The McFarlanes’ Marvelous, Messy, Missional Life

Photo by Beky Smith

by Jeff Finley

Asia is a long way from the McFarlanes’ southern Illinois home, but the distant continent is close to their hearts.

Scott and Karen McFarlane and their three children — Brennan, 11; Drew, 8; and Lily, 6 — sponsor multiple Asian children through Christian relief agencies, including the Free Methodist Church’s International Child Care Ministries (ICCM).

But child sponsorship is just one of the family’s many links to Asia. Lily lived in India until last year when she joined the McFarlane family after a rigorous, two-and-a-half-year adoption process.

“One of the criticisms of interna-tional adoption is that Americans are rich, and they’re taking the kids away from the poor people,” Karen said. “We say, no, we want to support as many families staying together as we can.”

But when a family can’t care for a child, Karen said, adoption is needed.

Much of Scott’s life has alternated between two Free Methodist college towns — Spring Arbor, Mich., and his present community of Greenville, Ill. He has also lived in urban areas, including two years working in Hong Kong and worshipping at its First Filipino FMC.

“I saw a lot of needs around the world that I wasn’t exposed to as a middle-class American growing up in Spring Arbor,” Scott said. “I had a reverse culture shock when I came back. I was angry at all the wealth I saw here.”

Scott became a vocal critic of the business world. While he was working as a resident director at Spring Arbor University, Scott’s anti-business stance troubled his mentor, Chuck White, a professor of Christian thought and history.

“[White] pointed his finger at me one day and told me I was ignorant of economics and before I continued spouting about economic issues, I needed to educate myself,” said Scott, who enrolled in business courses and eventually earned an MBA.

Scott started Compass Global, a consulting firm that links companies in Asia, Europe and North America to meet technology needs.

“I strongly advocate for companies overseas that are doing missional work through their engines of business,” Scott said.

Karen grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., and majored in early childhood education at Spring Arbor. During a spring break in an Anabaptist community similar to the Amish, she became fascinated with the idea of living simply in community.

Scott and Karen were drawn to each other’s countercultural ideals when they began dating, but their views later shifted to working within culture to improve it.

“We were so idealistic,” Karen said. “With kids, we’re forced to be practical.”

While Scott travels on business, Karen is the lone manager of a household of three children — not an easy task for someone with two decades of chronic fatigue syndrome. When times have been tough, the couple said, God has strengthened them through the support of friends, family and professional counseling.

“Anybody who’s trying to live a missional life in our culture will struggle. It’s a messy way to live,” Karen said. “But we wouldn’t trade our messy, missional life for anything, because we are where we feel God wants us to be, and He has made our lives rich and full of blessings along with the challenges.”

No comments yet.