Moms Make Good Short-Term Missionaries

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Several years ago, I entered an immigration line with a missions team from church. As I filled out the immigration form, I encountered a familiar list: Check the occupation that applies.

Somewhere between “hairdresser” and “human resources,” I found what I was looking for: housewife. In the past seven years I have had the great privilege of participating in short-term ministry trips, even though I have four young children. And I have come to see that housewives—or homemakers, or domestic engineers, or whatever you want to call them—are often uniquely equipped for short-term ministry.

Moms Make Good Missionaries

A mom who is active in her local church can bring God glory on a short-term trip. God’s people around the world do the same thing moms do every day at home and in fellowship with other believers.

In the cross-cultural environment of a ministry trip, a mom with an available and willing attitude is a blessing.

The best and most effective team members are those who are ready to serve humbly wherever the missionary or local partner asks them to. Moms continually, day by day, do things that are uncomfortable or that they would rather not do, but that are necessary to get the job done—clean messes, change diapers, apply bandages, wait in line. In the cross-cultural environment of a ministry trip, a mom with an available and willing attitude is a blessing.

But not only is it good for missions teams to include moms, it’s also good for moms and their families to participate in short-term projects. Here are four simple ways.

1. Missions Affirms Our True Identity

“Housewife,” as the immigration form called it, is a facet of who I am and what I do in this season of life. As moms, however, we should pursue opportunities to step out of the routine where we are tempted to find our identity and purpose. On a short-term ministry trip, factors we tend to unconsciously rely on for security are stripped away. Some of us find our security through being indispensable at home, thinking: They can’t survive without me. In contrast, some of us might worry that things will go well while we’re gone: What if they think they don’t need me?

It also might be tempting to think that if we make the monumental effort to leave home, time away could be better spent on vacation. But refreshment and spiritual renewal don’t come from the perfect amount of “me” time. Spiritual refreshment comes from delighting in Christ and serving others in his name.

Refreshment and spiritual renewal don’t come from the perfect amount of ‘me’ time. Spiritual refreshment comes from delighting in Christ and serving others in his name.

A ministry trip is a time to focus on Christ and our secure foundation in him, not our parenting and homemaking. We grow spiritually when God nourishes us outside our motherly comfort zone.

2. It Encourages Our Children

Our children need our example of service to others, not just our example of service to them. On a recent trip, my 7-year-old sent me a text to remind me she was praying for me. My children were a part of the prayer team. I missed them, but I continually reminded them that it was a joy to serve Jesus this way. We begin to set the example of service while they are young, so they grow up understanding this is the norm, not the exception.     

3. It Allows Others to Serve

Moms often think leaving on a ministry trip would inconvenience other people or be too difficult to coordinate. It’s true that planning and coordination are an enormous task. But family and church community flourish as they serve in support of God’s Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20). For each trip I took, my family and church knew they were truly a part of the ministry team.

When the church members overseas asked me how I could leave my children, I told them my husband and church family were caring for my children, which enabled me to come. They told me to pass along their thanks for making it possible. When a mom goes on a missions trip, each individual helping back home becomes a partner in ministry.

4. It Opens Our Eyes

Moms with small children have a tendency to focus on day-to-day struggles and challenges. We rarely appreciate the broader perspective of what God is doing in our neighborhood, in our country, and around the world. We’re too busy trying to catch up on sleep!

Often we are content with our status quo, not wanting anything to interfere with the carefully balanced routine we’ve arranged for our family. But we need to step away periodically and gain a broader perspective. This is one of the most important results of a short-term ministry trip. The experience can restore a more intentional, missional, and Christ-centered focus to our parenting and our church community when we return.

I was recently in a country that, until 1991, was closed to Christianity. Nearly all the believers I met in a local fellowship were first-generation Christians. After chatting for a few moments with one woman, she pulled out her cell phone and showed me a picture of four young women she’d been discipling for a year. Then she introduced me to a friend who’d been a believer for less than a year, yet was discipling four even newer Christians.

I reflected back over my 30 years of faith and realized I had been a Christian for a lifetime, but these women had done a lifetime’s work in just a few months. I was greatly encouraged by their example of ministry.

Consider It

With the explosion of short-term ministry opportunities over the last decade, the thought of going on a trip may have crossed your mind. Moms, don’t be misled by your fears, or derailed by your own longing for comfort. Instead, recognize that the Spirit may be prompting you to consider joining the team. In this environment, our souls are cared for in ways we can’t preordain.

Pastors, spouses, and friends, be willing and available to bless the work-at-home moms in your church by encouraging and enabling them to participate in your church’s future short-term ministry trips. Assuming your church is doing short-term ministry well, moms should prayerfully consider joining the team.

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