If I could go back in time to the moment I arrived on the field with my first baby in tow, I would pull myself aside and give this piece of advice: you don’t have to sacrifice the needs of your family on the altar of ministry because your family is your biggest ministry. I especially needed these words of wisdom when it came to the big decisions we’d face during our decade abroad.
As our children approached school age, I found myself failing to fall in line with the status quo and battling thoughts that I must be inferior or rebellious because I couldn’t suck it up and homeschool my children like most of the mothers in our organization. I repeatedly approached God in prayer and asked Him to change the desires of my heart if He would have me homeschool, and the peace never came. In fact, the anxiety grew! Because of the lack of educational options available to us outside of homeschooling, we ended up leaving an organization we loved so that we could stay in our country of service and educate our kids in a way that kept our family sane. It was a difficult choice, but I don’t regret it!
Another instance in which we made such a choice came as I wrestled over the decision about where to deliver our third child. Part of me wanted to be a hero and stay put and have the baby in the city where we lived (like all my closest mom friends were doing), but I had zero peace with the scenario. I’ll never forget a wise friend looking me in the face and saying, “You do whatever you think is best for YOU and YOUR BABY.” Her words gave me freedom and released me from unreasonable expectations I placed on myself to be like everyone else!
Even though traveling to another city in our country of service to give birth was a hassle, it was the plan God set in motion before us. I felt like the ONLY woman in the organization who chose to leave the city of my residence during the school year to travel to another city to give birth. (I knew of other families who returned to America to have babies, but their children were always conveniently born during summer vacation, so it didn’t seem like they were bucking the system!)
Just like choosing whether to homeschool, it was an extremely tough choice in which I battled thoughts such as “Why can’t I just be like everyone else? Is there something wrong with me? Why do I have ZERO peace about delivering this baby here?” However, after it was all said and done, I know that God ordained it just as it came to pass.
Even though homeschooling and city-of-residence birthing weren’t specifically written in stone, it felt like our sending organizations had preferred answers for certain scenarios. I see the need for organizational preference, but I wonder if I’m not alone in wondering where we could and should draw the line. I’m sad that whenever cross-cultural workers openly seek options beyond the “guidelines” laid before them, they feel as if they’ve done something wrong.
It’s a very confusing life raising a family away from all that’s familiar while also surrounded by an organizational culture that dictates what you can and can’t do. I was brave enough to look for other options (in child birth and education), yet the feeling that I must be “less than” in some way because I chose to do things differently can still sneak up on me at times. I’d rather just keep that feeling to myself, but I have an inkling there’s someone out there who needs to be released from “organizational disobedience guilt” and grab on to the idea that sometimes God moves us to new places, puts us on a different path than others and has a good plan for all of it! I’m not saying we have a blank check for doing whatever we want, but every situation will not fit in the nifty little box the field handbook has created.
How do you reconcile doing what’s best for your family with submitting to the authority of your sending organization? Are we to automatically assume the established status quo is best for our family, whether it be birthplace of our children, educational options or even the NUMBER of children we can have? Are those of us who choose to do things a little differently entitled, rebellious or hard-headed for not stepping in line with every policy handed out when it comes to our families, or does that make us innovators?