Today I want to introduce Amy to you. I met Amy and her family in Ohio, USA when we visited for a week's evaluation at MMS Aviation. Amy is American and her husband David is from Peru. They had us round for dinner that week, in March 2009 and that is the only time we've actually been in the same place at the same time, as they had moved on by the time we arrived in the States permanently! They are now based in Bolivia working with South American Mission. David fixes planes and Amy is a homeschooling, blogging mum of 3, in her own words 'two born in my womb and one was born in my heart'. You can check out her own blog at 'Missional Mama'.
Amy's topic for this post is a very timely reminder for me, as we're right in the middle of packing and about to set up life in a whole new place ...
Four Ideas for the Newbie Missionary Mom (or Mum!)
So, you are heading overseas. There is so much to do getting ready with selling, storing, packing, saying goodbye not to mention making sure you have filled out every form, raised the support needed, and sent the appropriate letters. It is overwhelming!
Likely, you will sit on the airplane with a small sense of relief because everything that could be done is and now the new adventure will begin. You will soon try new foods, meet co-workers, and probably look for a home. New often equals fun…at least at the beginning.
Shortly though, things may not seem as “romantic” as they did when you were preparing to come and sharing with partners. You may feel like you don’t fit, your kids may show signs of stress, and you could begin to second guess whether you can really handle this life after all. You are not alone!
Here are four reminders to help you as you move into this new life …
When moving the family and kids overseas, we soon find that the outside pressures of life in our home country (ex: to have the perfect family with amazingly gifted children) changes a little. On the field, we still want our kids to excel or at least to do well, but they also need to do much of life in another language. They will also need to learn things taught in new and confusing ways. This can be hard on kids and parents alike.
It is essential for missionary moms to consider what needs to be done and focus on that. For example, if your kids need to learn the language, find a way to make that happen and let other outside activities go for now. We all know that kids need time to play and be creative. Scheduling every moment of life is not healthy for anyone and will likely be frustrating in your new culture. Ask God to help you decide with what to be involved and then free yourself from worrying about it.
Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. It is not easy to change cultures. You won’t magically fit in and you will make lots of mistakes. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to talk, find a trustworthy friend. When people leave again and it hurts, be upset. If you get depressed, let God walk with you in that too. The thing is that it will likely be very hard, at least at times, and that is OK!
One of my life goals (that I borrowed from former president and chancellor of the Moody Bible Institute, Dr. George Sweeting) is to, “cultivate my inner life”. This is especially crucial for handling overseas living. Find what feeds you in devotions, learn to study the Bible, pray, and read quality Christian books. Listen to sermons in your native tongue and talk with solid friends. Know God and out of that will flow the living words and actions for others.
Not only is it important to learn the language to the best of your ability but also to get to know the people. Investing time in the lives of the nationals helps you understand and capture the culture as well as fall in love with the people you are there to serve. It seems like this would be a natural aspect of every missionary, but you will find that flocking towards like-minded people (from your home culture) is the easier thing to do. You will need time with people that understand you, but be intentional about investing in the culture, language, and people to whom God has called you. Also, remember that language learning and cultural adaptation is different for everyone; resist the urge to compare yourself with others.
I have noticed that there is a lot of guilt in motherhood and I would say life on the mission field can grow that guilt if we are not careful. God called you to your culture and He gave you the family that you have. He has a plan for your children that you cannot comprehend which includes living in a third culture.
May God be with you as you work towards raising children and living life for His glory!