Recently I read an article on Christianity Today (click HERE to read it) that both challenged me and expressed some parts of my reality. (You’re going to need to read that article before the rest of this post makes any sense…) The central question is: What is the role of family in Kingdom ministry? The answer that the article concludes with is: IT’S COMPLICATED. Yeah, that about sums it up.
When we first moved to Uganda, my wife’s role in Kingdom ministry was keeping our family healthy, sane, and moving forward. My daughter’s role in Kingdom ministry was figuring out life here and grieving all that she had left behind. Both of these were essential to our family and ministry, even if that didn’t include ministry activities. The first time we took our daughter to visit a friend in the village, she became so overwhelmed that she hid in the car for 30 minutes crying, waiting for us to leave. The next time my wife visited one of our village churches with me, we left our daughter in town with friends because we didn’t think she was ready. That’s because: IT’S COMPLICATED.
Over time, both of these things have grown and changed…sometimes. My wife has become very involved in ministry, leading her own discipleship groups, visiting her friends in different village, attending leaders’ conferences, helping at our daughters’ school, and much more. She still very much organizes our home, and her first priority is still keeping us sane and healthy (as is mine, by the way), but our steady adjustment has meant that she can be MORE involved in other ministries. Which she loves!
Our daughter has also grown more comfortable with ministry. Most of the time she doesn’t fear visiting the village anymore, and will sometimes ask if she can go with me. Her hospitality for village leaders at our home has also grown. Now she greets them and knows many of them by name. She absolutely adores the mission staff and frequently wants to spend the day at my office when she doesn’t have school. But she also still has times when being the center of everyone’s attention overwhelms her and she just wants to blend in. She can still become shy when greeting people she hasn’t seen in a while or doesn’t know very well. On the other hand, when one of my very good friends who is a village pastor comes over for supper, she talks his ear off and loves to play music with him. And his daughter and my daughter love to play together when we go to his village. So yeah, it’s a little bit of both.
But most of the time, I still visit my village friends without my family, even after 3 years living here. Because IT’S COMPLICATED. We try to not divorce ministry from lifestyle, and so not create a dichotomy of life where “Ministry becomes something outside the home. The home is dedicated to family.” But we also know that our daughter didn’t have a voice in the decision or discernment to this ministry call because she wasn’t old enough to understand. And our home is our refuge and comfort place.
“Family life abroad is complex and individual. This leaves little room for pride or judgment and a lot of room for learning. Rather than conforming to a façade of the perfect ambassador for Christ, missionary families live out the truth of grace, forgiveness, and redemption.” (see linked article)
So we try for a healthy balance in our lives, but many times we still feel self-conscious about it. We’re not perfect, and we don’t have it all together. (For those of you who know me well, that’s just stating the obvious.) This is one of the very real and active challenges we experience here on the mission field, and we are grateful that so many people love us, pray for us, and encourage us on a regular basis. So, thanks for that!