By Teresa Johnson
“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” –William Ross Wallace
As Trevor and I researched going into missions, I still remember one well-meaning representative from an evangelical missions agency asking me this awkward question: “Okay, now what will be your ministry on the field?”
The lady was not satisfied, but persisted, "I mean what else, like…um...like what ministry [enunciating that word]...will you be doing?"
What? I was at a loss as to what to tell her. We wanted to safe-guard my future priorities at home, having no children at that point, but planning big! We asked ourselves, would our family choices be embraced by this missionary organization?
Sometimes mothers feel guilty for not doing more. But, during those “Little Years” of one’s children, your family needs you the most. There’s no need for remorse when prioritizing family.
Motherhood doesn’t limit one on the mission field – but shows the Gospel in action.
Ministry is not merely what we do; ministry flows out of being. What we do out of the home flows naturally from what is done in the home. Home-life and ministry life are interconnected.
Many folks who will not read Scripture will ‘read’ Christians every day. Let them read the whole weighty tome of an entire Christian family!
To plant the church deeply in the world, plant it first deeply in the home. Marriage and family are tools of sanctification. We daily learn to die to self and live for others. Christ humbled himself. Likewise, many mothers remain unknown to the world and yet have blessed the world more than most of the famous have ever done.
Modeling a Christian home is ministry.
The family is in crisis in Papua. The faith is not being passed on. Even families of church leaders suffer much sinful dysfunction. Modeling a Christian family, showing how the Gospel impacts motherhood , marriage, and child-rearing, is vital. Mirror the Gospel. This is ministry!
Often, Papuans comment on our home-life (I’m glad somebody thinks our family is orderly . . . it seems so chaotic at times).
One evangelist commented to Trevor,
“We know you must really know God because we see your family and your children . . . they are so smart and obedient . . . and we would like to know more as well so that we can also teach our children.” Another grieved, “We teach our children to hunt from a young age, because we ourselves know how to hunt. We teach our children to make boats from the time they are small, because we know about these things. But our children are not learning the Gospel from us – maybe this means that we do not know it ourselves. We want to know it more.”
What is my normal day like? Not entirely unlike the normal day of other moms. We are normal people serving an extraordinary God.
I rise early like many parents. I homeschool - but so do many non-missionary parents. Around 9 am, school begins. I find myself quite busy with school, making lunch, providing food for Trevor’s language helpers, more schooling, preparing dinner, cleaning and keeping home.
Jungle living does bring its differences, however. People stare through our windows much of the day. I feed many guests, even at odd hours when evangelists or tribal peoples need to urgently speak with Trevor, often from afar. We treat the occasional case of malaria or dengue in our family or in the village. I wash laundry in the river, chase the occasional rat, stomp the more than occasional cockroach. Yes, it can be different. But God’s grace is sufficient for raising three small children - even in remote jungle.
Are my children deprived?
Not at all! Their experiences are richer.
They have three rivers to choose from; their usual dilemma is, “Where do I swim now?” They play soccer, climb trees, hunt bugs (collecting more than I would like to see). They shoot bows and arrows, attend school at home, get dirty and then visit the river again (wash, rinse, and repeat). They fall into bed at night, usually exhausted from having fun.
Rather than entitlement and ingratitude, a sense of thankfulness and an awareness of blessing develops. They see how the less fortunate live. They help me treat the sick who come to our porch. They see both the good and evil of multiple cultures and can weigh and question these worldviews. There is added risk, yes, but all lives are fragile, all plans uncertain, and no place in this fallen world is truly safe.
My hope for this article: Mothers, feel free to be who God made you! A stay-at-home mom, supporting her busy husband and raising her family to the glory of God is a great calling!
Trevor and Teresa serve in Papua among the Korowai people. Their three children are Noah, age 8; Alethea, age 5; and Perpetua, 15 months. Check out their blog at: www.tandtfamily.blogspot.com.