Now for our next Missionary Mama:
If you have three children born in three different countries….you might be a missionary mama.
Haha! Yes, that’s right, our oldest child, Olivia was born in a rural, mountain village in the country of Slovakia. Our middle child, Mikey was born in the good old USA, and our baby boy, Joey, was born here in Romania.
We’ve been missionaries to the Rroma (Gypsy) people of Eastern Europe for the past 10 years and it has been an incredible journey. We left for Slovakia in the fall of 2005 expecting our first child, not having any idea what being a missionary would truly mean, let alone being parents for the first time. God has been so good and so gracious in blessing us with three children and guiding and directing us through some really wonderful, and some really difficult times.
Since I have no idea what being a mama to a child living in the States is like, I really have nothing to compare my life with. I almost think it’s easier this way. Maybe I would have struggled more bringing my children who had been born and raised in the States to a foreign country, leaving their friends and family behind, selling their belongings and starting fresh in a strange new place. My children haven’t had these struggles. Being born on the field, this is all they know. We’ve been back to the States 3 times since being here in Europe and the only culture shock my kids have known was when we returned to the States.
Don’t get me wrong, there are so many challenges to raising our children outside the land of our birth. Often times I’m just not prepared for the question I might get or situation that I’m suddenly placed in that Stateside mamas may never be faced with. With God’s help I will try to share a few, mostly funny moments that can give you a little insight as to what it means to be a missionary mama. : )
When our Olivia was about four years old, we worked in a very remote village of Gypsies and they were extremely primitive. It wasn’t strange at all for most of the small children to go completely naked from the waist down all the time. She didn’t see the difference between them and her at all and was “best friends” with every little girl her age. She came home from church one day and said, “Mom, I’m so happy my best friend came to church, I just wish sometimes she would wear pants.”
When we were back on furlough, Olivia was about six years old and it never occurred to me that she’d not ever seen a drinking fountain. She came home from church telling me that the Sunday School teacher made them wash their mouths out. I was horrified, thinking she’d said a bad word and then a little upset that they would punish them this way. Haha! As I got more of the story out of her, I heard about how the teacher made them stand in a line in the hallway and then they each took a turn at the sink and rinsed out their mouths! You can imagine how hard I laughed when I realized they were just getting a drink, but my Olivia had no idea and didn’t want to feel silly by asking, so she just went along with this strange American custom. When we were in the States this past year, Olivia had the privilege of explaining the “drinking fountain” to our 5 year old Mikey and he had a blast for a good half an hour after church discovering how fun it was!
As much as the States is not our children’s home, it’s difficult to say that the field is their “Home”. For our children, wherever their Mama and Daddy are is home. They (and we) are always outsiders, no matter how well we learn the language and culture. We will always be “the Americans”. Our church people love us to death and we love them, but we aren’t one of them.
Then going back to the States, our children never really make lasting friendships. They make lots of friends, but not lasting friends. What we have learned from all of this and have always strived for in our home is that Family comes before friends. Friends are important, but they will come and go. We cannot and will not make finding friends the most important goal. We have five God given friends right here in this home. We have the most fun together and enjoy being together more than anything. We love getting to make new friends here on the field and visiting old friends while in the States, but there are always good byes waiting.
The best part about making your family your best friends is that you know you’re in this together, through good times and bad. I’m not sure what it’s like raising a child in the States and I know it must come with its share of challenges, these are just a few of my every day challenges. I wouldn’t change it for the world.