Motherhood and Ministry: Maintaining Vision

We likely all know the hierarchy of our roles, first as daughters of God, then wives to  our husbands, then mothers of our children, and then as missionaries, but how do we balance all of this in a healthy way? We know our roles, but the hard part is trying to figure it all out in practice. I often feel like the first three roles are way more than enough to fill my plate. I would actually enjoy an extra 2-3 hours a day to feel like I could accomplish all of the things that I’d like in those realms!

Reality is that we have been given 24 hours each day, and aside from our primary 3 callings as daughters of God, wives, and moms, God has also called us to serve Him as missionaries. I  of course am not going to go into any sort of detail here to tell you what your life should look like. With different capacities, different families, different life stages,  different ministries, and different personal callings in general, no one of us can stake claim on “the perfectly balanced missionary mom lifestyle….” and I of all people would never claim to have that mastered.

What I wanted to talk about today though is the importance of maintaining our vision for the work that God has called us to overseas. You don’t need anyone to tell you that living overseas is a sacrifice.  Vision is a large part of the fuel that will keep us going.  As you likely have heard or experienced, it can be quite common for missionary moms to become so consumed by our home lives (and I definitely agree that our home and family are our main focuses), that we lose sight of why God has called us to be where we are in the first place. The danger of becoming exclusively homeward focused is that we start thinking, “Hey, I could do everything that I am doing right now equally as well and much more easily if I were only back ‘home.'” This leads easily to frustration and discontent and burnout. The statement is true on many levels, which is why it is so important for us to stay engaged in our mission and to allow God to remind us through people and experiences why it is that He has called us to give up what we have to be where we are.

Being engaged in ministry will look different for each of you. Some of you may be in the phase of motherhood with little ones at home and therefore might be limited in what you can do outside of the home. Some of you might have grown  or school-aged kids that might allow you to be out more, doing things more independently. I wanted to share a few ideas with you, especially for those whom staying engaged is a struggle, to help you keep your heart focused on and engaged in your calling.

Pray- Above all things, we should be seeking God to confirm in our hearts the calling that He has given us to be serving overseas. Even if we have a more homeward focus in our daily lives, we must also be actively battling in prayer for those that God has called us to reach. It is amazing how vivid our vision can be when we are faithful to pray. Equally as drastic is how fast our vision can fade if we forget to pray for the people, place, and the work that our families are called to.

Build Relationships- I think this is the second most important thing that will keep our hearts engaged in the mission. Make sure you are engaging with the people you are seeking to reach. Build relationships with believers and non-believers alike. Of course this is something we all know, but with a house full of little ones and much to do at home, and depending on the culture, it may take more intentionality than one would expect.

Use your home for ministry- we have talked about this a number of times, but home life and ministry don’t have to be separate! It is a wonderful thing for those we are trying to reach to observe a family who loves God, and it is also a wonderful thing for the whole family, and especially for the kids, to do ministry together.

Schedule ministry time away from home- Work with your spouse to find time when you can be the one out doing ministry. Again, I won’t tell you how often or for how much time, but it can be helpful to know you have some time specifically for you to do ministry apart from other responsibilities.

Utilize holidays- Sometimes it can be stressful to have a ton of regularly scheduled ministry events year-round, but most of us can spare extra time as special opportunities come up. Take a look at the holidays in your culture and see how you can use them in ministry. Plan ahead to make it happen.

Learn and love the culture- One thing that will make you feel more connected to the  ministry is becoming more a part of the culture in which you live. Learn about the values of the people around you. Celebrate the holidays that they do (as long as they are appropriate). Appreciate the art, the natural beauty, the architecture. Enjoy the traditional foods and learn how to make them yourself, etc. The more that we see the beauty that God has woven into the culture that He has created, the more we see His heart and plan for His people.

Write your family newsletter- Simple things like being the one to cast vision through your family newsletter or blog can help you keep fresh in your mind why you are doing what you are doing. That way you are recalling the things that God has done through your ministry and are recalling how God has used your family in His work. It is also great to help cast vision on support raising appointments when back in the US.

Don’t compare yourself- This is important too. I am talking about comparing yourself to other missionary moms in an unhealthy way. We first must seek God and ask Him what He is calling us to personally. It is of course helpful to learn from the moms in ministry around us, but we need to recognize that each of us has been given different circumstances and capacities, and that someone else’s calling, as wonderful as it might be, has not been given to us. We can so easily start comparing ourselves to others and start feeling defeat. This unnecessary feeling of inadequacy too can kill vision.

This list, as long as it is, is far from being exhaustive. Would you please take a minute to share your ideas for keeping our hearts engaged in ministry? What has worked best for you? Are you feeling engaged at the moment, or are can we be praying for your vision today?

(Post by: Ashley)


10 Responses to “Motherhood and Ministry: Maintaining Vision”

  1. 1 Patty Sommer January 9, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    What a great post, Ashley! It is so easy to get overwhelmed with keeping it all in balance! Just this week I was crying to my husband about how I could “do it all”! He gave me some wonderful reminders from Scripture about God’s faithfulness in calling us and helping us do what he has called us to do!
    I think your list was excellent! I’ve seen a number of missionary wives pull into themselves and their homes. They stop ministering outside all together. Sadly, many of them have left the field. At first, I really struggled with the opposite problem. I wanted to be ministering all the time. I just figured my home and family would take care of itself. I had some hard lessons to learn, but God is faithful!
    Thanks for the reminders of prayer and not comparing ourselves! How quickly Satan uses those areas in my life!
    The reminders about building relationships and appreciating the culture are sooooooo important. I recently read a small book called, God’s Missionary, by Amy Carmichael. It dealt specifically with relationship building. It was a blessing!
    The only thing I might possibly add was in line with scheduling ministry away from home — it is important to stay engaged in the ministry, especially when you find that you don’t want to do it! After some time away for various reasons that come with being a mommy of small children, it is easy to just “stay away”. Make yourself get out and reach out to those around you! You’ll be glad you did!
    Hope this find you well! Thanks for taking the time to do this blog. Have a great weekend!

  2. 2 Ashley L January 9, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Patty, thank you so much for your comment. What you added is SO great and true! Sometimes we just need to get out there and re-engage, despite how hard it seems. Thank you so much for that great though.

    Also, I was just hopping back on to say to all of you missionary moms that live in the US that this whole idea of maintaining vision of course pertains to you absolutely as much as it does to those of us overseas. I was looking at it from an international point of view, but I know it takes just as much intentionality and prayer to maintain vision for the state-side mission field as it does for the international field. I would be so grateful if some of you faithful moms in the US would like to elaborate on that fact and what it looks like in practice for you! Thanks so much!

  3. 3 Amy Medina January 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Ashley, I love your list! I was childless for the first few years as a missionary, so transitioning out of full-time ministry into full-time mommyhood was really tough for me (even though I knew I always wanted to do it!) I’ve been learning how to adapt during the past few years, and your list gave me ideas and also reassurance that I’m not alone in this struggle!

  4. 4 Shilo January 9, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Ashley, great post! For me, learning language and culture and building relationships were the KEY to a very fulfilling 4 years in Venezuela (our son was born at the beginning of our second year). Our son went with me wherever I went and was such a little trooper, being a part of what God had called me to outside the home.
    Now here in Paraguay, we have two kiddos and I find ministry outside of the home much more complicated and even logistically impossible sometimes! So I try to have lots of people over for meals and in that way serve. I know this is a season in my life and I have to say, I really love it.
    I thank God that we each have the Spirit in us to guide day by day so that we can understand what He has for us to do right now!!

  5. 5 Phyllis January 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    This is exactly what I would have requested, if I had been given my choice of topics here! I’ve been struggling a lot in this, since our move a year and a half ago. Before, even though I was busy with little ones, I had relationships that had started before I was so busy. Those continued, even when it was hard for me to get out of my home. People would visit or call. I knew what was going on and felt like I was part of what my husband was doing, even when I was at home and he was out.

    Now I don’t have any of that. We moved here having three little ones already. There wasn’t any time at all for me to build relationships. We’ve been here for well over a year, and I feel like all I do is sit at home and take care of children. Of course, that’s worthwhile, but I still want more….

  6. 6 Amie January 10, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Ashley I must chime in with all these amazing women to say that what you wrote really spoke to my heart as well. As a stateside mommy I find it hard to engage in culture and ministry outside the home when it is so very exhausting at home (in the best possible way of course). I find that alot of my ministry focuses around my home in the area of hospitality for this time in my life, but also in supporting my husband as he is able to get out and engage the culture more freely then I am. I have been surprised this past year to realize how much we can minister as a family even with three 3 and under…we have gotten involved working with highschool students and the kids have helped me as I minister to young girls, helped them to feel loved and safe enough to share their hurts and pain. Thanks for the reminder that we need to be about ministry in and out of our homes!

  7. 7 Susan January 11, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for these good challenges and reminders. I think the key really is ballance. I (and most missionary moms I think)find it easy to swing to one extream…either hiding out at home or always “out” doing ministry with house and family falling apart.

    One wise missionary friend told me, “to say yes to some ministry out of the home, means your husband is saying no to something”. Just that simple phrase helped me realize at times something does have to give. And I think I need to go back and forth between what gives…I can’t do it all (even though I foolishly think I can)…sometimes momma-wife needs to be first for a day, sometimes missionary.

    Also, I LOVE what Shilo said..I too have people over to our home a lot. And I think I say “yes” to ministry opportunities that work in with my kids, like join a moms and toddlers group-class, go to the park with my kids and meet other moms, etc. all depending on the stage my kids are at and what fits in semi-well with our home routines. We as moms have different stages too. Sometimes it’s just accepting that stage in life-mommy hood and working with it!

    Thanks for the challenges…I find this one of the hardest aspects of being a missionary mom!!!

  8. 8 Jodie October 8, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Obviously this is an old post and I am just stumbling across it. I am a church planting pastor’s wife with 3 children under the age of 5. I have been frustrated lately with the amount of women who use the excuse that their family is their ministry in order to avoid being involved in external ministry to the lost people of our neighborhoods and community. I am thankful for your post that we have a calling to our relationship with God, then spouse, then children but many people stop there and don’t continue with the call to be a light to the world. The methods will vary but what a better way to teach our children to have compassion and be others focused? Our 3 young children very often accompany us for ministry events. They are learning that life does not revolve around them.

    Maybe sometimes the reason we are so exhausted at home is that we are focused on ourselves and our immediate situation rather than meeting the needs of others around us. That can be energizing, refreshing, and motivating.


  9. 9 zimmash January 14, 2013 at 12:41 am

    This was SO refreshing! I am also a stateside missionary, working with college students. I am not a mom yet, but we have been processing it for a very long time. As part of my processing, I’ve been listening to other Christian women’s opinions and ideas about motherhood and, to be honest, it’s been very tiring. The most common idea I hear is that the most important way God wants to use us is in the home, so we need to leave our jobs and ambitions and realize that the calling of motherhood is the highest.
    This is a struggle for me because they seem to all encourage motherhood ministry to the exclusion of marketplace, cultural, natural, vocational, or church ministry (to name a few of the ministries any given woman has).

    You seem to be hitting on something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately and so it’s really affirming to me. In my missions organization, we have a paradigm for understanding different types of evangelism– there are three “modes:” natural mode, body mode, and ministry mode. Natural mode is when you initiate to share Christ with those people whom you already have a relationship with (friends, neighbors, family). Body mode evangelism is when you initiate to share Christ with someone who has been exposed to the body of Christ first (thus seeing the gospel at work) but may not have had the gospel explained to them in a way that they can respond yet (a visitor to church, a new person at a prayer meeting). Lastly, ministry mode evangelism is initiating to share Christ with someone you would’ve never come into contact with had you not gone out and initiated with them (ie: random street evangelism). All require initiative and employ relationships but they differ in how the gospel is received and followed up (plusses and minuses for each of them). The bottom line is, neither of these modes should be practiced to the exclusion of another. Those who participate in only ministry mode evangelism are sadly missing out on what God might show or teach them if they shared Christ with their friends. Likewise, those who participate in only natural mode miss out on the practice and countless opportunities to share Christ when initiating through ministry mode, for example. Many women encourage women to practice natural mode discipleship with their children to the exclusion of ministry and body mode discipleship in their neighborhood, their churches, and their vocational ministry. Thanks for speaking into this!!!

  1. 1 1st Blogiversary! « Missionary Moms Trackback on February 8, 2010 at 5:06 am

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