Friday, July 1, 2011

Called Overseas to Cook and Clean?

When God called me overseas, I had no idea how much time I’d spend cooking, cleaning, home schooling, playing games, and driving kids to sports practice. Just as if I were still back home in America. I even asked myself, “Why am I here, anyway? I can mop floors and teach reading back home.”
I had no idea that when I led a women’s study group, I’d feel bad about leaving my kids home with my husband, and when I spent days on end caring for a sick child without leaving the house, I’d feel vaguely guilty for neglecting my “ministry” responsibilities.
Years ago I asked a more experienced woman, “How do you manage to have a ministry outside of your home?”
Her answer flabbergasted me.

She said simply, “I tried that once, and it didn’t work for me.”

I’ve been chuckling over it ever since. Her open, honest attitude somehow freed me to be myself and find my own way.

Mothers Serving Overseas Come in all Shapes:
I’ve seen that women servants come in all different colors of the rainbow. Some are basically “working” mothers, hiring childcare or sending kids to local daycare or school while they serve or study the language. Others choose to center their lives more closely around their homes and children.

Find the Balance that Feels Right for You:
I’m probably somewhere in the middle, which means I burn the candle at both ends! I enjoy homeschooling and caring for my family, but my heart yearns for more than just “staying at home.” So making my home a center of hospitality has worked for me. I also visit women friends when I can.

Let Go of Guilt
I tend to compare myself with other women who seem to have a higher level of involvement. This is dangerous because inevitably I then feel guilty over not doing more. But I’m learning to relax in who God is calling me to be and also to give this freedom to others, who may not share my views.

Comments From Other Women Servants:
Last week I asked other women for their views on ministry inside and outside of their homes. Here is what they said:
  • “Part of loving my teaching them…how to love others outside of our circle.”
  • “My family is my first ‘ministry.’ Any ‘ministry’ work that happens outside the home is just icing on the cake.”
  • “Since the kids were 6 mo. old, we've had roughly 15-25 hrs/week of childcare for them.”
  • “Considering the difficulties our kids go through to adjust to the new cultures, we need to give them the appropriate mother time. Actually, I find Turks very family oriented…As much as possible, I liked to do ministry that included my children. So often the children when they were young were the catalyst to relationships with other Turkish mothers.”
  • “Knowing myself, I will always work more than I should…The Lord has given me kids to slow me down, to disciple me, and to teach me that my value doesn't come from my productivity... 
  • “Balancing family vs. ministry isn't possible. Once things are "balanced", someone inevitably gets sick, a situation or crises arises in the work, or some other thing comes up. When we view family as ministry, you can move your fulcrum to one end or the other as needs arise. ..  
  • “Perhaps our most lasting and important gift that we give to our Turkish friends, is the model of a family that is submitted to Christ and trying to make him central.”
  • “While I had children at home, my strategy was to make home my primary place for outreach, discipleship and showing hospitality. Serving my husband and kids was my primary ministry, and they supported and helped me in reaching out and serving others too.”
I was encouraged by their wisdom. What are your views?


Anonymous said...

Great blog--love how you included others' opinions--and the bottom line that there's no "right" or "wrong" way to do it--only God's way. Spot on!

Legal Alien

OliveTree said...

Exactly! There's no right or wrong way to do things, and God's way is different for each person. Thanks.

Aunt Michele said...

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today about my Daddy. This post of yours spoke to me. It is me. I wash things. I want so badly to go home on furlough and honestly say that! I talked to my Dad on the phone yesterday. He said, so what sort of things are you up to today. I gave the washing list - laundry, floors and dishes. He said, Good work!

I'll have to stop by here more often. Thanks,


Josh and Kelly said...

So glad you found me online :) I've been working through this same struggle as we begin our ministry in Uganda! Thanks for your perspective- I'm finding myself in your same mindset- family first, and outside ministry as possible :) blessings to you!

Shelley said...

Great post! Not comparing yourself to anyone else and finding a great balance are 2 great points you made. I loved the quote, "As much as possible, I liked to do ministry that included my children. So often the children when they were young were the catalyst to relationships with other Turkish mothers." That is so true here too. After talking to a lot of expat parents and kids I think that is the key, to include you kids in ministry whenever possible.

OliveTree said...

Michele: I hope your furlough is coming up soon. Yes, my days often look like never ending "to do" lists too!

Kelley: May the Lord give you strength and wisdom as you begin your ministry (inside and outside of your home!) in Uganda

Shelley: That was a quote from another worker here in turkey. About 10 women sent me e-mails on their perspective and they were so wise, all with different opinions!

Shanda said...

This was really good. In some countries, especially, it take so much time just to live and to make a home. Even grocery shopping can take forever. As a mother, we have to be patient and realize those 'chores' come before all else. As wives and mothers, we are always called to minister at home first.

OliveTree said...

Yes, that is so true, and I didn't even touch on that. Thanks for bringing up that homemaking can be lots more time consuming, depending on where you are.