Monday, January 21, 2013

Called Overseas to Cook and Clean?

When God called me overseas, I had no idea how much time I’d spend cooking, cleaning, home schooling, playing games, and driving kids to sports practice. Just as if I were still back home in America. I even asked myself, “Why am I here, anyway? I can mop floors and teach reading back home.”
I had no idea that when I led a women’s study group, I’d feel bad about leaving my kids home with my husband, and when I spent days on end caring for a sick child without leaving the house, I’d feel vaguely guilty for neglecting my “ministry” responsibilities.
Years ago I asked a more experienced woman, “How do you manage to have a ministry outside of your home?”
Her answer flabbergasted me.

She said simply, “I tried that once, and it didn’t work for me.”

I’ve been chuckling about it ever since. Her open, honest attitude somehow freed me to be myself and find my own way.

Mothers Serving Overseas Come in all Shapes:

Women cross-cultural servants come in all different colors of the rainbow. Some are basically “working” mothers, hiring childcare or sending kids to local daycare or school while they serve or study the language. Others choose to center their lives more closely around their homes and children.

Find the Balance that Feels Right for You:
I’m probably somewhere in the middle, which means I burn the candle at both ends! I enjoy homeschooling and caring for my family, but my heart yearns for more than just “staying at home.” So making my home a center of hospitality has worked for me. I also visit women friends when I can.

Let Go of Guilt
I tend to compare myself with other women who seem to have a higher level of involvement outside their homes. This is dangerous because inevitably I then feel guilty. But I’m learning to relax in who God is calling me to be and also to give this freedom to others, who may not share my views.

Comments From Other Women Servants:

When I asked other women serving in Turkey for their views on ministry inside and outside of their homes, here is what they said:
  • “Part of loving my teaching them…how to love others outside of our circle.”
  • “My family is my first ‘ministry.’ Any ‘ministry’ work that happens outside the home is just icing on the cake.”
  • “Since the kids were 6 mo. old, we've had roughly 15-25 hrs/week of childcare for them.”
  • “Considering the difficulties our kids go through to adjust to the new cultures, we need to give them the appropriate mother time. Actually, I find Turks very family oriented…As much as possible, I liked to do ministry that included my children. So often the children when they were young were the catalyst to relationships with other Turkish mothers.”
  • “Knowing myself, I will always work more than I should…The Lord has given me kids to slow me down, to disciple me, and to teach me that my value doesn't come from my productivity..."
  • “Balancing family vs. ministry isn't possible. Once things are "balanced," someone inevitably gets sick, a situation or crisis arises in the work, or some other thing comes up. When you view family as ministry, you can move your fulcrum to one end or the other as needs arise..." 
  • “Perhaps our most lasting and important gift that we give to our local friends is the model of a family that is submitted to Christ and trying to make him central.”
  • “While I had children at home, my strategy was to make home my primary place for outreach, discipleship and showing hospitality. Serving my husband and kids was my primary ministry, and they supported and helped me in reaching out and serving others too.”
I was encouraged by their wisdom. What are your views?

updated from my archives


  1. I must admit that this has been on my mind hugely lately, so thankyou so much for posting this. We are about to depart to live in a very remote and isolated part of Australia where my husband will work as a pilot. I was also hoping to be involved in ministry through my community development skills but as departure has drawn closer our sending organisation is focusing more and more on my husbands role and in their eyes my role is in the home, which I do not feel as a lesser work but I also feel called to the work outside the home. The reality of how this will work out is yet to be seen - so long story short thankyou for opening the conversation and for reminding me that there is no formula but that everyone has their own way of working it out.

    1. I hope things work out for you, Anna, and that you find a balance satisfying to you and your husband. I really do think there's no "right" formula.

      Can you still seek some community development involvement even if your organization isn't actively supporting that? Blessings to you as you find your way in a new area.

  2. I'm definitely one to stay at home with my baby. Anything outside of that would be overwhelming right now! I have thought about getting involved in other things, but my family is my priority. I feel guilty at times when talking with supporters, but I guess I don't realise how many people do actually see staying at home with children as a ministry! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Olive! :)

  3. Good thoughts!! People ask me all the time what my role is and I tell them "right now, I am the only mama my three little boys have. That's top priority right now." I do help out with hospitality and things like notes and gifts for the people we serve. But really, three under 6 is more than enough work, and there is plenty of time once they are bigger to be involved in things.

    1. That's interesting about people asking you what your role is, Liz. They certainly wouldn't ask you if you were living stateside! They'd ASSUME you were at home with the kids, I bet. :-) You're so right that there will be time later! I can be involved in more things with teenagers, but I still have to watch it because they almost need me more, but emotionally, not physically. They're too easy to neglect when they're teens.

      And Chrysti, good for you that you're staying home with your baby.

  4. Great article and very true! It is so important that we look to God for direction for our ministries and what we can handle as moms and wives. I am presently praying about a ministry opportunity that I could do and am trying to figure out if it is what God is directing me towards or not. Blessings to you!

  5. Makes me remember a E-mail from another doctor considering leaving their passport country for a different type of work. She asked both me and a female physicians assistant what our 'ministry' was...meaning outside of our medical work. We really didn't know what to tell her. My first ministry as I continue to learn remains my family and second was the medical work-teaching nationals as well as treating the people. Nope I really don't have time for another. I often wonder what she thought I should be doing? But thankfully I know I'm doing what the Lord has for me to do regardless of what other's may think I should be doing.

  6. I just stumbled upon this article, and all I can say is thanks. I'm a new missionary- 8 months now and have been struggling so much with this...