A letter from mommy to mommy: part II
For part one click here.
9. How do you and your husband deal with challenges when managing family life and ministry?
Rachel: We talk and pray together a lot.
Beth: We talk and pray a lot together about what is going on. I know sometimes I think I’m praying and talking to God, but actually, I’m just worrying it over in my head, I haven’t actually given it over to Jesus. We read and also seek the advice of others when needed. Sometimes we are too close to the situation and asking someone else gives perspective.
Carol: We try to help each other with our ministry and share responsibilities a lot. We often discuss what we want to do each day and work with each other’s schedule.
10. What’s one thing you want people to know about being a missionary mom? Is there a difference between being a mom and a missionary mom?
Rachel: I don’t think there is any major difference besides context. Our roles are the same but the context in which we carry out our roles are different. I do all the same tasks a mom does in my home country, but now I do it while intentionally living among unreached people groups in a way that brings glory to the gospel.
Beth: I’m just a regular mum who made the decision, with my husband, to be deliberate about living our lives to help others know the truth of God’s love for them. It happens that for us at this stage it means living in South Asia. While there are challenges specific to being in a foreign nation, I still need to daily make the choices I needed to make in my home country—do I choose to give or to hold on? How do I spend my energy and time? Do I pursue love, truth, beauty, holiness or do I indulge my childish tendency of laziness or ‘temper tantrums’ when things don’t go my way? Do I give into ‘poor me’ thoughts or make a deliberate turn to an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving? While you might think it should be easy to be thankful when so close to those disadvantaged in so many ways, it is also true that there can be a strong temptation to entertain very unhelpful and “ungodly” thoughts of ‘all I put up with or have to deal with living here.’ What is a missionary mother? If we, as believers, are all called to share our faith and live out the gospel day-to-day, then the difference is that a missionary mum is a believing mum who is by definition seeking God’s ways in her life, no matter the location. The non-missionary mum would be simply a mother who is not a believer.
Carol: You only know when you do it yourself and its way more work than you think. This is what I’m learning because I’m a new mom, but I see that we do have a responsibility to reflect Jesus’ love and we are under a microscope more than we think. We don’t realise how much people see the gospel in the way we treat our children and husbands. Being a missionary mom shows the Father’s love in a practical way. But to be honest, I am also asking myself these questions, so I don’t really know either. Moms and missionary moms are similar, but I think missionary moms, because they don’t live in their home countries, are more vulnerable and there is more loneliness. You feel less in control by choice but then you have a choice to rely on God more which in a sense is beautiful.
11. What are some of the misconceptions people have about being a mom on the mission field?
Rachel: People see being a missionary mom as very uncomfortable and difficult, but I believe that though it is uncomfortable, it is not impossible.
Beth: They think that I’m some kind of elite Christian who always has the answer. I’m not and I don’t! I think being here has certainly grown me and matured me in many ways – and continues to do so. And in choosing this lifestyle we have chosen to put ourselves in the path of learning and growing in our faith. But I am here, and still here, because of the Lord’s work in my life, not any special qualifications I have. On our first furlough, we spoke to a church group while our oldest children (then three and five) were seated with their grandparents. Afterwards, a woman approached me and shared how she had been watching my very well-behaved offspring and thinking along the lines of them being elite children. This idea was shattered as one of my children bopped the other one quite decisively. They are just normal kids with a unique perspective.
Carol: I think I still have some misconception myself because I’m such a new mom, but I think people wonder what’s your added value to the team as you are home a lot. It’s still a good question for me to think about because I’m struggling with it myself. People also think I’m being irresponsible taking my kid somewhere because of my own passion. It’s like I’m taking my child bungee jumping because I love doing it so much. Back home, people always ask what I am doing because they know my husband’s ministry, but they keep asking what my ministry is because I can’t just be a mom. Being a mom in this South Asian country is a lot of work because everything is done from scratch. Doing the simplest things becomes a huge burden.
12. What advice would you give to other moms?
Rachel: Keep your devotion time. I think this is really important no matter how busy your schedule is. It helps to continually remind you who you are and why you are here. I saw for myself how spending time with God helped me so much to overcome my personal struggles. Now I’m getting better at practising this advice and I see that a normal day is not a normal day when you have a close relationship with God. That makes me happy.
Beth: Don’t be afraid to be different to the world if the one you follow is worthy. We look at our own cultures and see them through a particular worldview. Even for those of us from nations with mixed nationalities, it is hard to see outside of what we are in. Stepping outside of our culture, physically but also through things such as good biblical teaching, helps us see things in a different light. This includes our home church culture. The Bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). For believing mums it’s so important that we continue to be transformed ourselves, and then, by extension, we have such an important and influential role to play in the transformation of our families and our cultures. It is so important to stay in the truth for this to be possible. It’s too easy to try to live out what you ‘think’ you ‘know’ the Bible says. I don’t think we are transformed so well that way. Be in the word, keep growing and being renewed. I write this for myself too.
Carol: You need a lot of grace, but you will also need to give a lot of grace. It’s hard but you don’t want to tell people that, but at the same time I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Having other missionary moms on the field with you is good support and you learn a lot as they share their experiences. I would also say make use of the support system around you and don’t try to figure it by yourself.
13. How do you help your children understand why your family is living this particular life and how do you involve them in missions?
Rachel: My kids are now seven and five years old, so they understand when we explain things to them. Through the Bible and prayer time, we teach them to pray for needs and show them how the Bible talks about the importance of doing what we do on the field. So, when my husband has to go away for some time, my kids and I pray more instead of focusing on being sad. It is still not easy explaining and helping them to understand but we are working on it.
Beth: We involve our children as much as possible. This is their life too, and their calling (as they choose to follow Jesus). We want them to learn this perspective for all their lives, not just in this season. We take them with us on ministry, if possible, they see/hear us having conversations about truth during everyday life, we ask for their prayers – explaining what we need prayer for/what they can pray for when they see us in certain situations and we read and talk about what the Bible says about God, people and the world. As our children get older, we need to be listening to their perception and reception of us living here. We don’t anticipate a problem, as this is where they have grown up. However, what will we do if one of them expresses a desire to not be here? My husband and I do believe that God doesn’t just call the husband or the wife. They are called to be married, so one is not going to receive an assignment to go and live and work somewhere without the other being a part of it. I have heard numerous stories from friends of themselves as children or their children being given assurance and peace from God to go along with the family plan. If at some point that peace is not there with our children, I think we would need to take it very seriously. God loves little children.
Carol: We would like to bring him along with us when doing ministry one day. When I was a missionary kid, I wasn’t always completely aware of what my parents were doing and I think it’s important for your children to know. I also remember as a child we had a yearly event where all the fathers on the team would share testimonies of what God had done for them on the field and all the children would be there listening. I think that was a good thing to do. Also, doing fun activities with them that they wouldn’t get to do in our home country is also good.
14. What are some essential things a missionary mom should always have on the field in order to thrive?
Rachel: Spend time with God. When you do that even though every day and things remain the same, you are changed because God is in your heart.
Beth: Have prayer partners. Not just someone you email with your newsletter, but someone you can send personal requests to PRAY NOW for. They could be on, or off, the field. A healthy marriage, good communication and a sense of humour are also important. A willingness and desire to learn and grow; spiritually and in other areas while extending grace for yourself and others. Mum friends are also good. These days you can be connected to people at home so easily but making the effort to build connections with other mothers in the local world you are living in is worth it. For me, this is other mothers on our team, but also a group of other Christian foreigners who homeschool. We plan homeschool days which are great for the kids’ education, but to be honest I think I go more for myself. That time of connection and fellowship is so good.
Carol: An understanding husband makes all the difference for me. Loneliness is such a big thing, so having a husband who understands you helps so much. My husband always assumes my day was harder than his so when he goes away for ministry for a couple weeks he always cries and prays for me a lot while he is away. Having a more experienced mom around you is also good to have.
After interviewing these women, I realised that their stories impacted me way more than I expected them to. It gave me a glimpse of the true reality of living out your life as a believing mother. The reality that loving and being obedient to God could mean going to a developing country or a high-security risk country closed off to the gospel, downsizing your comfort level or just doing the things that seem like the hardest thing to do in your life all because God said to do it. I did this post to learn from them and expose what it’s like to live in the field as a mom. I see that it’s more than just living on the field or in a different country; it’s simply learning to be obedient to God daily. I saw how these three women, in opening their hearts to me and the readers of the OM Blog, needed their story to be told. They needed to tell it to themselves and to others as they grow in understanding that their divine role as a mother is an amazing recommendation for the gospel. It’s a role, ministry and lifestyle that will break you apart, build you up and turn you inside out, all for the glory of God whether you want to accept the process of not. I pray for you mothers, whatever season you are in, that God will give you all the grace and mercy to endure it because it is worth it.