The Ideal Ministry

When you head overseas on your first assignment, you tend to be full of grand ideals. At least, I was. I was ready to do anything and everything for the Lord––teach underprivileged children, feed the poor, develop relationships with nationals, disciple new and growing Christians.

Eight years into this overseas missionary thing, I can’t say my reality has looked very similar to my pre-overseas dreams. I have done all those things I once imagined doing––taught English to neighborhood children, given bags of food to beggars at my door, made friendships with nationals, encouraged other believers in their walks. In fact, I continue to do all those things but not to the extent I once dreamed. More often than not, I’m struggling just to teach my own children (we homeschool), keep my own family fed, support and encourage my husband, and disciple and discipline my little girls.

IndonesiaThe need outside my front door is very real and very raw, but the need inside our own home has turned out to be just as genuine. I’ve had to learn how to balance the needs of my family with the needs of the people I came here to serve. It isn’t always easy and I regularly feel like I’m somehow failing somebody when my energy runs out. Those pre-overseas ideals have begun to haunt me.

Recently, we had a special guest––a dear friend that I admire who serves as a missionary with another organization. As we lingered over coffee before she left to teach her seminar, I mentioned my struggle and how I feel like I’m not really doing as much as I should. A few days after she left, I received an email from my friend. “Don’t allow yourself to get boxed in by what you think you should be able to do,” she wrote. “God’s given you a full time job being a mom and wife and you do both incredibly well.”

God used this dear friend to remind me of a vital truth––while I may see my ministry in the home as less important than the ministry outside the front door, God certainly doesn’t see it that way. He is more concerned with my faithfulness to Him. For this season, much of my ministry stays in the home with only a little bit of overflow left for the occasional English student or discipleship moment. It looks different than what I’d once dreamed, but it is exactly as my Father in Heaven wants it to be.

18 Comments

  • Joy says:

    Yes and AMEN! Thank you, Rebecca, for using your talent as a writer to remind us all of what is really so important!!

  • Kim says:

    Thank you! I needed to hear this today!

  • Aartje says:

    Thanks Rebecca for this blog! As a mum of three, serving with MAF in Arnhemland, Australia, it’s good to read I’m not the only one with these struggles. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • I think moms all over the world, whether serving in missions or not, deal with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. We’ve got to stop that! (Easier said than done, but it sure is nice to realize we are not alone, isn’t it?)

      • Lisa Kiessling says:

        This was my first thought too Rebecca. It doesn’t matter where you are, whether you are in the mission field or serving God in your hometown, there never seems to be enough time or energy to all we feel called to do. Something we ALL need to be reminded of. Thanks for the post!!

  • Judith Sawers says:

    You are not alone! We returned to the UK last summer after most of the previous 16 years spent in central Africa. I came home with a lot of regrets: I wish I’d learned at least one local language; I wish my kids had had local friends; I wish we’d interacted more deeply with my husband’s colleagues…

    But the fact is, we were there, and we stayed, and that mattered a lot to some people. I *did* have very meaningful relationships with a few local people, and that mattered to them. I *did* bring my kids well through homeschooling and they are all doing well now.

    So my dream of Bible translation isn’t being fulfilled by me, but others have been equipped to do it partly through my being there, which enabled my husband to be there and do what he did. And I’ve come home with a passion to communicate about the needs back there, which sounds like you will always have in your heart from having lived in your situation too. And there are three new additions to God’s workforce as my kids follow the Lord…

    It’s hard at the time, as you try to juggle dreams and realities, but God is sovereign, and his will will be accomplished, and you’re doing the part he’s given you to do, which is all he wants from you!

    God bless!
    Judith

    • Joy says:

      Amen Judith! Thanks for sharing your story! So encouraging. 🙂

    • Our first term was in Latin America, Judith, and when we left, I had many of the same feelings you express here. It’s so humbling to realize God can use us in ways we may not expect, isn’t it? And my guess is, there are so many things we were/are a part of that we won’t know about until Heaven!

  • Linda Ringenberg Linda Ringenberg says:

    I echo an amen! I think many of us MAF wives can identify with your struggle and with the wisdom of your friend. Blessings!

  • We just passed the 6 month mark in Haiti and this same realization has just hit me – my ideals are not going to match my reality here, with a home, a husband, and two little boys to care for!

    • Yes, it’s true Liz! Those little boys need you as they adjust to their new life in Haiti….and you and your husband need time to find your place there as well. Congrats on 6 months in Haiti!

  • Thank you all so much for your sweet comments!

  • Thanks, so much, Rebecca, for sharing. I struggle so much with these exact thoughts, and I’m encouraged to hear truth from you.

  • Rachel Kelley says:

    Well said, friend! You are the only one who can be a wife to Sean & a mom to your girls. God is and will continue to use you to minister to them and those around you. Thank you for sharing. Miss you!

  • Joyce Herzog says:

    This is so true – but there is another aspect of this: You are a visible testimony of a loving family. God’s love shines through you to a totally different audience than you’d have if you’d not gone on the mission field! THAT testimony is stronger than any words EXCEPT The WORD! Have your children make weather-proof BANNERS of SCRIPTURE in the local language as part of their school (if they are old enough to help). That will increase the power of your testimony. Praise God that there ARE families like you and yours speaking loudly to people of other nations and cultures!

  • Jennifer Wagar says:

    I know this has already been echoed many times, but after 3 months in Eastern Europe with six kids and one in the way,, your words are as though directly from God to my overwhelmed heart. Thank-you so much for affirming what God is telling me!

  • Alaina says:

    Hey Rebecca! So true how God is more concerned about our faithfulness to him! Thanks for this reminder! Good to hear from you from this blog spot. 😉

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