Save the World, Lose my Child?

The pace of life on the mission field genuinely surprised me. Being used to the busyness of ministry in the States, I had braced myself for the inevitable boredom that was to come. I envisioned moving from New York City to Mayberry. This was going to take some adjusting.

I soon discovered ministry is busy wherever you are. There are church services, special activities, discipleships, counseling sessions, visitation, and staff meeting. Somewhere in there, I'm supposed to find time to prepare meals and clean house. With the arrival of a group from the U.S., life becomes a whirlwind.

Where does family time fit into all this? Will Claire suffer from Mama and Daddy being on call 24/7?

I'm the first to confess, I don't have it all figured out. I know the key is how do we strike it? But I would like to share some things the Lord has taught Robbie and me over the past few years about a harmony of family time and ministry.

1. My husband is the head of our home. The Lord placed my husband as the head of this family; no other man has this role. The Lord gives Robbie wisdom to decide exactly what our family can handle. Every family should serve in the church; but not every family can be involved to the same capacity. I must trust the leadership of my husband. He would tell you that I tend to frequently over commit. I recall one weekend in particular that we had a church event the weekend before we left for furlough in the United States. Already in the flurry of packing and organizing for our trip, I was also in charge of the meal for this event. Instead of asking someone for help, or ordering chop-suey from the Chinese restaurant (as my husband suggested), I decided to make the food myself. For one hundred people. Somewhere around 1AM, I was standing in the kitchen peeling eggs for the potato salad, rolling my eyes at myself. Dumb, dumb, dumb! Why didn't I listen to my husband? As hard as it is to admit at times, there's a reason I'm not in charge!

2. My relationship with the Lord is top priority. It becomes pretty obvious when I become too busy doing and not being with the Lord. My schedule is overflowing, I frantically rush from activity to activity, and I begin to resent my ministry. If everything I do doesn't revolve around Him, it will quickly fall apart. And my daughter needs to see that. Years ago, before I was married, my cousin Kimberly shared something the Lord was teaching her that really stuck with me. She had the habit of rising early to have her devotions before her two young boys were awake each morning. But one day it occurred to her that her little ones didn't see Mama reading her Bible and praying each day. Yes, she probably had fewer distractions with the boys asleep, but it was important to her that they know she had her quiet time with the Lord. She began waiting until they were awake, then sent them out to play on the patio just after breakfast. They could see each other through the glass, and they knew this was Mama's time to be with the Lord. I've incorporated the same habit now that I have Claire; some mornings she even sits beside me and looks through a Bible picture book because she wants to "have her devotions" as well. My quiet time is the most important part of the day, and all other activities must take a backseat to my spending time with the Lord.

3. My daughter will benefit from our family's involvement in the ministry. We all hear horror stories of pastors becoming so involved in the ministry that they lose their own children. Certainly there is a dangerous extreme of trying to "save the world" yet losing one's own family in the process. But somehow, I believe the devil has deceived us at times with the lie that the ministry is competing against our family and we must be on guard for fear of losing our children by "serving the Lord too much." The ministry is not the antagonist of my family time. If we are following Biblical principles and submitting to the leadership of the head our homes, I believe the Lord will give us a beautiful balance and enable us to serve the Him with our children. Some of my favorite times with Claire have been watching her sweep the church alongside me, her chubby hands grasping a small broom that we bought just so she could clean the Lord's house. She plays with children on visitation while we talk to their parents about their salvation. She passes out napkins at the men's meeting while I serve the plates of food. She loves being part of the ministry!

In a small seaside town about an hour north of our church, lives a national pastor whom our church supports. While we ate dinner with him and his wife one night, they shared their salvation testimonies, then began to tell how their children had trusted Christ. The story of their son's decision was one of the sweetest I've ever heard.

"One Sunday night, a visitor raised his hand during the invitation,
indicating that he wanted to trust Christ. I went to him and asked him to go
next door to my house to talk further. But I saw that my four year-old son would
be left alone in the pew, since my wife was praying with a lady, so I decided to
bring him along with me. In our living room, I gave Axel, Jr., a basket of toys
and he began to play quietly as I shared the gospel with the visitor. I didn't
think my little boy was even listening as I read the verses from the Roman's
Road; I knelt to lead the man in a prayer of repentance, and when I opened my eyes, I was surprised to see little Axel kneeling beside me, his lips moving in a
silent prayer. He never said a word to me; he simply finished praying then
returned to his toys. The next morning at breakfast, he announced to the family,
'I'm going to heaven, now, too!' My wife looked at me in surprise, and I asked
Axel why he believed he was going to heaven. 'Because I prayed and asked Jesus
into my heart last night!' Ever since that night, Axel has always given a
confident testimony of his decision to trust Christ as Savior."

What a beautiful example of a man's service to the Lord resulting in the salvation of his son! It's my prayer that our family's involvement in the ministry influences Claire's heart for eternity. Sometimes, it may mean saying no. Other times, it may mean an incredibly busy week. But the Lord will give us the wisdom to know how to serve the Lord together as a family.

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. -Psalm 122:1

The Mango Tree

One of my most treasured possessions is my copy of A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. There's an inscription inside the cover in my grandma's familiar scrawl: "To Christine from D-daddy and Grandma, 1981." When I found out I was pregnant with Claire, my mom dug the beloved book out of the attic and brought it to me in Honduras. I was surprised to find I could still recite many of these treasured poems, especially the one about Leery, the lamplighter. I have loved rediscovering the beauty of these pages with Claire, who never tires of the galloping rhythm of "Windy Nights," her personal favorite.

Another poem describes the joy and wonder of a child when he climbs into a cherry tree and discovers new worlds beyond his own yard. I made a collage of pictures of Claire in our yard a few years back and tweaked the poem to fit our own story:

Up into the mango tree,
Who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands
And looked abroad on foreign lands.

I like to picture a knowing smile on my Heavenly Father's face as He listened to a younger me dreaming of looking "abroad on foreign lands" that lay beyond my own yard. Little did I know what He had in store! As He shaped and molded this great adventure for me, He put more care into each detail than Stevenson did into perfecting each line of poetry. She's going to love this!

One of the devil's most widely-accepted lies is that following God's will is dull. Nothing could be further from the truth! I've found excitement, fulfillment, and complete satisfaction in serving Him.

I often wonder where Claire's path will take her. What mountains will she climb? Which rivers will she cross? Whom will she meet along the way? I can't see the future, but I do know that if she follows God's will for her life, she'll find surprises and twists she can't possibly imagine, meticulously crafted just for her.

God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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