Doctors have an essential job to do. We don’t expect them also to do the laundry, wash the floors, answer the phone, schedule appointments, restock medicines and manage the finances. A doctor has specialised training and skills to heal sick people, and the more time the doctor spends doing other things, the less time is spent seeing patients.

Of course, if the laundry never gets washed, or the medicines ordered, the patients won’t get better, so those support roles are critical to helping doctors do their jobs. Good support work makes the up-front work possible.

The same is true in missions and church planting. Front-line missionaries can focus on their work when other missionaries help manage the legal requirements, education, and other support areas.

Education really matters. Think about it. If you have kids, does their well-being affect your focus at work? Do you know anyone who moved because they wanted a better school for their kids? Who changed jobs because of their children’s educational needs? When God gives children, He gives their parents a responsibility to care for them, and that doesn’t stop if He also gives the parents a calling to reach the lost.

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What about homeschooling? That works well for some kids. Not for others. Not for every parent, either (as many found out during the COVID lockdown). It always takes time, energy, and planning – and even more so if you live in the middle of nowhere, with lousy internet, no library, no museums, no camps, and no other homeschoolers to connect with. Many missionary families homeschool, especially when their children are young. The older the kids get, the harder it is – academically and socially. In some areas of Senegal, all the teenage boys have left in the hope of finding jobs or continue their schooling in the city. Most of the teenage girls are engaged or married. Even if missionary kids have good local friends, they need broader socialisation as they prepare for their futures elsewhere.

What about a local school? Again, that works well for some kids. Not for others. Some questions to consider: What language is it in? Does your child speak that language? Do you? Can you help with homework or talk to teachers? What is the quality of education like? Is beating normal? Is paying a bribe expected so students pass? In Senegal, primary classes aren’t allowed to have more than 81 students in one classroom…

Each child is unique, and each family, and each location and ministry. International Christian schools, both boarding and non-boarding, support the families of missionaries by providing excellent education in a Christ-centered community. They aren’t right for every child, but for many, they are. It takes perseverance and time to learn languages, build relationships, and establish ministries – and staff in international schools help those front-line people to continue to share the gospel with people who have never heard.

Joelle is a teacher at Bourofaye Christian School in Senegal.

Adapted from Education Really Matters which appeared in the autumn edition of GoInto, published by WEC NZ.