Season 2 | EPISODE 2

How Children’s Ministry Is More than Merely Childcare

1:01:33 · May 2, 2023

In this episode, Jim engages in a thought-provoking conversation with Debbie Harrell, a seasoned expert on child development and education, to explore the intricate dynamics of parenting and children’s ministry. Debbie sheds light on the challenges we face as imperfect caregivers and the unique experiences of children, including third-culture kids. Their discussion encourages us all to see children’s ministry not merely as childcare but as a profound kingdom-building opportunity that actively nurtures and shapes the identities of the next generation.

In this episode, Jim engages in a thought-provoking conversation with Debbie Harrell, a seasoned expert on child development and education, to explore the intricate dynamics of parenting and children’s ministry. Debbie sheds light on the challenges we face as imperfect caregivers and the unique experiences of children, including third-culture kids. Their discussion encourages us all to see children’s ministry not merely as childcare but as a profound kingdom-building opportunity that actively nurtures and shapes the identities of the next generation.

In this episode, they discuss...

  • How childcare teaches us about who we are [0:23]
  • Strategies for reaching a child’s heart and trusting God’s transformative power [12:07]
  • Teaching children about actions and consequences without shame [22:56]
  • Insight into what it means to be a Third-Culture Kid [31:54]
  • Practical tools for helping kids process their unique experiences [33:15]
  • The impact of “The Great Aunt Rosie Effect” on shaping a child’s faith journey [38:48]
  • Why God calls us to participate in children’s ministry [51:34]

Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!

Referenced in the episode...


Our guest for this episode was Debbie Harrell, author, speaker and the TCK Resource Team Leader at Serge. This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen, Aaron Gray, Brooke Herron, Ashlie Kodsy, and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy

𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.

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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at podcast@serge.org




Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His Kingdom.


Jim Lovelady 00:23: Hello, beloved! Welcome to Grace at the Fray. Alright, so let’s be honest. When it comes to parenting, we all want perfect kids. Don’t deny it just because it’s impossible. It’s still a desire. It’s still there. And even before I was a parent, when I saw your kids at the grocery store, I really wanted them to be perfect too, for your sake and for my own. But I think a lot of why we desire perfect kids is because we aren’t perfect. Parenting and raising children presents a continual opportunity to evaluate our own heart. It exposes our brokenness and sin. And just think about how quickly you can get irritated your instinct to discipline. It’s speed, it’s force, and it’s desired outcome. These are major opportunities for our hearts to be exposed, but it’s also Jesus’s invitation to teach us about his grace, both for us and for our children, and to cultivate a place where grace can thrive.

But being a parent or someone who is helping cultivate grace in the lives of children is not easy. That’s why I called up my friend Debbie Harrell for some help. Since 2001, Debbie has been serving as the overseas educational advisor for Serge. She supports our mission families by coming along alongside them in a lot of really amazing ways, and I can’t wait for you to hear about those. She’s the author of a middle school bible study curriculum called What’s Up?: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are. And also the author of a book called The Gospel-Centered Parent. And Debbie came into the studio to talk with me about her ministry to all the third culture kids in our company, and the unique challenges and opportunities of raising TCKs. Now, if you don’t know what a third culture kid is, alright, well, you’re gonna find out. This is an episode about parenting.

And if you don’t have children, well, you still need to listen or watch on YouTube because, well, for one thing, kingdom work takes a village and ministry to children is major kingdom work. Matthew 19:14, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me and don’t hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.” Well, that’s what this is all about. This episode is actually about learning how to love the princesses and the princes of God’s kingdom. And if you can communicate the gospel to a child, you might very well be able to communicate it to your own heart. So Ms. Debbie.

03:09 Debbie Harrell: Yes. Mr. Jim.

0:03:10.4 Jim Lovelady: I call you Ms. Debbie because the largest demographic of our company calls you Ms. Debbie. Because you minister to the children, and the youth, the children and youth.

0:03:24.4 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. And college and adults. Yeah, the whole spectrum.

0:03:28.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. From zero.

0:03:29.8 Debbie Harrell: To 30, yeah.

0:03:30.8 Jim Lovelady: From zero to 30.

0:03:32.1 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. Well, 26 because that’s when they go off insurance, so on my tracking. But there’s some that are 30 that I still reach out to, so yeah. Zero to 30.

0:03:41.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, so Ms. Debbie, tell me who you are, [laughter] and what you’re… What you’ve been doing with Serge and how you’ve been serving.

0:03:49.2 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, so my name is Debbie Harrell. Goodness, I serve as the TCK resource team leader, and that’s Third Culture Kid. I started off as the overseas educational advisor. I’ve been with Serge for 23 years. My background is education, child development, undergraduate is educ… Child development, graduate work is education. And then, yeah, I talked a little bit about how God called me to ministry with Serge. I, in my wildest dreams, never imagined that I would ever serve overseas and travel all the places that God is taken.

0:04:36.1 Jim Lovelady: I look forward to hearing more about that story.

0:04:37.8 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:04:38.0 Jim Lovelady: I wanna talk about… I wanna hear you. Well, you know, parenting in general, I’m the parent of three kids and I’m still trying to figure it out forever.

0:04:46.4 Debbie Harrell: I am too, [laughter] and I have a 30-year-old, you know.

0:04:48.9 Jim Lovelady: So just parenting in general and the gospel, as the gospel engages parenting. But I also want to hear more about ministering to third culture kids and what that looks like. And just, we’ll just see where the conversation goes. But first, I need to talk to you about parenting and driving.

0:05:06.3 Debbie Harrell: Nice. [laughter]

0:05:07.2 Jim Lovelady: Nice.

0:05:07.8 Debbie Harrell: That sounds good.

0:05:08.1 Jim Lovelady: I got pretty self-righteous with my driving. And I told the kids, Lori and the kids… We were talking about driving… Because I think they asked, who do you want to teach you how to drive? Or we had the conversation or something.

0:05:25.4 Debbie Harrell: Well, there is a vulnerable question to be.

0:05:27.0 Jim Lovelady: And I was like, clearly, it’s me. [laughter]

0:05:30.4 Debbie Harrell: Right. ‘Cause I know all the rules and I know how to drive.

0:05:32.4 Jim Lovelady: I’m a really good driver. And they’re like, Talitha… My youngest, she goes, “Dad, how many tickets have you gotten recently?” And I was like, well…

0:05:42.7 Debbie Harrell: When did that… [laughter] Oh, my God.

0:05:45.4 Jim Lovelady: Well, and then, ’cause…

0:05:48.0 Debbie Harrell: Wow, she knows. She’s keeping count.

0:05:50.9 Jim Lovelady: Well, I mean, it’s open conversation. [laughter]

0:05:52.7 Debbie Harrell: Right, right.

0:05:54.3 Jim Lovelady: Where I come home.

0:05:54.8 Debbie Harrell: How many points do you have? 

0:05:55.3 Jim Lovelady: Well, we got a thing in the mail that said that I blew through a school bus stop sign that the… And there’s photographic evidence of the bus… Of the stop sign coming be… Opening.

0:06:07.9 Debbie Harrell: Right. And the little flag.

0:06:08.6 Jim Lovelady: And the camera from the bus stop films, like, there’s the front of the car and there’s me in the car. There’s the side and there’s my profile driving the car, and then there’s the back of the car. And so here’s this in the mail.

0:06:20.4 Debbie Harrell: Wow, an action documentation.

0:06:21.3 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. And thankfully, that one didn’t get reported on like points or whatever because…

0:06:24.9 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, yeah. ‘Cause that can be pretty serious.

0:06:27.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah. So they can’t prove who was driving from photograph.

0:06:30.9 Debbie Harrell: Even though they had the profile.

0:06:31.6 Jim Lovelady: I mean, I knew it was me. I knew it was me.

0:06:32.6 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, oh, okay. I was like…

0:06:33.4 Jim Lovelady: And it couldn’t have been… Well, Lori and I were like, “Was it you or was it me?” ‘Cause it was her car. And we were actually taking the truck to get serviced. She was driving the truck, and I was driving her car.

0:06:46.7 Debbie Harrell: Oh, so it was you? 

0:06:47.5 Jim Lovelady: It was me. It was totally me. [laughter]

0:06:48.6 Debbie Harrell: Okay. So did you own it? 

0:06:49.6 Jim Lovelady: Oh, Yeah.

0:06:50.1 Debbie Harrell: Okay. Good.

0:06:50.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. And so it was like, “Oh no, it’s like $300.”

0:06:53.3 Debbie Harrell: No, that’s happened to me, where it was blinking and I wasn’t paying attention. I was going the speed limit, but because it was a school zone… And I was like, but I’m so good at being aware and stuff.

0:07:06.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah. And so then, a couple weeks later, I was having lunch with a friend and I was talking about how I never get pulled over. Not anymore. It was like when I was young. Never get pulled over. Later that day, I was taking my son to soccer practice, and it used to be a yield sign, but they turned it from a yield sign to a stop sign. And I yielded right through that. And I look, there’s no cars. Oh, look at that car parked on the side of the road. Well, he’s parked so not a big deal. Blaze through it. Ephraim sitting there, and then woo woo woo. I get pulled over. And I was like, oh… And I was like, alright, well, this is what it looks like to get pulled over, buddy.


0:07:49.0 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. I use that example. ‘Cause I remember when I was in college, there was this one… It’s called Speedway right in front of the college. And it went from 45, and this small patch to 35 and then back to 45. And I remember not paying attention and just blazing through that small patch and police officer on a motorcycle. I saw the lights. And I was like, oh. And I remember the condition of my heart. ‘Cause I was so angry that I got caught. Not that I had done anything wrong. But that I had gotten caught. ‘Cause I was always so good to drive… Hello, officer, see me, I’m going the speed limit and stuff. I’m following the law. And then it really showed me where the condition of my heart was. ‘Cause I wasn’t upset that I had blazed through it, was inattentive and all that. But I was just so angry that I had gotten caught. And so I used that a lot with my kids and just kind of talking about, when we sin and we get caught, where is the condition of our heart? Is it, ’cause I got caught, or is it, was there a real conviction and stuff? So Yeah.

0:09:00.0 Jim Lovelady: Right. Right. Yeah. It was an interesting moment because…

0:09:03.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, I bet.

0:09:04.0 Jim Lovelady: It was blatant, dad screwed up. And like me and my son is right there, my 13-year-old son is right there to witness the whole thing. And I was like, to the officer, I was like, could you just let me off with a warning? Come on. You know, this used to be a yield.

0:09:17.8 Debbie Harrell: Oh, you asked? Oh, okay.

0:09:18.6 Jim Lovelady: Oh, yeah, totally. And he was like… [chuckle] Sternly, he was like, absolutely not. [laughter] And I was like, gee.

0:09:24.2 Debbie Harrell: Wow. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever had the courage to even ask for like…

0:09:29.5 Jim Lovelady: I got nothing to lose.

0:09:30.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. I know Yeah.

0:09:31.2 Jim Lovelady: But I’m pretty sure it’s because he saw the citation of the… He looks up your record and he sees this dude blazes through stop signs. He blazes through school bus stop signs. And here he is blazing. [laughter] So anyway, those two things are why Talitha was like, dad, when was… How many tickets do you have? 


0:09:51.0 Debbie Harrell: Oh, that’s serious. I love it. Yeah. Driving does definitely give us insight into who we are, how we respond to struggle our own sin. And I think sometimes parents forget like that their kids are in the backseat and have a first row seat to everything.

0:10:13.8 Jim Lovelady: They see everything. Of it’s like Lori and I getting in a fight while we’re in the car or me breaking some traffic law while we’re in the car. But it’s like, it’s all there.

0:10:25.7 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s living unveiled.


0:10:31.3 Jim Lovelady: Truly.

0:10:31.5 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:10:31.7 Jim Lovelady: Truly.

0:10:32.1 Debbie Harrell: So the fact that they can see you and have that example and model of, yeah, I’m not perfect. I’m not the Instagram perfection that I try to cultivate on social media.

0:10:44.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:10:46.4 Debbie Harrell: You know, I do… I struggle, and we know that kids who see their parents struggle are more likely to come to them with their struggle.

0:10:55.6 Jim Lovelady: I hope so.

0:10:56.3 Debbie Harrell: Versus a parent who, I’ve got it all together, not to show weakness, or sin, or vulnerability in front of their kids. That’s, you’re not approachable and stuff. So yeah, driving does help take those barriers down. There’s so many other areas too, but driving is definitely one of those.

0:11:18.6 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. It’s a good one. It’s a good one.

0:11:20.7 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. It’s… Yeah.

0:11:20.8 Jim Lovelady: For me at least. It is just amazing the beauty of young children and how much that’s an adventure. My kids are… It won’t be long before I have three teenagers in the house. And so right now, it’s two, and my third is 11 going on 21, so she’s already kind of acting like a teenager. So the way that we parent is different because the kids are different. And I mean I’ve never known what to do. That’s why I’m glad you’re here. I’m always out of my league here.

0:12:04.5 Debbie Harrell: Hate to break it to you.


0:12:07.2 Debbie Harrell: So, you know there’s… I think parents always… All of us, we would love to have a rule book, a set of instructions. ‘Cause you get this squishy ball of humanity handed to you and you’re just like, “What do I do? How do I love them?” And you rely a lot on how you were parented. And I think one of the things that I really, ‘Cause my background is child development, family relations, education. And even as a believer, I never matched those. I always just like, “Oh, okay, I can manage her behavior. We’re going with external regulation, I care for her.” I’m doing all these. And then you want your child developmentally to go to… You’ve got co-regulation when they’re in elementary, where they self-regulate and you’re helping. And then you hope that at the teen years and college, that it’s completely self-regulation and all that. And yet, that all goes to the wayside when there’s the emotional part involved. ‘Cause you’re just like, how do I care and love this child and also give them the gospel? 

0:13:23.4 Debbie Harrell: Because one of the things… And when we were working with Rose Marie Miller and Jack Klumpenhower to write The Gospel-Centered Parent, I remember just talking with Rose Marie and Jack and being like, “I was a master at molding my child’s outward behavior and not really going for the heart. I knew how to create a chart. All of those… With child development, Piaget, Skinner. Pavlov and his salivating dogs. I knew how to mold and shape behavior, but to really enact heart change…

0:14:00.8 Jim Lovelady: Interesting.

0:14:01.5 Debbie Harrell: Was like, okay, How do I do this? How do I really get to my child’s heart and trusting in God’s sovereignty to transform them? ‘Cause I knew I could shame her or… Which is pretty harsh and mold that outward behavior, but what would it really look like parenting at a heart level and really incorporating the gospel in that? So that’s kind of… When we wrote Gospel-Centered Parent, so many of our discussions, and so amazing sitting with Rose Marie Miller and Barbara Miller Giuliani, we… I had just written, What’s Up? The taking kind of sonship for kids. And then, right after, New Growth was like, hey, how about Gospel-Centered Parent, would you guys be interested? And I’m kind of like, well, I am… I just want you guys to know that if I help with this, just know that I have failed in my parenting journey. It’s definitely not a pretty picture. And they’re like, “Perfect, You’re perfect for that.” And then when we were dividing all the articles, no one wanted a write on discipline. And so they were like, “Debbie, you’re a teacher. You know all about discipline.” And I was like, okay. So, my…

0:15:24.4 Jim Lovelady: You got voluntold.

0:15:28.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, I did. [laughter] But, yeah, it was a pretty amazing journey for me, just really reevaluating my parenting and then kind of coming… Going back and saying, well… Really looking at the gospel and how I was parented, and then what I thought parenting was, and really incorporating all of that.

0:15:52.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Grace is just comes so unnaturally for me. And so, now, I’ve been given the responsibility to reflect grace, and impact grace, and embody grace to my children. And it’s been… Especially for my son, who’s 13 over the last maybe three years, I’ve really started to see how he’s responding to situations as a 13-year-old, I’m responding to situations, that same kind of situation… So the heart level is the same, of what does grace look like? What does it look like to function as if Jesus is alive and victorious and his Love for me is beyond my comprehension in the midst of me struggling to figure out for myself how I would respond to the situation that angers me and which is not very different from the situation where my 13-year-old son is struggling with his anger? Or my 44 year old despair… His 13-year-old despair. Both of these things are gospel issues. The gospel goes, alright, let me add them.

0:17:12.4 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, right. Yeah, no, there’s so much and… To unpack in that. When we talk about especially like high emotion, I think one thing parents that… And what I remember too is parenting, first of all, is a process. There’s not gonna be one event that will change your child on a dime. This is a process. And especially as I have parents or, like you said, with the anger, the high emotion, you need to remember diffuse first and then you can process. ‘Cause I think… I used to always think, I need to deal with this right now. I remember as a first year teacher, it was in Tucson, Arizona, it was my first year of teaching, and the school that I taught at was… It was a trailer park.

0:18:06.0 Jim Lovelady: Oh, interesting.

0:18:09.5 Debbie Harrell: So there was a lot of high mobility, a lot of poverty. And I remember the first week on the playground, and I had two of my sweet little boys just… I’ve never seen second graders punch each other. And I remember just being so angry, and I had super human strength. I went there and I pulled them apart, and I was like, “You say you are sorry.”

0:18:35.4 Jim Lovelady: Right. [laughter]

0:18:36.0 Debbie Harrell: I cannot believe I did that.

0:18:37.1 Jim Lovelady: Their amygdalas are just like… There’s no way.

0:18:38.0 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. And they had sweat and dirt, and they were like, I’m sorry.

0:18:44.7 Jim Lovelady: Right, right.

0:18:45.5 Debbie Harrell: And I did that, and I even looked back to when I did that, instead of diffusing and then process, I wanted to go straight to the process of you apologize and you apologize now, I’m sorry. And at this particular school, because we… Parents were at work, and when we had suspensions and stuff it was called in-house suspension. And so they had to go and sit in ready position the rest of the day. And then I remember having lunch with them, and then kind of sitting down and then really kind of asking, and still fumbling. I was only like 25 years old at the time. It was my first teaching job. And I remember just like, okay, tell me what happened. And then I heard the story and then I was like, well, tell me how that made you feel ’cause their first response was, well, he did… They wanted to go outside.

0:19:44.2 Jim Lovelady: Right, yeah, totally. Yep.

0:19:44.5 Debbie Harrell: And I was like, instinctively… And you had to bring it back around. Well, what were you feeling at the time? Tell me how you responded. What made you wanna do that? And I remember processing through that struggle with them, and they were crying. I got a little teary just to hear like the background. They were best friends. And it had been an event that had happened outside of the school, and they had brought it onto the school. And I just remember then giving them an opportunity. I was like, well, what would you have done differently? And even back then as a young teacher being able to still, even though it was a public school, and I was limited in what I could say gospel-wise, but I still was pathway for repentance and a pathway for them to really so be sorry. I mean, true repentance.

0:20:43.0 Debbie Harrell: And I remember them both just weeping and but we… It was, again, diffuse and then process. And I think a lot of times as parents, we forget that because we wanna just be like the meltdown in the grocery store. You will obey and you’ll obey now and stuff, and it’s like you can diffuse, give them a moment to kind of regroup, get your own anger ’cause when you get that anger, whew, that’s kind of a red flag even for you. Why am I angry? 

0:21:14.2 Jim Lovelady: That’s right.

0:21:15.3 Debbie Harrell: And then let me help you walk through this, and you can wait the process part. You can take a moment to stop, get in the car. Get in the car, wait till we get in the car, or wait, let’s wait till we we get home. And then take that time to process.

0:21:36.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, preaching the gospel to yourself doesn’t get much more sophisticated than that.

0:21:43.0 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:21:43.2 Jim Lovelady: For a child, for a grownup.

0:21:45.8 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:21:46.0 Jim Lovelady: It’s the same. And that may be the gift of parenting for me, where I want to lean into one of my children with grace, with the truth of the gospel, with pursuing repentance and reconciliation, pursuing conflict resolution between two or between us or whatever. And I’m imparting these things, and the Holy Spirit goes, yeah.And you. And what about you? Same thing. And so the gift is if I can preach the gospel to a child, I might be able to preach it to myself, because that’s where I’m gonna understand at that childhood level, and it’s probably where I need to understand.


0:22:27.5 Debbie Harrell: Well, and think about like compassion. You’re able to enter into that brokenness because you understand what it is to get angry or to feel slighted.

0:22:38.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:22:39.2 Debbie Harrell: It’s hard to… When you come in with the rules or the piety, you’ll get the teenage shoulder shrug, like, yeah, whatever.

0:22:49.7 Jim Lovelady: Whatever.

0:22:50.1 Debbie Harrell: Just keep keep talking. And like Charlie Brown’s teacher, wha wha wha.

0:22:54.3 Jim Lovelady: Wha wha wha.

0:22:55.2 Debbie Harrell: Right.

0:22:56.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:22:56.0 Debbie Harrell: It’s just, it makes you just not… It’s not getting to the heart, it’s not computing or anything like that, but when you can show compassion, come alongside, and let them feel that they’re heard, that you see them, and be able to kind of enter into that struggle. And even say, yeah, I’ve done that before. I’ve lied before, or I’ve been angry at my brother. And what is the redemptive part of that? How does Jesus help us in the forgiveness? How… And again, I think as parents, we need to be really aware of… And guilt… And I get this asked the most. Distinguishing between guilt self-talk and shame self-talk.

0:23:48.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Talk about that. What’s the difference between those? 

0:23:50.9 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. So a lot of times we talk about it like when we talk about sanctification, that cross chart that is so amazing. And when kids, especially around seven or eight, conceptually, when they start to see their sin as bigger, and then of course the cross chart is is that when you see your sin is bigger then God’s forgiveness is bigger. But sometimes kids don’t see God’s forgiveness as big. They see their sin as bigger. So there’s like little gaps and stuff. And so they can be really weighted down with guilt and shame. And so when we’re talking about guilt self-talk, that’s I did something wrong. I’m sorry. I’m loved and forgiven. Shame is I did something wrong. I did something bad. I’m bad.

0:24:41.1 Jim Lovelady: I am bad. Yeah.

0:24:42.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. And I’m unlovable and unforgivable. And I think as parents, we really kind of navigate and can… That even as we talk to our kids as you’ve done something wrong, I can come… Compassion would be coming alongside them. I’ve done that too, buddy. Obviously, there’s gonna be natural consequences to behavior. But being able to, like you said, speaking the gospel, and you are loved, you are a beloved, child, you are forgiven, you are worthy of forgiveness. And it’s okay. We all mess up. But again there are consequences. But if you… Shaming a child, you are bad, and offering no pathway for even redemption or forgiveness in the way that we speak to our kids, you can even hear them… ’cause like as kids learn… You know, and it’s in the What’s Up curriculum that we talk about the cross chart, and where the gaps can be. And kind of that weight of just feeling like there’s no… God can’t love me enough because my sin is just so much bigger than his forgiveness. And that can really happen to kids.

0:26:05.3 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Oh, absolutely.

0:26:05.5 Debbie Harrell: And even adults. We can sit there and be like, ah, this is one that’s just not gonna be forgiven enough. And that’s a lie. God’s forgiveness is big enough for us. And so as we navigate when we are talking to our kids helping them, and being able to listen for are they shame self-talking or guilt self-talking and being able to distinguish that.

0:26:29.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, I like how you’re kinda creating a context for shame to… My wife is a huge gardener.

0:26:39.5 Debbie Harrell: I know. I’ve seen some of her lovely things.

0:26:43.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah. So the thing about…

0:26:47.0 Debbie Harrell: Cultivating.

0:26:48.7 Jim Lovelady: About cultivating a haven for the good flowers.

0:26:50.8 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:26:52.0 Jim Lovelady: Actually chokes out the weeds.

0:26:53.5 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:26:55.0 Jim Lovelady: If you put the soil… If you make the soil just right, and if you put your flower… You put the plants that you want in the proper place, you’re not really gonna have to do as much weeding.

0:27:04.3 Debbie Harrell: Right.

0:27:06.5 Jim Lovelady: Because it’s not the context for weeds to thrive. So I love how you’re talking about it, like it’s not just speaking against shame, it’s also creating a context where shame…

0:27:18.3 Debbie Harrell: Can’t grow.

0:27:18.8 Jim Lovelady: Shame can’t grow. Shame can’t grow here.

0:27:21.8 Debbie Harrell: It still does.

0:27:23.3 Jim Lovelady: Oh, yeah. There’s always weeding.

0:27:24.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:27:24.5 Jim Lovelady: My wife would say you’re always weeding.

0:27:26.8 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. As much as you wanna control that environment, it still happens, and that’s trusting. And that’s the hardest part. Prayer and trust. You know, I have this little acronym, PARENT, P-A-R-E-N-T and at the… The first one is prayer, because that’s not our natural inclination. We want action.

0:27:47.3 Jim Lovelady: Right.

0:27:47.5 Debbie Harrell: And yet, prayer is our greatest tool that we can have. And at the end of that, T, trust. Trust God’s salvation for them. You can’t change your child. As much as you think that you can…

0:28:03.3 Jim Lovelady: You just can’t.

0:28:04.3 Debbie Harrell: You just can’t. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that will transform them. I remember in that first chapter Rose Marie talks about they circled the wagons as far as their kids only listen to Christian music, only watched Christian TV, they went to Christian school, and all those things are really good, but they forgot one thing that sin is on the inside as well, that they had to trust because when struggle happens and you’re like, but I created the most perfect environment, how could a weed have possibly grown in there? Like with Lori like, wait, it was the perfect conditions. Everything was sterile, and yet, a weed still showed up.


0:28:46.0 Debbie Harrell: And stuff. And that’s the same with our kids, you know? 

0:28:48.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:28:49.0 Debbie Harrell: And stuff we need to remember. We are broken sinners, parenting broken sinners in a broken world. Parenting is just this hard space of struggle, joy, suffering, sin, vulnerability. There’s a lot in there.

0:29:07.0 Jim Lovelady: It is mysterious. I’ve often wondered like what is this? You know? And the baseline answer is Jesus goes I’m using this for your sanctification.

0:29:16.0 Debbie Harrell: Sanctification.

0:29:18.3 Jim Lovelady: I’m going to be saving you through…

0:29:20.0 Debbie Harrell: Oh, my goodness.

0:29:20.3 Jim Lovelady: Through parenting.

0:29:21.0 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:29:21.5 Jim Lovelady: But it’s just mysterious. It’s mysterious that the Lord would have us [laughter] taking care of these little humans and… But yeah, the greatest gift that it’s been has… As it’s just showing me who I am as I’m preaching the gospel to them. It’s preaching the gospel to myself as well.

0:29:42.3 Debbie Harrell: Right. Yeah.

0:29:43.5 Jim Lovelady: And my kids feel the expectations of being a PK, a pastor’s kid, so then we have MKs, we have third culture kids. And so the ministry has this certain effect. And I’d love… Talk more about not just being a third culture kid, but also raising third culture kids.

0:30:07.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. Yeah. So my journey with third culture kids started 23 years ago. In 2000, I was teaching third grade, and my sending church, Redeemer Presbyterian were asking for teachers. It was like three weeks till this conference in Malaga. And they’re like, we need teachers. And I was kind of like, I think I can do that. I can teach. I’ve never thought myself as a missionary, but I can go and teach some kids in Spain. And so someone gave me a buddy pass ’cause I only had three weeks to raise some support. So someone gave me one of those buddy passes for standby ticket.

0:30:46.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

0:30:47.5 Debbie Harrell: And packed all my stuff, and I was gonna wow these kids with all these amazing lessons. And by the time that I arrived in Malaga, all my luggage was lost.

0:30:57.8 Jim Lovelady: Oh, no.

0:30:58.8 Debbie Harrell: I had, in that three-week period, cracked my tooth. So I had like a partial… Like not a permanent, but just like a temporary tooth.

0:31:09.5 Jim Lovelady: Like temporary cap or whatever.

0:31:10.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. And then my mom had gotten really ill where we weren’t sure if she was gonna make it. So by the time I got to Malaga, I hadn’t slept for 24 hours, I was like depleted. I mean, when you talk about ministry from weakness, I had nothing. I mean, literally, I was borrowing somebody else’s shoes. And so I had these 10, 11, and 12 year olds, about 10 of them. And the funny thing is some of them now are with the company serving overseas, which shows you kind of just such amazing gift.

0:31:47.3 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, your legacy with this company is… [laughter] Yeah. We’ll get there. We’ll get there.

0:31:52.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. Anyways. [laughter] But…

0:31:53.3 Jim Lovelady: Oh, go on.

0:31:54.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, stop. But it really made it so that I had to really look to see who these kids were. I wasn’t wowing them with who I was, but God had put me in a place where, I want you to see who they are. And so the formal definition for third culture kid is a child who’s been raised in a country other than their parent’s passport country. And really that tension for them is they’ve been… They grow up in a country they consider home, and yet that country considers them a foreigner. And you probably already know this question, what question do you think that they don’t really like being asked? Where are you from? And that question has a really complicated answer. Well, I was born in Texas, but my family moved to Australia, and then I grew up in Ireland, and now I’m back in Virginia for college. So that sense of where are you from, identity, that’s like one of the main things I think our kids kind of struggle with. ‘Cause so much of where you’re from is kind of your identity. It gives you a sense of belonging. And these guys are considered cultural chameleons. Yeah.

0:33:15.1 Debbie Harrell: That idea of belonging and fitting in, the cultural chameleon… ’cause a chameleon changes for its outside environment. So any culture that they go into, they get fitting in. I can change that outside and stuff, but that sense of belonging with their families is really what we really encourage because they move so much. We have this one activity that we encourage families to do, is like what’s your family motto? Think about what are the things… There’s no name calling in this family because that brings shame. Cultivating relationships with their siblings. We see that even as adults how valuable that is, because your siblings will eventually be caring for your parents. And those relationships, you hear sometimes so heartbreaking where siblings fall out of relationship with one another. We really encourage our third culture kids and mission families to really help cultivate those relationships with their siblings. ‘Cause they’re in the car for six hours at a time or at an airport for hours and stuff. And their siblings are their first friends. Identity, belonging, sibling relationships, those are really a lot. Anchoring… And we have this one really fun activity where it’s an anchor, because a lot of times… What are the things that stay the same no matter what culture you’re in? What are the things about you that stay the same? Because a lot of times kids, especially navigating emotions, there’s a lot of grief and that grief can stack up. And that’s called grief stacking. And we help our kids navigate grief by processing those blocks that have stacked up. It doesn’t mean it’s solving it, but we’re helping them process. One fun thing that all of our families do is like, high, low or Yay Duck, Yuck Duck. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of…

0:35:13.8 Jim Lovelady: Wait, what? 

0:35:14.4 Debbie Harrell: Oh, you’ve not heard of Yay Duck, Yuck Duck. So you’ve not…

0:35:17.8 Jim Lovelady: No, no, no.

0:35:19.1 Debbie Harrell: Oh, I should have brought you a duck.

0:35:20.9 Jim Lovelady: I actually don’t know… One of the things I want to ask is like, where do you do all of these things with the folks in the company? 

0:35:32.1 Debbie Harrell: So I do debriefings with kids online. We have all these… We have a book club. They’re Zoom hangouts, really.

0:35:41.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah.

0:35:41.3 Debbie Harrell: We have a book club. We have a girls bible study. I have a teen hangout this Saturday. We just had a whole group of our teens get together and I had given them some money to go out to dinner together. And then we did a video call. So it’s all kind of remote, and then at conferences. Really, any way that I can connect with our kids. It’s mostly through Zoom and stuff like this Saturday we have like an escape room that we’re gonna try to do virtually with our teens. But yeah, I mean just…

0:36:15.5 Jim Lovelady: I love it.

0:36:16.5 Debbie Harrell: Trying to stay connected, but Yay Duck, Yuck Duck, when you think about like the paradox within a day, there’s good parts of the day, struggles, bad parts of the day. Highs, lows. And in that paradox, there are a pair of ducks. So you’ve got Yay Duck. What’s a Yay Duck? Tell me something good.

0:36:36.5 Jim Lovelady: Something good.

0:36:36.8 Debbie Harrell: Tell me what was hard about today or a Yuck Duck that you have. And we’ll be on a call and kids will be like, I have two… I have two. Yay Ducks. Ms. Debbie, can I share two Yay Duck? I’m like, of course, you can share two yay ducks. I can’t really think of a Yuck Duck. We have one family that has like high, low, like a Yay Duck Yuck Duck, and did you know, then they share something that they learned today. Or they wanna cultivate gratitude. What are you thankful for today? And what was a Yay Duck? What was a Yuck Duck? What are you really grateful for? And those all kind of help give like a view of what went on today.

0:37:19.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah.

0:37:20.0 Debbie Harrell: And a space for your kids.

0:37:20.8 Jim Lovelady: Get the conversation started.

0:37:22.2 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. Yeah. So those are things as we come alongside parents… And a lot of times before families are deployed, I’ll meet with them, meet their kids, and then we’ll get them grouped together within… Trying to figure out time zones can be a little tricky, ’cause when we start a call, it’ll be like, okay, what time is it where you are? And it’s so hilarious on some of these calls, just their dedication. Like, I had one little girl, her family was in transit, and they were in Kenya in the airport. So the mom had the phone video call while she was in the airport.

0:38:05.0 Debbie Harrell: Then we had one little guy, and there was a storm and the power had gone out. So he had the mosquito netting and he had one of those headlamps his dad had made, the hotspot for his phone. And so he was in the dark and we’re like, “Are you okay?” He’s like, “yeah,” it’s raining. The power’s out. So yeah, these phone calls, these hangouts that we have with all of our kids are…

0:38:26.9 Jim Lovelady: It’s just such an adventure.

0:38:28.0 Debbie Harrell: Oh my goodness. And they’re hilarious. And we always do poll questions. We’ll have a scavenger hunt or we’ll do different… We’ll be reading a book together. And then we have the Bible study with the teen girls and so yeah, we do all these ways to connect with them.

0:38:47.9 Jim Lovelady: I love it.

0:38:48.7 Debbie Harrell: ‘Cause there’s this thing called the Great Aunt Rosie Effect. When you have an adult outside of the family that connects with your kids, prays with them, is intentional with them, it really helps them as they grow in their faith. And so I’m striving for the Great Aunt Rosie…

0:39:11.7 Jim Lovelady: You are Serge’s Great Aunt Rosie.


0:39:12.9 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, yeah. Well, and I have two amazing young women that work with me. Mary Spaar, Petrosyan, and Glory Guy, who also are going for the Great Aunt Rosie award as well. They really have been great. And just… And they keep it real. They’re younger and hipper and help me [laughter] figure out like, “Wait, we don’t use that word anymore?” Or something, so…

0:39:40.8 Jim Lovelady: Right. Well, that’s slang now? 

0:39:42.7 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, yeah. Or no, “Ms. Debbie, that’s a bad song”.

0:39:45.5 Jim Lovelady: You can’t sing…

0:39:45.9 Debbie Harrell: Wait, why is that a bad song? If you really listen to the lyrics, oh, I never thought about that. That is kind of inappropriate.

0:39:53.0 Jim Lovelady: Go team. Go team.

0:39:54.1 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. Yeah. So we’re all… We all keep each other straight and stuff. But yeah, I would say for third culture parents, just creating that family resiliency because they’re on the move. And I remember one of my guys, his family grew up in Uganda. And on his Facebook page, he had his hometown as Uganda, but when his family moved to Kenya, he changed his hometown to Kenya. It was… Home was wherever their family was.

0:40:25.2 Jim Lovelady: Right, right.

0:40:26.0 Debbie Harrell: And just watching these kids as they cultivate their relationship with their siblings, the people that they have become in college, still wanting to go into the fields either short term, long term, maintaining their faith has been such a joy to watch. And there are some of our kids that are struggling in their faith. They want to own that. And yet, they’re willing to have those conversations. So yeah, we do debriefs, we have hangouts. We just do it all. All my college kids, I do care packages for them. I think it’s about three times a year, I’ve got like… And it’s just that little tiny FedEx or UPS box, the flat rate box and stuff. But it’s just fun stuff inside, just one note.

0:41:28.5 Jim Lovelady: Oh, I love it.

0:41:29.4 Debbie Harrell: I’m thinking of you, reaching out to them. We have a WhatsApp group that I’m constantly keeping tabs of them, making sure how… You’re doing okay? How can I pray? Do you need to meet? Yeah. So just any way that we can maintain connection, help them as they are navigating adulthood or just TCK-ness. So, yeah, that’s who they are. And I remember after that trip in Spain, just getting to know those kids. And it was really interesting because during the week, the luggage finally came, and [laughter] I had gotten…

0:42:09.5 Jim Lovelady: You got your shoes back? 

0:42:10.5 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, I got my shoes back, but I’d also brought Cheetos and goldfish and Bubble Yum. And that’s the number one request I get when I take…

0:42:21.7 Jim Lovelady: Goldfish? 

0:42:22.6 Debbie Harrell: Goldfish is my number one.

0:42:24.4 Jim Lovelady: Are you serious? 

0:42:25.4 Debbie Harrell: Yes. Goldfish.

0:42:26.2 Jim Lovelady: That’s amazing.

0:42:26.5 Debbie Harrell: Is my number one request.

0:42:28.1 Jim Lovelady: My kids are gonna love that you said that. [laughter]

0:42:30.4 Debbie Harrell: Wow. This stuff is…

0:42:31.5 Jim Lovelady: That’s amazing.

0:42:32.4 Debbie Harrell: Valuable.

0:42:32.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, my kids are gonna be, “Ms. Debbie said… “

0:42:34.7 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. Goldfish is number one.

0:42:37.1 Jim Lovelady: Goldfish has… We have to have those in the house. They’re fun.

0:42:38.7 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. But I remember during the conference, parents were like asking me, “Hey, you’re a teacher, can we sit and meet with you?” I was like, oh, yeah, sure. And answering questions. And so by the end of the conference, I remember saying to one of the board members, you guys really need somebody that can help with education stuff and like that. And he’s like, “Well, why don’t you send us your resume?” I was like, no.

0:43:04.9 Jim Lovelady: Famous last words.

0:43:06.2 Debbie Harrell: Not me. No. Somebody who feels called missions can do this and stuff. And then about three months later, Bob Osborne showed up in my third grade classroom. And you remember… Bob is, what, six? 

0:43:22.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:43:22.7 Debbie Harrell: Six…

0:43:23.0 Jim Lovelady: Tall.

0:43:23.4 Debbie Harrell: Very tall. And he sat in this third grade chair and started talking to me. He is like, “Well, Debbie, we’d like you to be… “

0:43:30.9 Jim Lovelady: He crammed himself into that little chair.

0:43:32.7 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. And he was so kind. And just, “Yeah, we’d like you to be our overseas educational advisor.” And I was like, huh, what’s that? And he’s like, “Well, we’d like you to come help consult with parents, help with kids, you need to raise support.” Huh, what’s that like? Soul crushing. [laughter]

0:43:54.2 Debbie Harrell: No.

0:43:54.3 Jim Lovelady: Not easy. Super not easy.

0:43:56.5 Debbie Harrell: It’s so fun. [laughter] Still doing it 23 years later.

0:44:01.3 Jim Lovelady: Oh, yeah, always, once it…

0:44:01.7 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, full time. Oh, man.

0:44:02.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, totally.

0:44:03.7 Debbie Harrell: Goodness. So yeah, that’s kind of how that story… And then from there, just, my background in education, child development, my own stumbling along my own parenting journey, and just learning the gospel. I took sonship four times. And I remember thinking, gosh, this would be great to have for my middle school students.

0:44:30.5 Debbie Harrell: And that’s where, What’s Up? Kind of came. Jack Klumpenhower came on board, and I remember… ’cause my eighth grade boys… My eighth grade girls always loved to sit and talk about their feelings. And due to my eighth grade boys, it was like, “Ugh, do I have to talk about my feelings?” Bible studies were really hard, but we created this curriculum that was… Originally it was called Sonship for Kids, but they were like, “No, we need something snappy.” You know, so What’s Up? 

0:44:57.7 Jim Lovelady: What’s up? 

0:44:58.5 Debbie Harrell: Yeah. And so it’s…

0:45:01.8 Jim Lovelady: You can doodle in it, there’s drawing pictures, circling things, just really engaging, but just taking those concepts, sanctification, understanding sin. We took the shark… We made the shark chart ’cause for sonship, understanding sin, you’ve got that iceberg thing. And I was like, “Eh, kids don’t really resonate with an iceberg but a shark.

0:45:24.3 Jim Lovelady: Right. Totally.

0:45:26.3 Debbie Harrell: Totally, they can get into that justification. We talk about the report card, ’cause in sonship, they talk about changing book covers and kids were like, eh, but report card, that’s where you really understand justification and stuff, but yeah. That’s how all that came about. And then I’ve been, yeah, 23 years working…

0:45:50.8 Jim Lovelady: I love it.

0:45:51.7 Debbie Harrell: With kids and seeing them grow into adults and still being a part of their lives. And it’s been quite a journey and a blessing and amazing.

0:46:05.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. As a pastor, when you think about planting a church, the first question is…

0:46:14.4 Debbie Harrell: Oh my goodness.

0:46:15.2 Jim Lovelady: Like, okay, where do we wanna plant a church? The second question is, what are we gonna do with the kids? 

0:46:18.3 Debbie Harrell: Right. [chuckle]

0:46:18.9 Jim Lovelady: That’s question… Literally question number two.

0:46:21.2 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:46:21.6 Jim Lovelady: And how are we going to minister to the kids? How are we going to love on the kids? 

0:46:26.6 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:46:26.7 Jim Lovelady: How are we going to be a family of believers? How are we gonna be a community? Well, you have to answer that second question. And I just… I love that for 23 years, you have been serving Serge in this way. You are ministering to the largest demographic of the ministry, you know? 

0:46:48.5 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:46:49.0 Jim Lovelady: So it’s like…

0:46:49.2 Debbie Harrell: It’s that hidden… Yeah. [chuckle]

0:46:51.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, that, oh, when you think about it, how many…

0:46:55.8 Debbie Harrell: About 395.

0:46:57.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, children and youth.

0:46:58.5 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, it’s a lot of kids. And then when we have conferences, I think the last conference, I think we had 217 kids there.

0:47:07.6 Jim Lovelady: That’s amazing, yeah.

0:47:09.6 Debbie Harrell: And just had the best time with them. Well, you were part of that. You helped lead them in song and you created those songs for helping them memorize their verses. And yeah. It was so…

0:47:25.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah, it was an honor.

0:47:27.0 Debbie Harrell: It was so sweet.

0:47:29.6 Jim Lovelady: When I was… This is a longer story than maybe the podcast… Maybe offline but…

0:47:38.9 Debbie Harrell: Oh, but I wanna hear it. [chuckle]]

0:47:40.8 Jim Lovelady: Well, it’s a little… Alright, it’s confession time.

0:47:43.9 Debbie Harrell: Okay.

0:47:46.1 Jim Lovelady: Bless me, Debbie, for I have sinned.

0:47:48.3 Debbie Harrell: Oh, no.

0:47:48.7 Jim Lovelady: Not exactly, but that’s so funny. I’m gonna tell you.


0:47:54.8 Debbie Harrell: I’m gonna cry.

0:47:55.5 Jim Lovelady: I don’t know, maybe.

0:47:56.1 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:47:57.4 Jim Lovelady: We’ll see. Here’s my story.

0:47:58.4 Debbie Harrell: Oh, I have to apologize, won’t I? 

0:48:01.1 Jim Lovelady: No.

0:48:01.2 Debbie Harrell: No. Okay. [laughter]

0:48:01.5 Jim Lovelady: No. No. This is all me.

0:48:01.9 Debbie Harrell: It’s about me, right? 

0:48:03.3 Jim Lovelady: No, this is about me. This is all… Yeah, this is all about what’s going on in my heart.

0:48:08.0 Debbie Harrell: I know.

0:48:08.8 Jim Lovelady: What was going on in my heart. I’ve been a worship pastor for years and years and years. And so they called me up and they were like, “Hey, do you wanna lead the worship?” And I was like, yes. For the kids? And I was like…

0:48:21.4 Debbie Harrell: No.

0:48:22.4 Jim Lovelady: Oh. And it was…

0:48:23.9 Debbie Harrell: I’m sorry. Yeah.

0:48:25.2 Jim Lovelady: No, no, no.

0:48:26.8 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:48:26.9 Jim Lovelady: No. No.

0:48:28.0 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:48:28.1 Jim Lovelady: No.

0:48:29.7 Debbie Harrell: Okay.

0:48:29.8 Jim Lovelady: It was like, I went straight to my therapist ’cause it was like, what just happened in my heart was a hurricane five whatever point, earthquake thing.

0:48:44.8 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, epicenter right there…

0:48:45.4 Jim Lovelady: Something happened in my heart when they were like, “Hey, do you wanna lead worship?” And I was like, huh. For the kids? And I was like, huh.

0:48:54.2 Debbie Harrell: For the big guys, no. Yeah.

0:48:54.3 Jim Lovelady: Oh, and so I did some wrestling in my heart because it was a huge… The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

0:49:08.0 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, I know. Yeah.

0:49:08.4 Jim Lovelady: The bigger the pride, the harder it fell. And so it was just… It had… Talk about bullseye, it was like the spirit laid into me at a… At just like bullseye. And it exposed this pride where I was like, I don’t think I wanna go, I don’t think I wanna do this. Lori and I are talking about this, and I’m like, I cannot believe I am like this, but I am like this.

0:49:39.1 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, I know.

0:49:39.8 Jim Lovelady: It was just… It was a severe wrestling match. So here’s what happened ’cause you know I was there.

0:49:46.6 Debbie Harrell: I know. We had multiple meetings and you hit it so well.


0:49:49.9 Debbie Harrell: I didn’t know.

0:49:51.4 Jim Lovelady: No, no, no.

0:49:52.1 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:49:52.4 Jim Lovelady: Well, okay. Before Spain, before the 2022 conference.

0:49:58.9 Debbie Harrell: Yeah.

0:50:01.7 Jim Lovelady: I had a dream.

0:50:03.5 Debbie Harrell: Oh.

0:50:03.6 Jim Lovelady: And here’s the dream. I dreamt that the King of Spain.

0:50:05.9 Debbie Harrell: The king of Spain? 

0:50:08.2 Jim Lovelady: That the King of Spain called me up and he said, I want you to escort… I’m visiting with my entourage. I’m visiting Philadelphia, and I want you to escort all the children of the dignitaries and the prince and all the royalty. I want you to escort the royal entourage through Philadelphia.

0:50:32.3 Debbie Harrell: Wow.

0:50:32.4 Jim Lovelady: I want you to do it. And… [chuckle]

0:50:33.7 Debbie Harrell: Oh my goodness. That is so…

0:50:37.3 Jim Lovelady: And in my dream, I had this… I ran to a bar where all my friends were. I was like, I blazed through the bar, opened the doors. And I’m like, guess what. The King of Spain asked me to take care of the children of the dignitaries.

0:51:03.1 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, wow.

0:51:03.7 Jim Lovelady: And I woke up weeping.

0:51:07.5 Debbie Harrell: I bet.

0:51:08.2 Jim Lovelady: Because the king asked me.

0:51:11.9 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, asked you.

0:51:13.3 Jim Lovelady: To lead worship for the princes and the princesses of the Serge conference entourage.

0:51:21.5 Debbie Harrell: And that’s who they are.

0:51:21.6 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah.

0:51:22.2 Debbie Harrell: These are…

0:51:25.4 Jim Lovelady: Like lest I forget that these children are royalty. Don’t forget.

0:51:30.9 Debbie Harrell: Oh, Jim.

0:51:30.9 Jim Lovelady: Don’t ever forget that these children are royalty.

0:51:33.1 Debbie Harrell: Thank you for sharing that.

0:51:34.3 Jim Lovelady: And so…

0:51:34.9 Debbie Harrell: That is so beautiful. Yeah. And that’s a great reminder for me too, ’cause it is. Like, when you’re in children’s ministry, it’s so easy to fall into that, it’s just childcare. No, it’s not. It is kingdom building. Oh, thank you for that story.

0:51:49.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. You were in the business of royal caretaking. And so it was an honor. It was such an honor.

0:51:58.5 Debbie Harrell: You were amazing.

0:51:58.9 Jim Lovelady: And so what was…

0:52:00.6 Debbie Harrell: Both you and Lori.

0:52:01.6 Jim Lovelady: So then the high point, maybe one of the high points, the prayer times in the afternoons.

0:52:07.0 Debbie Harrell: Oh, right.

0:52:07.4 Jim Lovelady: That was my high point of that conference. Just hearing every team sharing their stories. And then us getting to come around those people and… But we were in… I was in the cafeteria one evening for dinner. And you know, Spain’s great because it’s like wine is on tap, next to the beer. And so here… So I have my tray of food, and I have my glass where I’m pushing the thing and wine’s going in and… No, I had put my tray down. And so my other hand, a little hand grabs my hand, grabs my… Like my pinky or something and, and pulls on me, tugs on me. And I turn around and there’s one of the girls. I can’t remember who it was. One of the girls from the time where I was singing to them.

0:52:53.0 Debbie Harrell: Right.

0:52:54.7 Jim Lovelady: And I was… She’s dragging me away. And I was like, alright, well, wine, and I’ll see you later, wine.

0:53:00.1 Debbie Harrell: Like, hey, yeah. Bye wine.

0:53:00.4 Jim Lovelady: So she drags me over to her parents and she goes, this is the guy that I was telling you about. I was like…

0:53:07.5 Debbie Harrell: Oh, sweetness.

0:53:08.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. It was amazing. I was like.

0:53:10.5 Debbie Harrell: He’s the rock star.

0:53:12.5 Jim Lovelady: Hi everybody.

0:53:12.6 Debbie Harrell: This is the rockstar, you know. Yeah.

0:53:13.3 Jim Lovelady: Hi, everybody. And so then the mom, the mom goes, she goes, oh, hey, I gotta tell you, they’ve been calling… What they’ve been calling you all week. That we watched this show, and Dave Matthews is on that show.

0:53:26.0 Debbie Harrell: Oh, nice.

0:53:26.4 Jim Lovelady: And he sings songs to the kids on that show.

0:53:28.2 Debbie Harrell: That is sweet.

0:53:30.3 Jim Lovelady: And so in that moment, there was a little bit of… There was a little bit of a, huh. Dave Matthews has no problem singing to kids.

0:53:38.9 Debbie Harrell: You are right.

0:53:39.6 Jim Lovelady: There’s that. But then she goes, then she goes, and so she’s been calling you Dave Matthews all week.

0:53:43.8 Debbie Harrell: Oh, nice.

0:53:44.1 Jim Lovelady: And I was like.

0:53:44.8 Debbie Harrell: How.

0:53:44.9 Jim Lovelady: That is the greatest compliment…

0:53:46.3 Debbie Harrell: The greatest compliment.

0:53:48.1 Jim Lovelady: That I could ever get.

0:53:49.9 Debbie Harrell: Wow.

0:53:50.3 Jim Lovelady: And so like that little conversation was such a beautiful gift to me and a continual humbling because Dave Matthews is, I’m not worthy.


0:54:06.0 Debbie Harrell: No.

0:54:06.1 Jim Lovelady: So, to be called so…

0:54:06.3 Debbie Harrell: Like I’ve watched you…


0:54:08.3 Jim Lovelady: And so it was like, Jesus goes, I see you. I see you. And you are ministering to the royal family. And so it was…

0:54:22.5 Debbie Harrell: Sweetness.

0:54:22.6 Jim Lovelady: That was the… It was so… And I went back to my wine, and it was like the wine…

0:54:26.3 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, oh good.

0:54:26.6 Jim Lovelady: The wine was…

0:54:27.3 Debbie Harrell: There was redemption.

0:54:28.4 Jim Lovelady: Oh, don’t worry. I got my wine. But the wine is just sweeter after you have little interactions. A little five-year-old girl. And that was a five-year-old ministering to me. And as I had the honor, and it was, it was an honor. And it was a humbling thing that I’m so grateful for.

0:54:49.3 Debbie Harrell: Thank you for sharing that. That is…

0:54:51.4 Jim Lovelady: I was afraid I was gonna share that story with you.

0:54:53.6 Debbie Harrell: Yeah, no, I’m glad you did. I mean, I was so grateful for you coming and singing and leading them in worship. I mean, that was… Spain was, it was a time of faith and stretching us. But it was also so beautiful to see the kids with connection. Our teens had the best time. I mean, they’re all like, when is the next time that we can connect? Because with third culture kids, they value relationships.

0:55:26.3 Jim Lovelady: Absolutely.

0:55:27.3 Debbie Harrell: And they enter relationships in at a deep level. They have to say a lot of goodbyes. So as they’re stacking that grief tower, in all the goodbyes, and it’s just because relationships have such high value to our kids, and fostering that and helping them come alongside them, has been incredible. And these conferences has really helped our kids and our families connect really well, pray. And like you said, those afternoon prayer times, so valuable. And just listening of how God is moving the kingdom forward through our families, who are part of kingdom building.

0:56:09.5 Jim Lovelady: You know ’cause when the king says, Hey, I want you to go…

0:56:11.9 Debbie Harrell: Serve.

0:56:13.3 Jim Lovelady: I want you to go serve my princes and princesses, you go, I wanna tell everybody that the king asked me, he want… The king wants me to participate in this. The king has called me. The king has called you to 23 years of serving in such creative ways, looking for any way… By any way that you can share the love of God.

0:56:39.1 Debbie Harrell: Right. Through a duck…

0:56:40.0 Jim Lovelady: Through a Yay Duck.

0:56:42.9 Debbie Harrell: Through duck and play-doh. Yeah, tree bags.

0:56:44.3 Jim Lovelady: Just whatever. And so thank you so much for what you do. Thank you for letting me hang out too.

0:56:51.5 Debbie Harrell: Thank you. I traveled miles just to be with you. Planes, trains, and automobiles, I came.

0:56:57.4 Jim Lovelady: You just made it.

0:57:00.8 Debbie Harrell: Just to hang out with you.

Jim Lovelady 57:04: I don’t know much about other mission agencies, but one thing I’m proud of about Serge is the way we endeavor to care for our missionaries and their children. When God calls a couple to leave their home and go to another culture, by default, he’s also calling the children. They too are sacrificing for the kingdom. And God promises to meet with them in that place. And since 2001, Debbie has been ministering to the largest demographic of Serge. Ms. Debbie is amazing, right? Kids. And if you want more of Debbie’s wisdom, we have a valuable resource for you, not just in her books and curricula that you can find at newgrowthpress.com, but she also has a webinar where she digs deeper into a lot of the parenting ideas that she and I discussed. Of all the many helpful and educational webinars that Serge has on our website and on our YouTube channel, this one is by far the most popular, and you’ll see why. I’ll have a link in the show notes for that webinar. Oh, and I have homework for you. Okay? 

Here’s your Grace at the Fray homework for the week. It’s a question that you have to ask. If you’re a parent, you have to ask your kids this question. If you’re not a parent, you have to ask someone who’s close to you, a friend, a spouse, a roommate, someone close enough to you where they can see below the surface. And here’s the question. If there was something about me that you could change, what would it be? Ask that question and let me know how it goes. It’s the kind of question that can become a catalyst for cultivating grace in your life and those around you. I’m gonna post this on Serge’s Instagram, and I wanna hear your answers to how it went in the comments. And let’s get a conversation going that I think can catalyze grace in our lives.

But maybe you are having a hard time preaching the gospel to your kids, and maybe that’s because maybe that’s because you’ve forgotten the gospel for yourself. If so, I wanna invite you to take a pause from your normal life to experience a week that will change your life. Sonship Week is a time for you to bathe yourself into good news of the gospel so that you can actually have good news for your family. So go book your flight to Hollywood, Florida and meet me and the rest of the renewal team and all our special guests for Sonship Week, this October 22nd through 27th. It will change your life. And I suppose now that I think about it, this entire episode has turned into a prayer request on behalf of our children. We bring them to Jesus with all the fervor that we can muster. And we say, Lord, have mercy. We love our children. We love them more than anything. And then immediately the Spirit reminds us that our heavenly Father is good.

And though we are broken and sinful, we would never… If our child asked for bread, we would never give them a stone. How much more does he love them? How much more does he love us? So as we go, as you go, you beloved child of God, go and play in his kingdom, go bring love and generosity to the places that need it most everywhere you go. And when you go, go with this blessing. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you. Turn his bright eyes to you and give you his peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting. Amen.


Debbie Harrell

Debbie Harrell serves as Serge’s Third-Culture Kid (TCK) Resource Team Leader, partnering with missionary families. She grew up in Tucson Arizona. She is the co-author of What's Up? Discovering the Gospel, Jesus and Who You REALLY Are and The Gospel-Centered Parent, and author of What's Up? Elementary.


Jim Lovelady

Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.

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