Spiritual Superhero or Ordinarily Dependent?
The following is the update one of our missionaries shared at our last monthly women's gathering. Consider how you can help care for our missionaries that we might send them in a manner worthy of God (3 John 6). Names and places have been edited out for security reasons.
People usually hear things from my husband's perspective, so some have said it would be helpful for me to share about what my daily life looks like as a wife and mom. When we moved back to our country in 2014, our kids were six, five, almost two and four months old. We spent four months living in temporary housing in three places before we moved into our house. More than two of those months were spent in G-town in a situation that was pretty similar to camping.
When things are fairly normal, here's what a day might be filled with: Our youngest daughter wakes up around 5am when the sun comes up. My husband gets up with her and the other kids so I can have some quiet time. Sometimes it's quiet; other times it's not so quiet. We usually have yogurt and granola for breakfast and then get started on school. Sometimes I do things like laundry or make yogurt or bread while the boys are doing school. Then I try to get lunch ready and after lunch, it's rest time. On good days, I will get most of dinner ready while the girls are sleeping, and then have a little time to visit neighbors, correct the boys schoolwork, do laundry, or read email (but probably not have time to reply to any of them!). We eat dinner around 5pm, and then the kids get washed up and in bed by about 7pm. Usually, I'm ready to be asleep before them.
It doesn't sound too much different than your days right? Maybe even more laid back and restful than your day? Here are some of the typical things from our African country that add more detail to my days. We don't have running water. Every day our water comes on the back of a donkey and gets dumped into big barrels. What happens when our donkey guy gets sick, or moves out of town, or it's a holiday for three days in a row? Then we don't wash dishes or laundry or fill our water filters while my husband roams around town trying to find a donkey guy willing to bring some water. Hopefully no one is sick then. Our laundry is all washed by hand, which I'd encourage you to try some time. Take a big bucket, and throw a whole load in. If you'd like an even more realistic experience, you can try hand washing sheets next time one of your kids is sick and has thrown up on them.
We have market days on Monday and Friday from about 10:30am to 3pm. We can find lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and garlic almost year round. Sometimes we have potatoes, carrots, beets, watermelon, mangoes, and guavas. We can buy a live chicken that isn't big enough to feed our family for $7, so we don't eat chicken, but beef is available and cheap. Thankfully, my husband is happy to buy our meat, because the butchers just use an ax right there in front of you to hack off the piece you would like. When you get it home, you have to clean all the sand, bone chips, and hair out of it. We are so grateful to have a solar freezer so we are able to clean a larger amount of meat all at once and freeze it.
All of our fresh fruits or vegetables that we're not cooking have to be soaked in bleach water to help get rid of anything that could make us sick. Flour needs to be sifted to get the bugs out. We eat mostly American food made with the ingredients we can get in the market, but it just takes a lot longer to make everything from scratch along with the extra cleaning and preparation that is necessary in our country. That yogurt and granola we eat every morning doesn't come from a store. I make yogurt once a week, and every few weeks I spend a whole day making the granola from oats we stock up on when we're in the capital.
You can add to all of this the constant knocks at the door from kids wanting to play even when they know the boys are doing school, neighbors who have wounds that should have been treated for infection long before looking for help, or people wanting to charge their phones with our solar power. Usually someone in our family is sick on some level, so I find myself making mental notes of my kids’ bathroom habits to know when we need to do something to treat them. For example, our youngest daughter wasn't gaining weight well until she was about one year old. Sometimes it was because she had worms and other times we don't know why. Oh, I almost forgot that it's really hot sometimes, like 100 degrees in our house for days on end. Now, imagine living this way for a year or so and also hosting short-term guests on a regular basis.
This is where you might be thinking, “I could never do that. I'm glad the R family, or the M family, or the G family or whoever else (fill in the blank) are called to do that, because I couldn't do it.” I share all of this not to complain or just to show how hard life can be, but to share with you that the truth is we can't really do it by ourselves either. We are not superheroes. We are ordinary people who God has called to different circumstances. He gives us his grace in many different ways, but we still are people in need of help and the care of the body of Christ.
When I look at other missionaries and also reflect back especially on this last year in our lives, I see that God has absolutely been faithful, and he gives us his Word and Spirit to sustain us and give us life. We have seen our great dependence on him and his sweet, tender care for us in so many ways we don't experience here in the States.
At the same time, we absolutely need the body of Christ. Since I've been back, I've repeatedly heard the biblical call to care for one another in sermons and small groups and other conversations. We need each other to pray and encourage and help and listen and love one another.
I think it's often assumed that as missionaries we either don't need those things because we're in some different spiritual class or that those things are provided for us by our mission agency, teammates, or someone else in the church. Please don't assume that! But you can assume that there's usually a lot going on that missionaries can't write about in their updates. Please consider how you can better care for one of our missionaries.
While we've been gone, we have personally been so blessed by knowing that people are faithfully praying for our specific needs, by the emails we receive, by care packages sent, and notes of encouragement. Think about or ask what missionaries might need practically, both while they're here and away. Find out how you can get to know them more. Yes, it will take time and work, but it's what we're called to do. As we have the privilege of seeing people come to faith, and we consider how to spur them on to love and good deeds, we need you to invest in the same work with us, walking with us and spurring us on!