Friday, March 11, 2011

Being a Missionary is not my Real Job!

Thoughts for Missionary Wives

I am often asked what is a typical day like living on the mission field . It is a very hard question to answer. You must understand that every circumstance is different. The missionary's schedule will be dictated by the culture in which he works, the level of his language skills, the ministry role in which he has been placed, and even the missionary's personality.

Our days in the jungle were completely different than our days here in Paraguay. Both were full of ministry but ministering to our flock was different there than it will be here. We do not do any medical work here, we do not need to do translation work, but we still have a ministry.

A common misconception some people hold is in regards to what the role of the missionary wife should be. Wives on the mission field do indeed serve in various capacities, but their ministries will be different depending on several factors. How many children are in the home? Does she have small children? Does she need to home school the children? What are her living conditions? (Carrying water, cooking with fire wood, hand washing laundry do take time!)What help does her husband require of her? Her ministry will be ever changing as the dynamics of her home change.

My job is to be the wife my husband needs, finish raising our children yet at home, which includes home schooling them, and if my husband needs me to serve in a capacity of ministry, I will do that as well. But, in my case, I am only a woman married to a missionary. Being a missionary is not my real job! I do not get paid to be a missionary nor do I punch a time clock. I am a stay at home wife and mother and I happen to live on the mission field.

As a child of God I do feel required to take part in christian service as is every other Christian where ever they may live. I have the privilege of enjoying my life as the wife of a missionary and I also feel fulfilled in my role as wife and mother. Serving my Lord on the mission field is just the icing on the cake!

I would like to be able to instruct younger missionary wives as to the role which they play on the field. Every woman is different and married to a different man. Every ministry will ask different things of different people, but the missionary wife must never feel guilty for putting her time and energy first into her family.

Some families are able to find adequate education for their children on the field and I am not assuming to know what may be best for another family, but even if your children are enrolled in a school your job as a wife and mother will still require much time. Some woman even need to have outside interests and ministry will fulfill this for her, but in balance. This time away from the home duties may allow you to came back refreshed.

The work of a home maker seems to always be more time consuming in third world countries. We do not have the option of packaged foods, fast foods, we do not have central air and heat to keep dust out of the home. We sometimes lack time saving appliances commonly found in the american home. Our electricity and water go out often which requires more work. Buying groceries and other supplies takes much more time as we do not have the convenience of a Super Wal-Mart with one stop shopping. Even paying bills takes a lot of time. We can not do it online or even mail in a check, we have to go stand in several lines to pay each one. Of course, that is after standing in line at the bank to change our money in order to pay the bills, all the while watching our backs to make sure we will not be robbed as we leave the bank, which happened to a lady here just a few weeks ago, shot dead in the parking lot for $2000 US Dollars. Sometimes our homes and cars are robbed and we have gun shots in the night.

How many times have I seen women on the mission field break under the pressure she feels to perform more than she is capable of! This often leads to depression and even leaving the mission field. Perhaps, if the missionary wife would relax a bit and give herself the opportunity to be 'just another woman' this would not happen so often. Remember you are under extra stress just dealing with life in a new culture and and language.

To the younger wives I would remind you that your children will grow up and you will have more time available for ministry then. Never forget your people are observing you and the best testimony is for you to show them a Christian woman who is at peace and content.

I have known phenomenal women who were able to do it all! Sadly, I have known many who gave up, not feeling adequate to the job they assumed others expected of them. Often times this pressure comes from well meaning folks stateside who somehow think the wife of a missionary should be capable of more than any other woman. A Christian Super Woman with special powers! Personally, I think being able to sleep through gun shots flying over your roof is a Super Power! Some even think that the wife is an employee of the mission, which may be the case for some, but not all.

So dear younger missionary wife, don't forget to enjoy your life. Don't forget to be available to your husband as a wife, not an employee, put your best time and effort into your children, and serve God first at home. Remember you also need time to study and promote your own intellectual and spiritual growth as this will only serve you in your capacity as a counselor to others. And you will be a counselor!

God will always provide the right ministry for you that will not be more than you can handle. If you are stressing out, feeling pressured to perform, loosing joy in your marriage, or do not have control of your home and yet still try to be involved in ministry outside of the home, you are doing too much.

God does not want His children to serve out of duty alone but with a heart of joy. Service to Him will never require you to abandon your first calling to the home. If this is the case for you, perhaps you need to step back and re-evaluate what you are doing and where you are expending most of your energy. Plan a little time for relaxation and fun each and every day, it will only make you a better person.

Maybe you need a hobby... might I suggest blogging?


groovyoldlady said...

Such wonderful insight and advice, Rita. I've seen people disillusioned because they realized that certain missionaries they knew were "just" people like them that had faults and weaknessness and blind spots. They weren't "super" holy. They were just ordinary people trying to serve an EXTRA ordinary God. For me, that is an ENcouragement! We are all called to glorify Him and minister in His Name wherever He leads us - no matter how inadequate we may feel.

Thanks for being an example to us all!

Steve n Vickie said...

I admire you. I am completely reliant on my modern conveniences. When they break I am so sad.
I suppose you get used to life without those things. When I was in Bolivia, I didn't really think about it or mind, but I didn't have a family to care for at the time.
Washing clothes by hand for one person is a whole lot different that six.

Keep up the good work. God sees how much you do. Sharing this has been an encouragement to me to be thankful for what I have.

~Karen~ said...

Thanks Rita! I need to remember this when I'm asked..."So what do you do in Ukraine?" I just need to remember that it is GREAT to be "just" a missionary wife and mom, and it is OKAY to say it! Thanks for the encouragement!! :-)

Heather Wheelock said...

Thanks, I think I might print this out and hang it on the wall so that on the hard days, I'll remember that I'm not alone :-) Praise the Lord that He is gives us the grace to accomplish what He has called us to do!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I've been thinking about this lots and finding myself blogging some lately about trying to keep priorities straight here! Life in language school with four little ones 6 and under is BUSY! And yet, daily I fight the guilt of not "ministering" outside of school and home like many people are able to. On the tired and discouraged days,I feel guilty. On the days when I feel like I am exactly where God wants me to be, I wouldn't trade the time I spend homeschooling and raising my kids for the world. Holding on to the joy can be the hard part sometimes amidst all the day can demand from us! Thanks for the reminder yet again that we can only do what we can do, and that raising our family is definitely one of the BIG to-dos!

Brenda said...

Its so true what you say, but the other side is that in many countries, we can afford to pay household help which frees us up a little more to participate in the ministry. Our homes should always be our first priority, and it was mine when I was on the field. But I enjoyed the freedom that came with reliable household help.

You obviously chose the right path, the proof is in the four wonderful children that you have. Keep preachin' it Rita!

John_n_Tascha_Piatt said...

so true. thank you for posting. though we dont all face most of the inconveniences or dangers of a foreign field, being the wife of a man in full-time ministry anywhere poses similar dilemmas {thinking we need to do more than is possible or putting 'ministry' before our family}.

Denise said...

You are so helpful. And inspiring. And fun. And brave. God help us all to be the kind of wives he wants us to be and find joy in that job every day! Love from Estonia.

Tribal Family said...

Thanks so much for this post. My husband and I are new missionaries in South East Asia, we will have been here one year in November. We have 2 children, 5 and 3, and life sure is busy! I have many times struggled with the feeling that what I am doing is just not enough, so I really appreciated your advise. This was a real blessing for me to read, and I will forward it on to the other young missionary mammas here.

Laura Scherer said...

Thanks so much for posting this. My husband and I are new missionaries in South East Asia, we are coming up on one year in November. We have 2 children, 5 and 3, and life is sure busy! I really appreciated what you said about feeling the pressure to preform more than we are capable of. This was a real blessing to me and I will pass it on to my other young missionary mammas here!