Leslie Basham: Do you approach parenting with a mission mindset? Ann Dunagan casts a vision for your children.
Ann Dunagan: This world needs men and women of character, men and women of integrity, of deep, fervent devotion for God, not only as missionaries, not only as pastors of churches, but as men and women of God who are leaders in this world in all these different spheres of influence in society.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, November 22.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As you know, at Revive Our Hearts, we talk a lot about this issue of legacy—not only living out a love for Christ and faith in Him and a vibrant, vital walk with Him, but having a heart to pass the baton of faith on to the next generation and to see seeds of purity and passion for Christ and ministry-mindedness passed on to that next generation.
I am so grateful to be the produce of a family that was mission-minded, to have had parents who were intentional about teaching the seven children in my family the Word of God, the ways of God, and cultivating in us a heart to live for the Lord, not for ourselves, but to be mission-minded.
We’re going to talk over these next couple of days about some of the ways that took place in my family, but I’m excited to have with me in the studio today a new friend. Her name is Ann Dunagan, and she’s a woman after my own heart. She’s written a book called The Mission-Minded Family.
Ann, welcome to Revive Our Hearts. Thank you so much for joining us for this conversation.
Ann: Oh, thank you, Nancy. I am very honored to be here.
Nancy: What you’ve written about in this book, and more than that, what you have lived in your life and your family, is something that resonates deeply with me. It’s something that I have a passion for and something that we want our listeners to have a passion for as well.
I want our listeners to get to know you. You are a wife and a mom. Tell us a little bit about your family because that’s at the heart of what God has led you to do in ministry.
Ann: I am very happily married to my husband John. We’ve been married for almost 24 years, and we have seven children, currently ages 8 to 22. We’re homeschoolers, so I’ve been teaching our kids at home. We’re finishing up our 18th year of homeschooling. We homeschooled all the way through high school, so we have three graduates.
Nancy: I still think mothers are the ones who should get the awards for this. You go to these homeschool graduations, and it’s the kids getting the awards, and I think, “Those moms deserve, like, serious medals.”
Ann: I do think at a homeschool graduation the parents do feel it very deeply. I actually faced a huge wall with homeschooling when my oldest one graduated from college, and I still had a first grader at home. It’s like realizing, “Oh my! We're running the marathon. We still have a long ways to go.” It’s kind of like getting up to the starting line again, but God’s grace is new every morning.
My husband and I, we have a passion for the nations. We have a passion for God’s Great Commission and extending God’s kingdom to wherever He calls us to go. Something that is deep in my heart is encouraging families to expand God’s kingdom and fulfill His Great Commission in whatever sphere of influence you are called to reach.
We’re not all going to be boarding planes and heading off to Zimbabwe or heading off to Tanzania or to India. However, we all need to have this mindset that wherever God has us, we’re His ambassadors.
So we have been just raising and training our children. We have traveled on many different outreaches, different trips. We’ve been in full-time ministry, though every single Christian is in full-time ministry.
Nancy: Whether they realize it or not.
Ann: Exactly, whether they realize it or not. We have been involved in Christian missionary work for the last, about 23 years. We have been able to go to many different places. I’ve been to like 29 nations around the world. My husband’s been to about 60. Actually, all 7 continents. We’ve got quite the stories about how God even called my husband to go to Antarctica to preach the gospel.
And then along the way, we’ve just been raising and training our kids to see the needs overseas, see the lost, of going to places where the gospel has never been, of rescuing orphans and pulling little kids off the streets. It has absolutely transformed even our philosophy of parenting, the way we train our kids, the way we raise our kids.
In writing The Mission-Minded Family, part of it is I want to convey just the light from the Word of God of the need for the gospel and also to convey the darkness that we have seen in the different places around the world.
Nancy: And you want your children to have that heart for the nations as well.
I think sometimes when you think about missions, you think, “How could you do that with seven children?” That’s something you do when you’re single or when you’re in college or an empty-nester, or the youth group does a mission trip, but you’re saying missions really can be and should be a family mindset, not just an individual mindset.
Ann: Absolutely. God has called our families, even corporately together, with a unique combo of gifts. A husband and wife together have a unique combination of ministry skills and giftings that can impact society. It is so powerful when a family just loves God and is healthy and has fun but that is also being effective for the kingdom of God.
I’m talking about being effective for the kingdom of God out on the soccer field, effective for the kingdom of God like when you’re in an airport and people just seeing how you are interacting together as a family, how you are at church, how you are in the neighborhood. God just wants us as a family to be a light.
Nancy: Yes, a shining light. This is really a counter-cultural way of thinking even for many Christians, sadly. We talk a lot on Revive Our Hearts about this counter-cultural revolution of women who swim upstream against the culture. They say, “We want to be God’s women in this dark world.”
It’s counter-cultural when it comes to family today, don’t you think, to be mission kingdom minded? I mean, really, the prevailing mindset seems to be a lot more self-centered, building children to have self-esteem, to make worldly goals. Do you see this around you?
Ann: Absolutely, and even just as Christian women, sometimes there’s this inward striving of, “I want to do something big for God. I don’t want to just stay home. I don’t want to just be sweeping the same floor over and over again.” But God has a passion for our homes just as He has a passion for us to take the gospel to the nations.
Something that God has really put in my heart is that there is a divine balance for each day inside of Christian families.
I remember there was this one time my husband was taking some different mission trips, going and doing evangelism in some remote places. At this time, we had four little ones at home, and I wanted to go so badly. “I want to go. Can’t I go?” My husband just really felt, “Right now, you are needed here at home.”
There was this one day I got very frustrated, and I just told my husband, “What do you want me to do? You want me to just sit around here on the couch and just read story books?” He looked at me, and he said, “Yes.”
Those kids are now grown up. Those kids, they finished up high school, they went off to college, a couple of them are done with college, and they love God, and they love me and my husband. We’re a close-knit family, and it is because we were willing to invest time with our children and be with them and play with them and read to them.
Nancy: But as you were doing that, you weren’t doing it just so they could be happy and have successful lives. You really have done it with a view toward those children being kingdom-minded.
Ann: Yes. I would read good story books. Even just reading books to our kids that would instill in them a fervent heart for God.
Nancy: What kind of books?
Ann: Oh, some of my favorites are The Christian Heroes: Then and Now, missionary biographies, just being able to read about men and women of God like Amy Carmichael or about David Livingstone or Lauren Cunningham.
Nancy: I have to tell you, I teethed on those kinds of books, on Christian biographies, missionary biographies. We didn’t have a television in our home when I was growing up, for which I will be eternally grateful. Of course, we didn’t have computers, laptops and iPhones, cell phones, video games, and all those technologies either, but we did have good books, and I loved to read. I still do. I have one of the greatest collections of Christian biographies.
As a little girl, my heart was so inspired and inflamed with love for Christ and a passion to serve Him because my parents made available to us good books of men and women who had been faithful servants of the Lord. Those were my heroes growing up. It wasn’t sports figures or entertainment figures or actors or actresses or celebrities of the world sort.
It was the Amy Carmichaels and the Hudson Taylors and the George Muellers and the Gladys Aylwards. Those were my heroes, and that’s where God really lit in my heart a passion to serve Christ and to be kingdom-minded. So I’m a big fan of this reading good books to your kids, getting good books in their hands.
Let me just say, we’ve posted on ReviveOurHearts.com a list of some of those books that you and I recommend that listeners may want to check out. There’s so many good series available today that weren’t as available when I was a little girl. What a great thing to cultivate in your children a heart and a hunger for knowing and serving the Lord through that kind of reading.
Ann: And even just to instill in our children that it’s not just what they do. The bull's-eye is knowing Him, that we would just train our kids to pray, to train our kids to love the Bible itself. That’s the best Book ever to read to our children, to read aloud to our kids—the Bible, and get them to learn how to read the Bible.
Nancy: Did you find that your children were all receptive and responsive to this kind of influence? Were there some that didn’t seem to have quite as much interest? How did you cultivate that interest in them?
Ann: Even just realizing that God has unique calls and purposes for each one of our children. When the Bible talks about “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV). In the Amplified, it says, “Train up a child in the particular bent.” There’s a particular talent, different character traits that God has uniquely equipped each one of our children.
We need to get out of our heads that a missionary is just this Indiana Jones sort of character that puts on a leather jacket and a hat and trudges off to the remotest jungles in Africa, and you hear the beating of the tribal drum and people are dancing around the fire. Missions is getting God’s heart; it is just knowing Him and allowing for His presence to flow through us in whatever sphere of influence God is going to call each one of our children.
So to train them up to love God and to know Him, to begin to develop the gifts and talents that God has given each one, and that they would hear His voice and His direction, whether that is to go into a city, whether it’s to go into media, whether it is to go into the education system, to go into business, to go into politics, to go into the military.
This world needs men and women of character, men and women of integrity, of deep, fervent devotion for God, not only as missionaries, not only as pastors of churches, but as men and women of God who are leaders in this world in all these different spheres of influence in society.
Nancy: Where did you get this heart?
Ann: A heart for Jesus? Oh, I have loved Jesus ever since I was very little. My mother led me to the Lord when I was three. I grew up in a beautiful Christian home. My dad was a high school teacher, coached golf. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who was just always there, and my mother loves the Bible. She just has such a love for the Word of God.
Nancy: Is that something you caught early on?
Ann: Yes. There was one time when I was at a camp when I was eight years old, and a teacher . . . It was a family camp, actually, but the children were having a little class, and there was a teacher that encouraged the children, “Take your little, worn-out Bible and go out into the woods and believe for God to give you a reference or something.”
So I went out into the woods, and I just prayed. I said, “God, could You speak to a little girl like me?”
The thought came to my mind, “Jeremiah—read Jeremiah, chapter 1.” My initial thought, which now I really believe was also direction from the Lord, was, “Oh, my! Jeremiah—that’s full of confusing words and hard names.” And when the book starts out, it is filled with names and confusing words. “The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests . . .”
But then Jeremiah chapter 1, verse 4 says,
The word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! I cannot speak, for I am a youth." And the Lord said to me: "Do not say, I am a youth," You will go to all whom I will send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak (verses 4-8, NKJV).So that was something that grew in me from the time I was a young girl, and God has just been very faithful.
Nancy: And then God gave you a husband who had a similar heart.
Ann: He did. In fact, we were pretty young. We had both just graduated from high school, and my husband was coming in to be a guest speaker at our youth group. At the time, I looked like I had my whole act together. I did love the Lord, but there was a period of time during my last year of high school where there was some compromise in my life, and there was some areas of rebellion.
I looked like Miss Leader of the youth group. I was up there leading worship; I was one of the leaders there. But this guy came in, and he was like a soccer star and loved Jesus. So he was coming to share about “daring to be different and encouraging the young people in that room to allow no compromise in your life of the type of music you listen to, the type of music and the type of movies you watch, the decisions that you make, the friends that you have. No compromise.”
I just remember looking at him, and I was very convicted. At the end of the service, I went up and talked to him. I had kind of my reasoning in my head that I’d allowed these little inroads of junk, sin, into my life. So I asked him, “I work as a waitress in a restaurant, and there are times that I don’t get off work until 2 o’clock in the morning. Sometimes I need to have a radio going on to be able to keep awake. I don’t get any Christian stations, and so sometimes I listen to a soft rock station. It’s not too bad. Is that really that big of a deal? Is that okay?”
It was so awesome. He just looked at me and looked me in the eye, and he said, “Can I ask you an honest question?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “How’s your prayer life?” I just shook my head and just said, “It could be better.” It dug deep.
He said, “Well, you know what? I just challenge you. Next time you go to work, just turn that radio off and pray. Pray for the people you’re going to work with. Pray for the people that are going to come in that restaurant, and see what will happen.”
So the next day I turned off my radio, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing to say here—those of you who are listening to good stations, you keep your radio on because this is a good program. But I turned off my radio, and I prayed. I prayed for the people who I was going to be working with.
That day, the restaurant was really slow, and there was a woman in her 30s who came up to me out of the blue, and she said, “My sister, lately, she has been talking about how you’ve got to be born again to go to heaven. What do you think about that?”
Ann: I was just blown off my feet. I’d worked there for a year and a half, and I’d never had a chance to share my faith before. And without me even initiating a conversation, someone came up to me and said, “Will you please witness to me?”
So that was a very influential turning point in my life. When I drove home that day, I was just praising God in the car, and just thinking, “God, You are so real, and You are so big, and I do not want any compromise in my life. I just want to fulfill Your purpose. I want to serve You with all, everything, 100 percent, and I repent of this, and I repent of that.” I was just asking God to come in and direct my life.
Then we even got to see each other again, and I told him the story. He thought it was kind of cool that someone had actually listened to what he had preached about. Then two years later, we were married, and we have now been married for 23, almost 24 years.
Nancy: How neat it is to see the way that God put two kindred spirits together. I think some people could listen to your energy and your enthusiasm and wholeheartedness and think, “Well, that’s Ann Dunagan. God didn’t make me quite that way” or “That’s a little extreme.”
Certainly everybody doesn’t need to be that way, but I’m thinking back to that verse in Jeremiah chapter 1 where God says to Jeremiah what I believe is true of all of us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; and before you were born I sanctified you” (verse 5). We have been set apart, before the foundation of the world, to be consecrated to God for His purposes, for His kingdom purposes.
What you’re talking about . . . We have different personalities. We may express it differently, but God has called each of us to have a heart that is wholly Christ's—no compromise; passionate devotion and love for Christ; living our lives not for our sakes, not for our kingdoms, but for His kingdom; to only only have that kind of life, but to influence the next generation, the children God has given to you; to believe that this is God’s calling and commission and purpose for their lives; to fulfill whatever it is that He made them to do and to be.
So this isn’t something that's a way of life just for some small minority, very pious missionary types. You’re really talking about a calling and a lifestyle for every child of God.
Ann: The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that we are ambassadors for Christ. Part of this verse says, “as though God were pleading through us.” God has a passionate love for this world. “As though God were pleading through us: I implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (NKJV). There is a passionate love for a very lost and hurting world.
We don’t all have the same personalities; we’re not all outgoing. Some people are shy. I once heard somebody say, “How can I share my faith? I’m a shy person.” I heard someone say, “Well, you can witness to shy people.” There’s no excuse. We have the light of Jesus Christ, and this world desperately needs God. God wants to plead through us to see His kingdom expand here on this earth. That’s what it means to be mission-minded.