The Inside Scoop on Foreign Missions
Posted by April W Gardner on July 11, 2012
Ever wonder what a missionary wife goes through on a foreign field? What’s it like to haul your precious little ones into an unfamiliar and unpredictable environment? How do missionary wives cope?
Below, one such wife share a personal account of her first years on the foreign mission field. She wishes to remain anonymous, but God knows who she is. His eye is on her today as much as it was twenty-four years ago…
On September 28, 1988, my husband and I, along with our three children, arrived on our mission field. Before arriving, we were instructed to learn the culture and language. We were to be open and receptive to it. I had been taught that if mother adjusts on the field the whole family adjusts. My task was clearly laid before me.
Approximately one month later we had found an apartment on the ninth floor of an 11 story building. From the balcony, all the people below walking down the sidewalk and all the children playing looked so small, but they were our mission field. Those God had sent us to minister to.
We began language study as soon as possible, ourselves as well as our children. My husband and I had a language professor who came to our apartment twice a week for three hours at a time. There was a young American woman in the national church we attended who worked in the country teaching English to business people. We asked her to give language lessons to our children.
After several weeks in our new apartment I began noticing differences in each of us. It seemed that our weak traits began to cause us more problems. My social, talkative husband become frustrated, angry, demanding, and not happy with anything. My oldest became more nervous and high strung. My second become more and more drawn into herself. The youngest, 5 years old, no longer laughed. He just “existed”. It seemed that the family was coming apart at the seams. Instead of coming together, each one dealt with the drastic change in a way that drove and severed him from the unit.
I suffered for each one. I had been taught that if mother adjusts on the field the whole family adjusts. So I felt a huge burden to be the anchor.
But how? I had no idea how to begin to be what was needed for my family! Here I was a wife and mother, more scared of her own shadow than anything else, in a foreign country that really was not inviting in the least. In this culture where revolting trash was thrown out apartment windows. A culture where the street language is two words normal, one profanity. Add to that the general rejection of anything foreign.
Our family was submerged in a turbulent ocean of foreign, unchristian, “savage” culture, each member drowning, and me, with absolutely no idea how to save them.
I turned to the only thing I knew. In utter desperation and panic of heart, I beseeched the Lord to teach me how to pray for my family in this time and place. All that came to my heart was to ask Him for someone to pray for us. I did not know why, but that is what was put on my heart. So I began begging God for someone to pray for us. Every night when I could not sleep due the heavy burden I would get up, read my Bible, spill my heart onto the written page and then get on my face before God begging him to have someone pray for us, because I was totally paralyzed spiritually to help them myself.
I do not know how long I prayed. All I can remember is that as time went on, the Lord brought to mind to look for open doors for activities for my children: craft classes, art classes, and horse riding lessons, taking family outings to see and get to know the country. Little by little things began to settle down and each one of us began to breathe easier.
I remember exactly the day, where we were, the sun that was shining, the sounds of the traffic as I was driving home with my 5 year old when he said to me, “This place doesn’t feel so different now.” Then I heard his big belly laugh for the first time in months. Such a beautiful sound.
It was beautiful hearing my children laughing again and speaking the language so fluently and with no accent. It was beautiful being able to share fellowship with the believers there. It was beautiful to see beyond the style of life of the culture and into their hearts and all the good qualities as well as the need for the eternal.
So our family adjusted, survived, and thrived. Two years later, the time for our first furlough came around. We arrived in the United States and relished American comforts like peanut butter and grape jelly. While shopping, I ran into a dear friend. They were missionaries in another country. In fact they had arrived in their country of service about a month before we arrived in ours. When she saw me, she grabbed me, gave me a huge hug and said, “Girl, what happened to you? About October I got such a burden for you all that I could not get you off my heart for months!” We had not been in contact for at least 3 years.
At that moment, I saw how God had honored my petition laid out to him in such pain and need. I saw how he honored my family and their decision to dedicate themselves to fulfill the last command of Christ.
More than 24 years have passed, and my husband and I are still on the field, in the same country God . Over the years, I have seen repeatedly how God honors prayer even though we do not see how He accomplishes it. He is a God of detail, using what is unknown to us to meet our needs and the needs of those we love.
–April W. Gardneris a multi-published, award-winning author. Her work includesthe historical romance series, Creek Country Saga.
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