Reflections for Mother's Day
AUTHOR: Maria Ward
Maria is a mother of 2.5 (one on the way ) and a cross Culture Worker In Thailand. Here she shares about some of the challenges and blessings of raising her children on the mission field.
"All of these factors will help them become global citizens."
As a mom, being on the mission field has a lot of challenges and great moments also. First of all, kids are excellent for ministry and often are the key to help unlock the door to relationships. Children will easily attract other kids, and in turn that helps us build relationships with their families as well.
We strive to bring our kids into our ministry context as much as possible. Years ago, while serving in Mongolia, I saw a need for moms in the Ger district to have a safe place for their kids to play and connect with other moms. We started a playgroup twice a week and it was a great way to get to know other moms and for my kids to meet and play with other kids their age.
In Thailand, we have found that opening up our house for other kids to come over is a huge opportunity. Every day, kids come over to play at our house, either inside with our toys and crafts, or outside playing games or riding scooters. Our kids are able to play with other kids, and we are also able to build relationships with locals.
Since our kids have grown up in other countries, and have met kids of many different backgrounds, they don’t see race or ethnicity. They only see someone to play with that happens to speak a different language. That barrier doesn’t stop them. They have also met other missionary kids from other countries, who quickly become like family to them. They spend time together and are a support to each other. A great thing is that they are growing up accepting people and making friends from other cultures and countries. They are also being exposed to different cuisines. For instance, my youngest son’s favorite snack is spicy seaweed. All of these factors will help them to be better global citizens.
There are also many challenges of being a mother on the mission field.
A big part of my daily life is homeschooling, cleaning, laundry and making meals. Some days it may seem like I am not doing anything of significance. This is one reason why I open our house to local Thai children in the afternoon for outreach. It’s an easy way for our kids and I to be involved in ministry and outreach into the local community.
Another challenge is our children don’t know the local language well, or have an identity within the culture. We need to find ways for them to learn the language, whether that is through going to a local Thai school, practicing speaking with their Thai friends, or having a Thai tutor come to the house. At some point they need to really learn the language or they may never feel a true identity with the culture we are living in.
Being on the mission field can be very transient. Other missionaries, who have become like family, may leave the field or may go to a new place of ministry. Also, when we go on furlough, our kids miss their friends in Thailand. Then when we return to our country of ministry, they miss their grandparents, relatives, and friends. One thing that we have seen is that the transitions are hard for our boys to process and can also affect their behavior. Our children have to say a lot of goodbyes and we always have to be prepared to walk them through that.
Another challenge of being on the mission field with kids, is knowing that your children are missing out on many different things. They are missing out on building relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who live in other places. They miss all of the birthday parties, big celebrations and gatherings at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter with family, camping trips, and other fun activities.
In Thailand there are a lot of snakes, poisonous insects, and tropical diseases. This is always a worry to add to the other anxieties I may have. One thing I have had to remember while living overseas is that God has called us to our current place of ministry. He ultimately loves our kids more than we ever could, so we need to constantly surrender our children to Him and trust that He will take care of them every step of the way. Whether it’s their health, in transitions, or making new friends, God has our kids in the palm of His hand. I need to rest assured in that.
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