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Like Father, Like Daughter - A Missions Legacy

by Julie Griffin, MD, and Julian Griffin
Today's Christian Doctor - Summer 2014

How do parents instill an interest in missions in their children? It’s a question many mission-minded parents ponder. Our story shows the bonds of love that evolved when a father-daughter duo began serving together in missions several years ago. From a father’s and mother’s desire to share Jesus with their young daughters to cultivating their passion for evangelism inter-generationally, missions has not only brought us closer to Christ and diverse cultures, it has also brought us closer together as a family.

A Father’s Desire for His Children

From the birth of our children, our parenting responsibilities become a lifelong endeavor. Believers often cite a revered verse from Scripture to substantiate their approach to parenting: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6). This truth cannot be challenged, but how we apply it may take myriad paths.

Many years ago, a very good friend of mine made the following observation: a person’s circumstances in life are generally the result of three things—what he reads, the friends he chooses and the decisions he makes.

I believe my friend’s observation is instructive in the application of Proverbs 22:6. Through prayer and scriptural guidance, we should strive to equip our children with the requisite skills to make appropriate selections of reading materials (anchored by the Holy Bible), choices of friends and sound decisions. As they grow older, including adulthood, our influence upon our children perhaps comes more from the example we set through the application of these skills in our own lives.

I have been involved in missions for more than 20 years, including responsibilities as a church board member and now as a missions pastor, as well as serving in numerous short-term domestic and international missions initiatives. Through my experiences in working with missionaries throughout the world, personal study of missiology, personal missions trips and my understanding of Scripture, I have gained a deeper understanding of what is required for missions ministry to be successful. I have attempted to pass this understanding to my children.

Philippians 2:4 says, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." This Scripture provides a guiding principle to missions—there are others in this world besides us, and we need to engage with them. To put it succinctly, successful missions first and foremost presents Jesus to people within the context of the local culture. To the extent we are able to use particular skills during this presentation that meet the needs of the people that they are unable to meet themselves, or not meet them as well, missions effectiveness can be enhanced further.

Julian and Julie Griffin with one of the patients Julie treated in the medical clinic in Moldova.

Like Father, Like Daughter

Philippians 2:4 also logically leads us to a holistic model for personal missions ministry. This model involves seeing others, learning their culture in those instances where it differs from our own and presenting Jesus. It is this model that we, as parents, are to focus on demonstrating for our children. And it is this model that we, as father and daughter, continue to cultivate through our work in missions.

Seeing Others

Father (Julian): As we are reminded in Philippians 2:4, God did not create us to be concerned only with our own wellbeing. Many others around us— locally, within our country and around the world— need assistance that we can provide. My wife and I wanted our children to spend more time looking at the world through the eyes of others in order to see and understand their needs.

Daughter (Julie): As a child growing up, my parents taught me early how to recognize someone in need. One of my earliest memories is of shopping for school clothes. We would come home with a few new outfits, and then Mom would help us go through our older clothes. "We only need so many outfits, and there are other little girls whose clothes have holes. Let’s share with them." We learned early on to consider others. Now, as a medical director for a community health center in rural Kansas, I’m encouraging others in our church and community to "see" the poor and bring hope to them.

Learning the Local Culture

Father: We wanted our daughters to learn that not everyone is like our family or our Midwest American culture. We took them on vacations to various cities across the country and, when possible, to other countries to introduce them to different peoples, geographies, lifestyles, cultures and ways of doing things. When they reached adulthood, they continued to build upon the interest our family travels sparked within them, and their travels have taken them to new destinations.

Daughter: As a 10-year-old, the allure of family vacations was swimming at the beach between requisite museums. Little did I realize the teaching moments that were happening when homeless people knocked on our car window while in the Los Angeles metropolis or when my parents refused my sister and me the choice of a chain restaurant in lieu of a local mom-and-pop restaurant. The history lessons weren’t just intellectual; we learned to value others and to love them as God loves them. Different people have different cultures and ways of life, but everyone needs Jesus, regardless of their appearance, their station in life or their origin.

Presenting Jesus

Father: 1 Peter 4:10 instructs us, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms." We have many different options for presenting Jesus to the world. One does not have to be a credentialed minister to present the gospel. Moreover, God can use the very skills He has given you in a secular position to grow His Kingdom.

Daughter: One of the most helpful concepts my parents taught me was the ability to develop the gifts the Lord had given me. When I came home as a young

Julian Griffin speaks with leaders in a local Kenya community about scripturally-based financial and business skills.

child with a calling to be a missionary doctor, they encouraged me wholeheartedly. Yet, the focus wasn’t on becoming a doctor; it was on developing a broad foundation so that I could be flexible to serve the Lord in any way He called me.

Finding our "gifts" can be quite the search for some of us, and some of us are still on that search as adults. For others, gifts and opportunities may change over time. What I saw as a child were parents who fervently shared Jesus with others. From my dad’s involvement as an usher and board member to my mom’s helping a young woman juggling a difficult pregnancy and her son with developmental disabilities to leading the women’s group at church, my parents set a pattern of giving their time and talents to others. Today, they’ve moved on to other roles in the church and community, but they have the same devotion to presenting the gospel. Now, we’re doing it together as a team—my mom, my dad and I all have our roles, and they complement each other well, in a pattern only the Lord could weave together.

A Family Missions Paradigm in Action

Father: In our case, Julie and I have taken multiple missions trips together and individually, including to Moldova through Global Health Outreach (GHO), Tenwek Hospital in Kenya and several other countries. During these trips, we have presented the gospel through the application of special skills with which God has equipped us. We’re learning more each year by attending the Global Missions Health Conference and CMDA’s National Convention together. As a healthcare professional, Julie is able to provide care to people who have no alternative. With skills I have acquired through formal education, a long corporate career and self-study, I teach people in the local community scripturally-based financial and business skills to help them improve their lives by managing their personal finances more effectively as well as to plan, start and manage a business. I also teach business and financial skills to pastors and church leaders to enable them to manage their churches more effectively.

Dr. Julie Griffin interacts with community members while doing house calls in Moldova.

Daughter: Those in our families often know us in our deepest places. They cry with us in the most difficult times and rejoice with us in our achievements. For me, it has been an incredible experience to share my patients’ stories with my father over fresh Kenyan pineapple. It’s a gift few receive—the opportunity to not only live out the Lord’s calling from 25 years ago, but to celebrate it on another continent with the man who believed God could speak to a child’s heart when his little daughter first announced her calling to be a healthcare missionary in Africa.

A Missions Legacy

The main takeaway from our experiences has been that God will use your most effective skills, which by the way He has given you, to achieve His purposes. Additionally, He will reveal to you where you should serve—your local community, elsewhere within our country or the international stage.

From the Abrahamic Covenant to the Great Commission, the Bible emphasizes the importance of parental guidance and blessing, as well as the Father’s relationship to His Son. We should model that same paradigm in our own families. Parents should live out their duty to teach their children about the Lord, His love for them personally and His love for all mankind. Children have the responsibility to receive that love and to pass it on to others.

I am especially thankful that not only has Julie responded to the need for effective missions ministry as a result of my example, but that we have also been able to serve together to spread the gospel. Like father, like daughter, and by God’s grace, like Jesus.


Julie Griffin, MD
Julian Griffin