Jan 23, 2013

A missionary mom

As a missionary, one is faced with many choices not just in ministry but especially in your personal life. But as a missionary mom a whole new dynamic is added to life’s decisions while on the mission field. Lately among my fellow missionary mom friends I have noticed that we are facing similar choices with varying circumstances. The same dilemma we face is this:  How as mothers do we reconcile raising our children in the healthiest and best environment and at the same time be totally committed to our calling?” We are called by the Lord to “go and make disciples” and sometimes that means exposing our children to environments that poses threats and risks to not only their health but also to their upbringing. For moms this is scary and daunting to make these kinds of life choices with your husband; choices that are made FOR your children not WITH your children.

I have heard of testimonies by other missionary families that have lost children to the mission field through various situations. This is a parent’s worst nightmare, especially for any mother who tends to be emotional and thinks the worst about life’s “what ifs”. Immediately the following floods our minds:

“How can I raise my children in such an environment” (an environment that might mean less comforts or a health risk).

“What if I actually were to lose my child, how could I live with that?”

“What will my family say about moving their grandchildren or nieces/nephews to such a different /risky environment?”

“Is this the best time to be moving my child? Should we wait until they are older or moved out of the house?

“What about school and the friends they have? Will they be able to find a spouse where we are moving to?”

“What if we wait? Not to say that we won’t go at all but maybe we should wait until the kids are_____?”

“I can’t possibly go on a mission trip with a baby who is breastfeeding and not potty trained!” or “We can’t move to the mission field with a newborn, there’s no support system, I will be all alone!”

I could go on and on but, well, you get the picture. Maybe to a seasoned missionary mother who “has been there done that” this may not be an issue for you but for other mothers, including myself, these questions and doubts are real and are confusing.

For myself, I have always said, “I never want to tell God ‘No, I won’t do____’ “. Yet I have before and it didn’t last very long. But there are other ways we tell God “no”; we can delay in our obedience or we can choose to take a different route, one that leads to the same result but just not the way God has indicated for us or maybe we squelch the Holy Spirits persistent drawing with our doubts and questions that we end up giving in to our emotions and in the end we say, “I want to___ BUT it’s just too____”.

Let me get more specific and more personal. David and I are facing a decision ourselves, one that is a year away but to me I think about it every day, contemplating and testing the waters of which avenue to take. As I am sure you all know, we are expecting our 2nd child, Jacob. We also have planned our 4th mission trip to Kenya, one in which I play a vital role. I lead 2 VBS programs and this year had planned on leading a woman’s discipleship course. These two events eclipse one another. Our mission trip is scheduled when Jacob will be 10 months old. He will be breastfeeding and not yet potty trained and Hannah will be 6. What do we do?!

Fact: The Lord has called me to “Go and make disciples”.

Fact: It is not an accident that our 2nd child will be less than a year old at this time that we are supposed to be in a 3rd world country.

Fact: We would come against opposition from many people who would disagree with taking our infant into this environment.

Fact: The Holy Spirit (always taking from the Father and giving to me) is ever constant and never changes in His leading and imparting wisdom.

Fact: God has never led us into something then left us and He has never failed us.

Ok, say we do take our infant and 6 year old to Kenya. I would be breastfeeding, changing diapers, taking care of Hannah, trying to keep to a minimum sanitary problems that come with staying in Kenya, doing all of our laundry by hand for all 4 of us, all the while leading a woman’s discipleship class and a VBS program. David will be able to help and bear some of the load but he has his own responsibilities while there, he is responsible for 2 pastor’s conferences, private counseling with leaders when necessary and preaching church services on the side.  Will I be able to do this with an infant and young child in toe?! How can I be of any benefit to those I have come to serve if I and David are so stretched thin with just family responsibilities? Is it even healthy to take a young baby to this environment?

So, again, what do David and I do? Whenever I am faced with this kind of question, whether in my own life or from listening to someone else’s dilemmas, this statement always pops into my head: “What does the Bible say about this situation?” Now unfortunately I can’t turn to, let’s say, Deuteronomy 3:6 and find the answer specifically for David’s and mine current choice (but it would be nice). That means our choice is subjective, meaning there is no “one size fits all” answer, meaning that we have to make a choice based on what God would want us to do, not what other people want us to do or what we would prefer to do.

Two things come to my mind, a passage of Scripture and a song. The song is “I surrender all” and the passage is Luke 14:25-33
25 Once when large crowds of people were going along with Jesus, he turned and said to them, 26 "Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. 27 Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples. 28 If one of you is planning to build a tower, you sit down first and figure out what it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. 29 If you don't, you will not be able to finish the tower after laying the foundation; and all who see what happened will make fun of you. 30 "You began to build but can't finish the job!' they will say. 31 If a king goes out with ten thousand men to fight another king who comes against him with twenty thousand men, he will sit down first and decide if he is strong enough to face that other king. 32 If he isn't, he will send messengers to meet the other king to ask for terms of peace while he is still a long way off. 33 In the same way, concluded Jesus, "none of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have.

Wow, both hit home for me.  Now applying this verse to our situation and the solution is one that intimidates me and leaves me stuttering, “But..but…but…”. This choice cannot be made hastily or recklessly or can even be made by taking a poll amongst our friends and family members to see what they think. In the end it is us following our Savors plan for us and our children, young as they may be. 

Thankfully, a choice does not need to be made right now at this very moment. But there will come a day when David and I will need to look at this choice square in the face and make a decision. Right now, I am praying. Praying for what, you might ask. Praying that until that time comes, I will not worry, I will be patient and I will not rush the leading of the Lord in our life. The fact that my future and this choice remains unresolved at the moment drives me insane because I like to have everything planned out and know what to expect and what to do ahead of time. Therefore, in this scenario I think the lesson just isn’t in making “the choice” but it is also in the “waiting” to make the choice. Sometimes God does say “wait” and for the time being that is what David and have heard from the Holy Spirit. Obviously God knows what we will do and how everything will unfold but for some reason He has chosen to conceal the answer from us at the moment and I am just gonna have to learn to be okay with that!

I ask everyone reading this to pray for us this coming year. Pray that we will follow Gods leading no matter what it may mean for us, even if it means an unpopular choice.

All I want as a missionary mom is to exhibit to my children through my life what it looks like to be a total, sold out disciple to Christ every single day and in every situation. Yeah it might mean doing things that seem “risky/unwise” to many, yeah it will probably mean discomfort not only for me but for my kids as well and yes it might even mean sacrificing our earthly lives for our heavenly one. In order to be completely sold out, David and I need to count the cost and be ready for whatever might come. Praise the Lord He has found us worthy to be trusted with the family and ministry He has given us to lead while here on earth.

Whatever may come I know that David and I can say, “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength”

Only by His Grace,