I’m a missionary wife. My husband and I have been living overseas for seven years now, and I want to let you sweet readers know that there are some things that every missionary wife wished you knew. However, many of them don’t get the chance to tell you these things, or sometimes they don’t know you well enough to trust you with their personal struggles or victories.
Even though that is the case, I think you should know.
In fact, I think your pastor’s wife should know.
I think your best friend should know.
Why? Because many missionaries are leaving the foreign mission field because the missionary wife is beyond lonely, discouraged and has given up on the ministry overseas.
And maybe, just maybe, if you knew what the missionary wife really needs, thinks and experiences, then you could encourage a missionary wife to keep going.
It’s possible that you have no idea how much a fellow Christian can influence a missionary wife for good. It’s possible that you have no idea what your phone call, email or care package means to her. It’s even more possible that you don’t know how many weeks she spends in tears because she felt worthless, lonely and discouraged.
But, someone encouraged her in the Lord. Someone took her by the hand and helped her get up and brush off her knees. Someone encouraged her to keep being a soldier of Christ. Someone’s words brought cool water to her soul and helped her smile in the midst of unexplainable difficulty. Someone’s small token of love helped her sing the praises of God in the midst of loud monotonous chanting to a false god. Someone’s battle in prayer for her that morning helped her look to her Anchor once again while she watched her tiny child lie painfully sick without dependable medical help nearby.
Maybe next time, that someone will be you.
I asked a group of church-planting missionaries to share with me what they wished people knew about the missionary wife. I want to share those with you today so you can get the “inside scoop” of what really goes on behind those prayer cards, prayer letters, and status updates you briefly read on Facebook.
It’s not that the missionary wife is seeking to hide anything from you, but most of the time it’s because she doesn’t get an opportunity to share her struggles and discouragement.
But today, I thank you for taking just a few minutes to read some honest, real and very transparent things that every missionary wife wish you knew. May you use this knowledge to encourage the missionary wife who is in your life! And if you talk to her, please tell her I said “thank you” for serving Christ!
What Every Missionary Wife Wish You Knew
- We wished you knew that we’re not super-heroes. Just today I was chatting with another missionary wife about how going to a foreign field makes you realize how frail you are as a Christian. Sometimes missionary wives get put on a pedestal for being “brave, committed and dedicated,” but on the inside we all know that we are all just human beings who have to trust and depend on the grace of God with each every step we take. We learn that it is only Jesus Christ who is worthy to be praised — and we truly are only people who have the privilege of serving Christ in a foreign land. We feel privileged to be honored to work for the one true king!
- We wished you knew we get very lonely. I never viewed myself as a woman who needed her “girlfriends.” I loved staying at home with my kids and spending time with just my family. However, I didn’t realize that I was spending time with my “girlfriends” every time I went to church and even at other events. I would also run into friends at the grocery store. But in Southeast Asia? I didn’t have the friends. It would get very lonely. The phone wouldn’t ring, the doorbell wouldn’t ring and no one would invite us over for Christmas. It was just our family for a long time and sometimes the world seemed almost silent. But someone, somewhere would listen to the prodding of the Holy Spirit and would take time to send me an email or write me a short message on Facebook. I would find my smile and laughter once again as I began to feel like a loved human.
So what does this mean for you? It means you can encourage the missionary wife by just writing her a message on Facebook, sending her a short email or even better — calling her!
When I got to hear the sound of an American, Christian voice, sometimes I would have to refrain my tears. It had been so long since I had enjoyed a conversation with an American, Christian friend and I was overwhelmed with happiness of familiar sounds, laughter and sayings that I grew accustomed to in my native land.
Go ahead, send that email or call that missionary wife today. Psst! You can find most of her personal information on her family’s prayer card or website! You’ll be so glad you did, and she will treasure that communication for a very, very long time!
- We wished you knew we want you to say “hi” when we visit. When we come to a church or group, sometimes people walk right by our display and never say a word to us. Even if we’re busy looking after small children, it makes us feel more welcome if you just take a few minutes, say hello and check out our missionary work. It makes all the traveling and late nights much more pleasant!
- We wished you knew we don’t “fit in” anywhere. Yes, being in our homeland has it’s perks, but after living overseas for many years we just don’t fit in. Our friends, families and churches have changed and moved on — and even our native country we use to call home has as well. It’s almost impossible for us to feel completely at home in our native land when we’ve learned to live in a completely different culture; and without realizing it, we’ve grown accustomed to the strange, new place. But also, relationships have changed. Our previous best friends have gotten new friends and we have less in common now. It’s really no one’s fault, just something that naturally happens. But even on the mission field we will never “fit in” completely. People seem to notice our foreigner face, accent and strange customs. Even when we try our best to relate and adjust to our new cultures, we will always be “the foreigner.”
Not having a true home encourages our hearts to focus on our eternal home. Many times I sit and wonder just what exactly my home that Christ has prepared for me looks like. I often daydream about the day when people from all tribes, tongues and cultures come together and bow the knee to the one true God. Since I have no true, seemingly permanent home on this earth, I find it easier to focus on my heavenly home. And that, dear readers, is a “perk” of being a missionary. It was a painful perk in the beginning, but as time goes on, I realize it’s a beneficial perk to this home-maker who loves to decorate, bake and decorate some more! This benefit to the missionary life helps me keep my decorating nature under control!
- We wished you knew that we’re not all created equal. I’m a missionary wife who loves to sing and play the piano. However, that does not make me a better missionary wife than missionary wives who do not feel gifted in the area of music. There are many other talents and qualities a missionary wife can possess! Each missionary wife is hand-crafted by a loving Savior who knows just how to use their special, unique talents to bring glory to His name. Even their personalities, strengths and weaknesses are all different. Love the missionary wives for who they are and don’t expect all of them to fit in the typical missionary wife bubble!
- We wished you knew furlough and deputation are not vacations. Very well-meaning people say comments about enjoying your vacation to a missionary who is passing through. I understand that many people associate traveling with vacations, I really do. But, if you want to know the “inside scoop” of missionary wives, I will be the first to say that deputation and furlough are trying times — though it has some blessings on the way as well! Why is it not a vacation? Most of the time you travel and have no idea what your housing situation will be. It may be someone’s home, a hotel or an apartment in a church building. Sometimes it’s only one room for an entire family. Sometimes it’s clean, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you’re put with a super-nice family who uderstands your traveling needs. Other times you’re put with people that have drastically different standards and do not like children. Sometimes, ahem, you’re put in a very dirty, cheap motel where you won’t dare bathe your kids in the bathtub and you hope and pray that your family will be safe since you noticed the bullet-proof glass in front of the receptionist’s desk.
Also when you travel with a large family you are almost guaranteed someone will run a fever or puke. It’s just a deputation, furlough Murphy’s law kind of thing. It just happens from an increased exposure to thousands of germs and staying up late night after night. It’s also a result of your body never getting in a routine long enough to feel completely rested and renewed. Then, because you have a large family, you exert futile effort to keep sickness from spreading in your small, crowded quarters. Your body is also exhausted from having to be giving 100% of your mind, heart and soul to people that you desire to share the love of missions with. Even though it’s a great thing to do, your body tells you it’s too much of a good thing. So, eventually your family collapses and needs a full 24 hours to recuperate and begin another traveling adventure that many people still call a vacation.
- We wished you knew we don’t get acclimated to being separated from family. Oceans and thousands of miles divide us from people we dearly love — and years do not make it any easier. Sometimes people assume that you grow hardened and even callous to being separated from your loved ones, but it’s simply not true. We don’t cross the ocean to leave our family and friends, but rather we cross the ocean with tears and precious memories of the faces of people we may never see again on this green earth.
- We wished you knew we want you to love our children. It means the world to a mother’s heart when someone loves her children. Missionary kids travel from place to place and rarely have enough time to make close-knit friends. How can you encourage the missionary child who looks totally confused when you ask her where she’s from? It’s simple, really. Talk to her when she visits you. Read up on the country where she lives so you can actually engage in conversation about the foreign place she calls home. Another simple thing? If you know missionary kids are coming to visit your church, you could prepare a small bag for each child that has some well-loved kid snacks, coloring books and small toys that just seem to shout, “HEY MISSIONARY KID! WE’RE SO GLAD YOU’RE HERE!” When someone makes a dedicated effort to show our children love and affection, we don’t forget it. We treasure that, and so do our children. And when you encourage our children, you encourage us.
- We wished you knew we don’t care what time of day or night you call us. If it’s at night, our phones will be on silent. Don’t hesitate to call and leave a voice mail. We love hearing from you and we also know that sometimes people forget the time differences. We forget about those pesky time zones too!
- We wished you knew we need your patience when we’re on furlough. After leaving overseas for several years, we’ve picked up unusual habits, phrases etc. And our kids? They’ve picked it up even more! We also forget some manners that don’t apply in our new home country. And, most likely, America has changed quite a bit since we have visited. We may have forgotten how to work the credit card machines, the soda fountains and even how to order our favorite cup of coffee. And just one more thing. We may be a basket of emotions when we’re on furlough. Try to imagine hearing about 5 divorces, three deaths and wayward children in just a few weeks. While everyone else has moved on and already come to terms with those situations, they are all thrown on us at one time and are fresh wounds. Then, add in the joy of reuniting with loved ones, learning how to function again in your native culture and you have a woman who is bound to burst into tears over the silliest of things. Yes, we need your patience, grace and time to adjust to our “homeland” once again. Give us a few months and we should be semi-normal again! :)
- We wished you knew your prayers really, really matter. We know when our family has faces a ginormous battle that relief and help comes because people like you were on their knees begging God to help us. Remember Peter in Acts 12:5? He was put in prison, and would have most likely been killed by Herod, but the church prayed for him WITHOUT CEASING. And what happened? An angel came and rescued Peter out of prison. That’s just one biblical example of how God uses your prayers to work in people’s lives. Please pray for the missionary wife in your life!
- We wished you knew that the money and time you spend on packages are not wasted. It’s amazing how we are quick to assume we’re not materialistic. We live without air-conditioning, carpet, Wal-mart, Target, dishwashers, clothes dryers and other conveniences we were accustomed to in America. But when we see that unopened box sitting at the post office, we bubble over inside with anticipation of seeing Butterfingers, Crystal light, Crayola crayons, Yankee candles and Kool-Aid. Who knew that those small things meant so much to us and give us sweet glimpses into our native lands? You see, to you it’s just a box filled with ordinary things that costs an exorbitant amount of shipping. But to us? It’s a rare, tiny taste of the land we grew up in. But most of all? It’s a tangible reminder that people are still thinking of us in America. That people still love us, believe in the work we are called to do and count the sacrifice of money and time worth the investment. Yes, those packages are priceless to us and we remember every single one — and our kids do too.
- We want you to know that we love being a missionary’s wife. Though our paths our often fraught with difficulty, we count our sacrifices very, very small when we think of what Jesus Christ has done for us. We are excited that we get to travel to foreign lands that do not have the privilege of hearing the gospel on radio stations, televisions or in churches. We are excited to be able to be the first people to tell others who never knew about Jesus Christ about the salvation, hope and peace that only He can bring.
Do you know a missionary wife? If so, use this list to remind you how to be an encouragement to her. If you understand her struggles, experiences and needs, then you will be better equipped to provide the encouragement she needs!
Let’s all encourage a missionary wife today and make a difference — one missionary wife at a time!