A glimpse into an often overlooked but critical role in missionary care, and one couple who jumped in without looking back
It’s a school day and Kevin and Kim Mills’ alarm clock goes off at 5:45 a.m. They roll out of bed and start getting breakfast ready for 17 people. Around the dining table 45 minutes later, groggy eyes abound and words are few––and not always in English.
The Mills just completed three and a half years as MAF dorm parents on the campus of Hillcrest School in Papua, Indonesia. There they’ve been caring for 12 missionary kids, high schoolers and junior highers, along with their own three children. It’s a multi-cultural, multi-lingual home that includes a wide range of nationalities: American, Canadian, Dutch, Australian, New Zealander, Korean and South African students.
“It’s just this international blend. And it’s a family, as weird as it is,” laughs Kim. “We told the kids early on that we’re not there to replace your family, but to add to it. You’ve got your family “back home,” and now you have the dorm family too.”
Every day is a juggling act of meal planning, errands and grocery shopping, responding to emails, communicating with parents, signing permission slips, answering questions, after-school taxiing, tutoring, counseling, and conflict resolution. Finally 10pm rolls around and it’s lights-out and bedtime for everyone before they all return to the routine tomorrow at the crack of dawn.
When they were praying about making the move to full-time missions, both Kevin and Kim immediately thought of the dorm ministry. They had spent a year teaching at Hillcrest School back in 1999, and Kim had even attended the school for a few years as a missionary kid herself. In fact, her father (Dave Linton) was one of the founders of the school back in the mid-80s.
“Our heart is missionary care,” said Kim. “We’re crazy about kids and making disciples … seeing healthy missionary families. I tell the parents all the time: ‘I want you to miss your kids, because that’s normal for a parent. But we don’t want you to worry about them. We want you to rest knowing we’re going to take great care of them.’ Then parents can continue in their own ministry without being crippled by the fear of what’s going on in the dorm or at the school.”
“We tell people that when they support our ministry they’re also supporting a handful of other missions that we’re serving,” said Kevin. “We serving with MAF, but as dorm parents we’re a chain link for the parents’ ministries with World Team, Pioneers, Wycliffe, and others.”
“History has shown us time and time again that a missionary’s longevity and enthusiasm for the ministry that they are involved in is closely tied to the wellbeing of their children. The Mills are an extremely important part of our mission community here in Papua,” said David Holsten, MAF Regional Director for Indonesia.
Uniquely prepared for a unique role
Twenty-three years ago when Kevin and Kim were first married, they strongly felt they’d be in full-time ministry … someday. God brought them on a winding path through different careers, experiences, and trials to perfectly equip them for the unique situations they would one day encounter as dorm parents.
“It’s as if God prepared us for some of these things before we even knew what he was preparing us for,” said Kevin.
Her background is in math and law enforcement, and his is in English and writing—so they’ve got the homework thing covered.
Kim says her interviewing experience allowed her to tackle some of the more difficult conversations without fear or hesitation. “There’s just no way to be fully prepared for some of the things these kids walk in the door with. You have to be able to adapt and respond, rather than react.”
“We’re often astounded that He’s given us the strength, the wisdom, and the insight we need, just when we needed it,” added Kevin.
The Mills believe they’re training the next generation of disciples and Christian leaders. When May rolls around each year, they start to wonder, just like every parent, about the impact they had. “Did we do a good job? Are they going to remember everything we said? Lord, watch over them, please!”
“We’ve learned that the biggest need these kids have is just to have someone who trusts them and believes in them and walks through life with them,” said Kim. “They need our time more than our advice.”
“The pilots and mechanics love and minister to people through planes, while we love and minister through the dorm. Same goal, but different tools,” said Kevin.
Being a Dorm Parent is a unique calling, but the fact is there aren’t a lot of people lining up for the job. Fortunately for MAF and Hillcrest School, the Mills were both ready and willing to fill the need, and they’re content to remain there for as long as the Lord wants.
The Mills are currently touring the States visiting churches and telling people about their ministry. Before they can return to Papua they need to build a full team of financial partners and prayer warriors. If you’d like to join their team, please call MAF at 1-800-359-7623 or visit: