The topic of the night was “Moms in Missions”. They sat across the front, these three women. They were beautiful, poised, eloquent. One held her baby girl in her arms, another held hers in her growing belly. Between the three, I think they had eleven children of all ages. Their lives were different from each other – different pasts, different journeys, different callings – but somehow they all ended up here on this international missions base in the middle of the Pacific to tell us what it’s like to combine full-time motherhood with full-time missions. I was expectant and came looking for something. I wanted to know how they do it. Is it really possible to raise kids in the middle of a crazy, unpredictable missionary life? How do you balance dual callings or is there even such a thing? Does it have to be either/or? How do you travel so much? What is it like to raise a family while dependent on others for support? And on and on my list went. Just in case this is my future, I want to be prepared for what’s ahead and what my life as a mom might look like.
They told their stories one at a time, and they were simple, profound, full of mistakes and challenges and unexpected things, but also full of Gods mercy and redemption and overwhelming love. One talked of the perpetual feeling of being overwhelmed, how God clearly spoke and set her free. Another spoke of the comparison trap with other women that almost derailed their ministry in Africa. The third spoke of the pain of infertility leading to an adoption and then a pregnancy that came at a very surprising time. They all spoke of the struggle of entering into motherhood and of laying down their own wants and expectations for the sake of the little souls in their care. They spoke of their daily lives, husbands and children, ministry and carpool, having company for dinner and seasons, especially seasons. There is a time for everything. Motherhood. Ministry. Motherhood AS the ministry. They prayed for us and over us that we would find our place, that we would lay down our comparisons, that we would come out from under the burden of being overwhelmed, that we would be blessed in our season. And it was over.
I left the meeting deep in thought. They didn’t answer even one of my prepared questions. They didn’t give any charts on how much time they devote to ministry versus how much time they devote to motherhood. They didn’t address all the ways missionary kids could feel deprived of a “normal” childhood. They didn’t talk about money at all. In fact, the more they talked, the more I realized that their life sounds a lot like mine. Yes they are missionaries – women sold out to Jesus, living lives of obedience far from the places they grew up. They left their homes and cultures to train and equip and spread the Gospel, but on a daily basis, their obedience looks so much like my obedience. They still have the same choices to make…to clean up messes with a smile, to steward their children’s hearts when they really just want to get some sleep, to communicate with the their husbands, to walk through their days without complaining, to choose Gods priorities and perspective over their own. The work of managing a home and raising children doesn’t magically disappear or change just because you move far away and take the title of missionary. There’s still laundry and homework and meals to prepare and children to train up. And these are not the lesser things of ministry. They ARE the ministry. Being a mom in missions is the same as being a mom in any other place. It’s following Jesus first and realizing that the daily things of life are where we really walk out our faith. It’s the unglamorous duties that mold our character and teach us so much about how to love well. Choosing a right heart in the smallest of things matters to the Lord as much as the grandest achievements in His name. He is glorified when we serve whoever is in our path whether it’s children or husbands, the homeless man on the corner or the indigenous people of some foreign place.
So in the end it doesn’t matter whether I end up wearing the title of missionary or not, my calling is the same as every other mom, to love my husband, to train up my children in the ways of the Lord, and to seek first His kingdom right where I’m at. I may get to experience motherhood in a new context with some new challenges and some new places. I may not. Either way it’s okay. Raising these boys, loving their dad, serving where I am…this is my season. Whatever the future holds, I am content, and I am ready.