only what He meant, but how
to apply that meaning in every generation.
In the early church, it required refraining from pagan sexual practices
and idolatry. It also motivated early Christians to care for the poor,
orphaned, widowed, sick, and enslaved with sacrifices their “world”
could not understand.
In our age, being “in the world but not of it” has become a cliché. “Not
of” translates almost always into a list of things Christians shouldn’t do
in order to “prove” they’re Christians. For most of the things on our
list of “thou shalt nots,” there is wisdom in not doing them. It’s not a
The problem with lists is that, when we make one, we think we’ve got
the requirements for the test down. We believe we can get an A with
God if we just complete the list. That’s what the rich young ruler
thought. But God wanted an entirely different view of “in the world
but not of it” from this young man.
“Someone came to Jesus with this question: ‘Teacher,
what good things
must I do
to have eternal life?’ Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be
perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and
you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the
young man heard this, he went sadly away because he had many
possessions.” (Matthew 19:16, 21-22)
Jesus offers this advice to the young man—Quit making lists. Quite
trying to follow the rules. Actually, try breaking some. Try showing
the world that something else entirely has gotten hold of your heart.
Try showing them what it’s like to love God more than any thing in
The message didn’t sit well with the young man. If Jesus walked
through the suburbs of Chicago where we live, it wouldn’t sit well
here either. I’m glad our kids have grown up knowing Christians try to
steer away from lifestyles that can harm them. But I don’t want them
to grow up believing that living counter to their culture just means
avoiding premarital sex and violent video games. I want them to see
how their particular culture seeps into
every part of their lives. I want
them to understand that what their peers believe about the world can
affect the central values of their lives, values they don’t even realize
We know how our kids feel about drugs, alcohol, and spending their
life savings in Vegas. At least, we know what we’ve taught them. But
do we know how they feel about having too much
stuff? If they know
when enough is enough? Their convictions about confronting racism
or championing the discarded? Do we know if they feel entitled to
what they want when they want it? Do we comprehend the pressures
to be beautiful, athletic, and perfect—and the values these pressures
is the culture we wanted our kids to begin consciously running
counter to. Being “not of the world” around here means living values
that aren’t all about getting more, buying bigger, overscheduling, and
overachieving. I suspect that’s what the world looks like to a lot of
people reading this book as well.
Why take our kids on a mission trip? To open their eyes to a world
where the values they see around them daily at home appear for what
they are—false gods. Meaningless chasing of the wind. To encourage
them to live as if something—or someone—else entirely has gotten
hold of their hearts.
“It’s time to go back to the hotel, Becca.” I peeked into the nursery doorway and
whispered so as not to disturb Amber.
“I don’t want to leave her, Mom.”
“She’s sleeping, sweetheart. You can put her in bed. We’ll be back.”
Becca looked at the sleeping child. “When will she have her surgery?” The
orphanage now routinely funded the surgery for cleft palates.
“I don’t know. I don’t know how old they have to be. They say the babies come out
of the surgeries with hardly a scar. They’ll make her little mouth beautiful.”
“I don’t want to leave her.”
“Mom?” She set the little girl gently into the crib. “What?”
“She’s already beautiful.”
To finish reading this book, purchase Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids on Amazon.com.
About the Author
Jill has a BA in English and Education from Washington University
in St. Louis and an MDiv in theology from Bethel University, St.
Paul. She is an award-winning writer and speaker. Jill has published
three books and numerous articles in and speaks in Chicago and
She serves as an Associate Pastor at Resolution Church in Naperville,
Illinois. Jill performs musical theater in her community, serving as a
board member, director, and producer for Acorn Community Theater.
She coaches the local junior high Battle of the Books team, is Vice
President of her library board, and plays counselor, coach, and referee
to three daughters.
Contact Jill at: