Some time ago, my precious friend Natasha summed up a lot of our authors’s thoughts into one beautiful post entitled How to Make Yourself Miserable on the Mission Field. She had some wonderful insight into the importance of surrender on the mission field so that we may not find ourselves miserable and unable to be used of the Lord in our respective countries. This week, I would like to follow up her ideas with some ways we might safeguard our family from finding themselves in this precarious predicament as well.
So how does one’s family become miserable on the mission field? Let me count the ways.
- Stay inside your four walls.
While motives may be pure- focusing on the training and nurturing of our family, educating our littles, and protecting them from worldly things just outside our doors- we do our families a disservice by not allowing them to experience a rich culture, learn a language, and meet children with whom they can build relationships, thus eliminating the outsider feeling and replacing it with a sense of belonging in this otherwise unfamiliar territory.
- Dwell on the differences
This morning, my husband was recounting the previous day’s daddy-daughter date to the local supermarket. They walked and took a very crowded bus on the way there, and took a taxi on the way home. He told me how everyone was staring at and making comments about her as she maneuvered her way around cracked up dirt roads and stepped around sleeping dogs. He said, “She doesn’t even know it’s weird.” She takes everything for what it is and just rolls with it. I think we full-grown ladies could learn a thing or two from the teachable spirits of our toddlers! If we give into the temptation to point out all of the discrepancies between our home and host cultures, we cultivate a dissatisfaction in the hearts of those most precious to us. We create seeds of discontentment inside a pliable mind that most likely hadn’t connected the dots on just how peculiar this place is. They don’t have 30 years of comparisons to make and will be better off without the input of those who do.
- Lose them to the ministry
This mistake made by the well-intentioned is to forsake the family in the name of ministry. While Natasha mentioned that we should not forsake the ministry of church planting in pursuit of our primary ministry inside the home, the opposite should also be avoided. Even in the midst of language learning, cultural adaptation, and intentional soul-winning, we need to be aware of the needs of our children and keep them accountable for sin in their lives. We can’t be so blinded by our own busyness that we lose our children to their flesh. A wonderful remedy to this common problem is to allow our children to participate in ministry. This does not mean that we force them to do things they may not be interested in doing, but it does mean that there are some things we do as a family to reach our community. However, we can’t just wake up one day when our children are near grown and implement these things. They need to know that Jesus is our life, reaching souls for His kingdom is our priority, and there are great blessings in service to Him. If we make reaching the lost a passion-filled and exciting adventure, it stands to reckon our children will want to come along for the ride.
- Fail to be your husband’s everything
I think sometimes this term “help-meet” is thrown around, and the task seems vague and unattainable. Well this might still sound impossible, but our husbands need us to be their everything. Now before the feminists jump down my throat (although I would certainly enjoy being a trending Facebook topic), I should explain that this list, in my opinion, does not include being his personal chef and maid. These things have their place and are a great way to show a heart of service to my man; however, they are not my primary concern. There will always be laundry piled up and pizzas to be ordered! He needs me to help him in whatever way serves him best. For each family, of course, this looks different. In short, your husband needs you to be his cheerleader, friend, encourager, helper and fellow-visionary, lover, and safe place. At the end of the day, when your man nearly falls into the bed, he needs to know he’s home. He doesn’t need a list of in-home demands or even a ministerial to-do-list. He needs YOU and he needs all of you, even when you feel like you have nothing left to give.
- Keep your husband from fulfilling his calling
A man has been dreaming of arriving on the field and seeing people saved for what seems like FOR-EV-ER! Imagine his dismay when his wife is constantly needing him to take time away from language learning, soul winning, and training men to attend to the MANY needs of his wife! As ministry wives, we are to make his job easier, NOT harder, though it appears that many are not aware of this. Asking your husband to help you put the kids to bed or feed the baby or get the kids a snack now and then is not a criminal act. However, the daily habitual nagging that can creep into our marriages can be detrimental to the ministry. Yes, I am tired and overwhelmed and my kids are crazy! It would be amazing to have help! But wouldn’t it be more amazing for my husband to feel free to fulfill his calling as a man of God and see lives changed by the gospel we came clear across the world to bring? It’s not always even asking him to stay home. It’s that pouty look I give him when he says he is leaving or someone is coming over. It’s that shrug and half-hearted kiss I give him that means, “Please don’t leave me.” I know I will be happy that he speaks this language and that he has teachable men hanging on his every word one day. Ask me any day, and I will tell you this is a dream we share! But do my thoughts and actions on a daily basis reflect this? Does my husband feel my support go with him as he trudges on with language learning? Or does he hear that whiny voice that has found it’s way into his head saying, “I need you HERE.” He can’t be all he needs to be and do everything he needs to do if his thoughts are occupied with the happenings at home. It is my responsibility to man the home front so he can be on the front lines of battle.
- Fail to have FUN
I live in a place with shockingly few options for entertainment. I’m not lying when I say I haven’t found a park yet. While we don’t have access to story time, play groups, and amusement parks, we have found other ways to have fun. This doesn’t always involve spending money (the funnest things have! Ha!), but it does require being intentional about the time we have with our family. While the temptation at the end of a long week of language school or life-draining ministry is to close the blinds, turn on the TV, and crash on the couch while our kids run around like savages, we need to be sensitive to the fact that they need to have a little fun! We make a big deal over tiny things around here. For example, recently, KFC opened back up for the first time since the earthquake back in April, and you would have thought we were going to the Ringling Brothers by my 3 year old’s reaction when we visited today!We go out of our way and do all kinds of silly things in an attempt to have fun with our children and create memories in a place where we aren’t spoiled by endless entertainment options. It can also make a difference year round to make American holidays, birthdays, and other occasions extremely special. We may find that your host culture’s or your family’s improvised way might turn out even better. Sushi at Christmas dinner? Giving presents on YOUR birthday? Why not? Don’t be so stuck on tradition that you miss opportunities for remarkable celebrations because you can’t do it the atypical way. I’m a first termer but have the privilege to know so many incredible missionaries who helped me learn these valuable lessons. I pray that my family will thrive on the mission field and see many souls come to Christ. I don’t want to be the reason my family doesn’t make it on the mission field. I don’t want to be the source of my family’s misery and demise of our God-given ministry. I’m willing to bet you don’t either, but like me, have been guilty of many of aforementioned mistakes.
May our families always be content to serve our Lord who gave His all so that have abundant life in Him.