Mom In Missions: Introduction

“Why don’t you write a blog about being a mom in missions?”

When someone first suggested this idea to me, I was a little hesitant. It’s not an endeavor that is very demanding or difficult; it’s a fairly simple concept- I mean, I’m already guaranteed at least one reader, right? It’s just that I am not particularly fond of parenting blogs. In my opinion, there are far too many of them. So, if I’m going to join that bandwagon, I’d better have something unique to say. Since I’ve decided to bite this bullet, I’ve thought this all through- A LOT.

Allow me to explain my reservations. Motherhood is such an interesting thing for me to discuss because parenting is such a subjective and intimate topic for most people. The invitation was welcome but it was also a challenge.

I have realized that this idea has not simply sparked one essay; it has unleashed a series. There are too many pieces to the whole to put them in one article. This first installment is simply an introduction: the background and context for my life as a whole and, specifically, the life I find myself living.

Being a mother in missions fascinates me, even as I walk it out, because it’s such an amazing privilege.

 One that I take seriously; one that I seriously enjoy. There is no other circumstance under which I’d rather raise Haillie and Isaac than in the midst of this call on our lives. We could be outside of missions one day- but right now- I am deeply satisfied with where God has us.

I am a third generation missionary mother. My mom grew up in Thailand. When she was six months old, her parents traveled from America to Asia on a boat. My grandparents were the rugged, old-school kind of missionary: the kind that, through mountain jungle hacking away brush with machetes, trekked for days to get to the people they served.

My grandmother was the kind of mom who made her children matching outfits, stuffed animals, and marshmallows from scratch. She was Martha Stewart meets Betty Crocker; an incredible home-maker. She was also a visionary and a pioneer. She created an entire line of hand-sewn crafts, taught tribal women how to make these projects, and sold them internationally to help gather income for these women, many of whom had abusive, opium-addict husbands. She employed her daughters’ nimble fingers and creativity, allowing them to help develop ideas and new patterns, while her sons more often traveled into the villages with their father. Because she included her kids in all her ventures, people didn’t know only my grandmother, they knew her entire family. To this day, when I visit her in Thailand, she’ll introduce me to the shopkeepers on the street and they will ask about my mother and tell me their memories of her.

Out of her five children, three grew up to become missionaries themselves. My mother was one of them.

My mom came to the U.S. for college, married my dad, and returned to Thailand to raise her own family. My three sisters and I spent our childhood on the mission field in the same way my mother spent hers- although by then there were dirt roads to most of the villages. My mom had (and still has) much of her mother in her. She inherited my grandma’s love of having her children wear matching outfits, for one. But of course, she had her own flair as a missionary mom.

My parents worked with a different tribal group than my grandparents had (the Akha rather than the Karen), which meant Mom had to learn a fourth language.

I remember her sitting at our dining room table with her tutor, perfecting Akha guttural sounds while my sisters and I built lego castles around her feet.

She passed on everything she learned to us children. I would sit next to Mom in church with a giant Akha Bible on my lap and she’d coach me on the sounds, the same way she coached me in English and Math during homeschool. She loved teaching people, especially her children and she was phenomenal at it. She taught women’s Bible studies in the Akha language and expanded my grandmother’s handicraft business project to include the Akha women.

In our home, in the city, and from village to village, with three little girls in tow and a baby on her hip, she loved on people. Like ducklings in a row, we followed her around and learned from her example.

All of that history is a big part of the thrill for me- I’m living out a legacy, carrying on the family business, if you will.

I’ve heard the perspective I have towards being raised “in the ministry” is rare. People often ask me if I think I can find the right balance between family and a Christian Ministry career. There is a stigma that surrounds it. You hear, growing up in the church at least, about the wayward pastor’s kid, the troubled missionary’s kid, etc., who feel they got the raw end of the deal their parents made with God. Many of them rebel against God and the church citing those reasons. It’s a valid, major concern. I understand this complaint, I’ve seen plenty of it, but that is just not my story, not in the least.

When I recall my childhood, I find it void of such negative sentiment. My memories do not include feeling underprivileged, bitter, or obligated. I do remember having missionary parents who invited their children to actively join them in their calling: in fields as they taught agriculture; in rivers as they baptized people; in classrooms as they taught the Bible; in villages as they visited the sick, the broken, the poor; and in the back of pickup trucks down bumpy mountain roads. Our home, whether it was just our family or if it was packed with other people, was full of love. I do not remember missions being my parents’ job; I remember it being our life.

 

My parents made the relationship between ministry and family life seamless.

When they gave us children their undivided attention, it didn’t feel like a rare, special occasion as if they were, for that moment, choosing us. We weren’t a piece of a pie chart that needed to be balanced. There was no “ministry versus family” battle to be won because the difference didn’t exist. We always knew we were all doing God’s work together and we always knew, at the end of the day, that home was family and family was home.

This mindset plays a huge factor in my familial decisions – some result in true parenting genius and some, honestly, are yet to be determined. I’ve had people tell me they find my parenting views “refreshing” and others tell me they find them “concerning.” That’s just the blatant truth of it. Parenting is just one of those things you do your best at and, in the end, relinquish to God. 

I intend this series to highlight the unique circumstances we find ourselves in as both missionaries and parents. I enjoy having my kids with me and intermingling my world at “the office” with their world “at home” and I think the stories therein are worth telling.

This beautiful, adventurous mix is where I live, where I’ve always lived, and I’m raising my own kids in that heritage. I want them to grow up in a world where life is all-encompassing and every day is an opportunity to serve God and others alongside the people they love.

Just, maybe, without the matching outfits.

Joy grew up in Thailand and moved to the USA when she was a teenager. She is co-founder of YWAM Yosemite, home schools her two kids, leads worship and teaches in women retreats and other YWAM ministries. 

Joy grew up in Thailand and moved to the USA when she was a teenager. She is co-founder of YWAM Yosemite, home schools her two kids, leads worship and teaches in women retreats and other YWAM ministries. 

 

Are you a family looking to get involved with missions? Contact us to find out about the various ways you can work with YWAM Yosemite