Preparing to serve in a different country and imagining what it will be like is inevitably different to the reality you face when you hit the ground. For Andrew and me, as we set out on a cargo ship to Argentina in 2011, we were prepared for the fact that life would be different and probably more difficult than we expected. We just didn’t know how.
Eight years later, I think we’re understanding a bit more about sacrifice, but also getting a clearer vision on why it’s worth it.
My perspective, as a mother of four, is that I didn’t imagine how hard it would be to be so far from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. You know it will be hard. But the reality of missed births, weddings, funerals and just day-to-day life is tough, not just for us but for everyone we’ve left behind.
Education. Another biggie. If we stay in Argentina for the long term, as we hope to, our children won’t be able to go to university in the UK as national students. The schooling system here has its own particular flavour, and there is no doubt that their educational opportunities will be very different.
It’s almost embarrassing to write it, but I miss the National Trust! I miss being able to go and walk through a beautiful park, up a hill, round a lake, knowing that a nice cup of tea and a gift shop can’t be too far away! I feel sad that our kids don’t have open farms, the Science Museum, Peppa Pig World and the Cornish/Cumbrian coastlines to enjoy and explore.
And then there’s the fact that many people in the UK and in Argentina think we’re absolutely crazy. Why? Why would we leave the UK and go to a country that is struggling economically, where we have no idea how to budget with the mad inflation rates and where crime rates are sky high? Argentinian friends at church, in our flats and at the school gates have all expressed doubts at our sanity!
We sometimes end up trying to ‘justify’ our decision to be missionaries by looking on the bright side... ‘Ah, but think how great an understanding of different cultures our children will have,’ or ‘it’s so good for them to grow up speaking a different language,’ or… whatever we happen to think of that day. Trying to prove to ourselves and other people that we’re not being utterly horrible parents.
But as we reflect on all the above (basically, what we might be missing), we recognise that we can get too wrapped up in what the world says is important for our family – education being a huge factor – and we forget the source of all good things, who is not bound by time, location or culture. Our answer (for happiness, wellbeing and family harmony) is not to move back to the UK, or to a ‘better’ place where our kids will have a ‘better’ life. But to look up and see the one who is overflowing with good gifts for his children, and who is worth sacrificing everything for. The man who found the pearl of great price went and sold everything he had! (Matthew 13:45-46)
So, we recognise that there will be cultural struggles and times when we wonder why we came here, but we realise that if our greatest treasure is knowing Christ then nothing is too much to give. Our problem, usually, is that we’re not willing to sacrifice more.
So please pray for your mission partners: pray for true contentment in the gospel. Pray we'd have the certain knowledge that hard decisions made to take the gospel out are worth it. Because the one who sends us is worthy. In eternity, we’ll have something far better than the National Trust to enjoy.
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