A change of Ministry

Reading back through my posts of late to see what I needed to update everyone on for a ‘Homestead Happenings’ post, I realized just how down and depressed my posts lately have been. They are a true reflection of the difficulty we have been facing here in the past few months and even for me, it wasnt easy to read and accept. There is always that temptation to put a smile on and cover up what is really going on but I refuse to do so. Things have been hard lately, harder than I even communicate online. Sometimes I dont want to write about all the bad, simply because it is so depressing to read or for the fear of being seen as a “downer” or very negative person who has to complain for attention, etc. More difficult things have happened lately but at last I feel a sense of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ so to speak.

Part of the reason that I feel a sense of relief is something that is actually hard to admit because some could view it as a failure or giving up. And I guess in a way it is both but it is what it is; a change of ministry. For the time being I have decided to take a step back from trying to start my animal micro-loan program and to only focus on running our home; so I guess it could be phrased as changing priorities but let me explain a little more. After two years of striving and pushing, I’ve come to a place of growth in my journey where I no longer want to strive to prove something; I simply want to be at rest as the woman God made me. I’m choosing to be Mary at rest at our Lord’s feet instead of Martha striving her hardest to win approval unsuccessfully. Later, if God makes it possible to start this ministry outside of me striving to get it done, then to Him be the glory; for now, I am going to rest at His feet and do the most important ministry He has already given me – our home and family. 

Running our home and taking care of Daniel is so much bigger than it sounds. Yes, I could do that anywhere but I’m not. Instead I’m living cross-culturally as an expat in a country torn apart by unrest and corruption and my prescence, doing the same things (if not in the same way) while speaking a different language, has a world-wide impact. Being here supports MAF world-wide. How? How does changing a poopy diaper or weeding the garden support MAF worldwide? The obvious answer is it allows my husband to live and serve in this country so he can fly and fix the airplanes that bring relief and point people to Jesus daily. Without my husband here at this base right now, things would crumble – pride? No. Reality. There are only three pilots assigned here right now. One is gone for a month, the other can only fly the 206 for the moment (safety check-out reasons so this is a good thing) and he will be leaving for maintenance on that aircraft for a while, leaving only Dave. Seeing all that Dave does for this base, it would have to shut down without him right now. He is essential, therefore I am essential

However, if you look a little deeper though you can see even more impact. My children (whenever we have more) are going to grow up being more culturally aware than I was; one day they will grow up to be the next generation taking on the fight. Having more Christians that are globally and culturally aware is a good thing for all of us. Being here provides jobs. What? Being here and living here provides jobs for local Congolese that literally make the difference between life and death here at times. We employ four people, one full time and three part time, and provide health care for them and their families. Many people die here because they wait until the last moment to get medical help simply because they cannot pay. Our employees and their familes no longer have to make that choice that could cost them their life. I also get to enrich other women’s lives, Congolese and expat, by being here. I strengthen the team by being a support and a friend. I support our team but I’ve also supported the local SP team the same way. I bring my personal Spiritual Gifts to the team as a member of the body of Christ and fill in the gaps that would otherwise be there.

Me teaching Emmanuel our kitchen help how to make ice cream for the first time. He not only has a wage and healthcare but he is being trained in cooking skills that can keep him employed for the rest of his life.

Can you imagine what would happen to MAF worldwide if all the wives decided that it didnt matter and that they were going home? Sad thing is – it is! There is a global problem of missionary spouses (mostly wives) feeling unimportant and unfullfilled, causing their family to leave the field. MAF is facing a serious problem with this right now. Between our culture and the false expectations put on Christian women these days, is it any surprise? “Oh, you’ll be flying and doing maintenance on airplanes and saving lives! That is so great! So . . .then, what will your wife be doing? Running the home and taking care of the kids, wow, that’s good. What else will she be doing?” Or “What will her ministry be?” after just explaining that it takes four hours to make a meal of hamburgers and tater tots. These questions along with today’s feminisim culture devalue what missionary wives across the world do to support The Great Commission. It is no longer “enough” to only be a mom who takes care of her home. I am using the word “only” instead of “just”  because the word “just” is the most common phrase used that tears the honored position down – just a mom and homemaker.” Have you ever said these words to a missionary wife? How do you think it impacted her? Even missionary to missionary this happens. Think about that for a moment. Is it really any surprise that missionary wives are finding it hard to achieve a sense of purpose and value with this being thrown at them? 

So battling all of these messages has been a loosing battle on my end, until just recently. One of those ways that I am supporting our team, being a friend, and bringing what only I can bring to this team, is through an upcoming ladies’ retreat. I am planning and putting on a retreat for all of the expat ladies here in Nyankunde (though one cancelled so now it’s just MAF ladies). It will be at the end of September and we will be studying the book ‘Captivatng’ by John and Stasi Eldredge. Studying this book and working through this material ahead of time, so I can lead the group study, has helped bring about this growth in my life (along with other events) – it has helped get me to the place of being Mary and not Martha, of resting in who God has already created me to be. One quote from the book that has deeply impacted me is “What if you have a genuine and captivating beauty that is marred only by your striving?” Captivating pg. 110. God made women to reflect His beauty and point people to Himself through being at rest in Him, not striving and pushing to be “enough.”

This change in ministry is a journey though, even a battle. Everyday I have to give myself permission to rest in Him, not try to prove myself or feel guilty about “just” being a homemaker and mom. I have to fight culture (American, Christain and even local Congolese) to not be devalued anymore. I have to combat the negative messages thrown at me, portrayed and created in my own mind that say what I do doesnt matter, that it’s “not enough” to “just” live here, that I have to have an “outside ministry” to be a worthy missionary worth supporting. Lies, all of them. An attack of the enemy to send missionary wives and their families off the field and stop God’s word from being spread. I’m done listening. I’m not going to leave the field. I’m going to rest at the feet of Jesus. I’m going to fight to feel fullfilled and valued in my God-given role. I’m changing my ministry.

My God-given ministry

7 comments

  1. Dear Ashley,
    What a beautiful insight into the challenges you face on the missions field. Will be praying for you as you “sit at Jesus” feet”. Our Lord Himself said it is the best place! Dave and Daniel is blessed with you as their rock in the house. I was privileged to stay at home until my kids went to school and those were precious years. Enjoy your God-given calling. In His own time, He will lead you on if there is another path for you to follow. Lot’s of love in Christ.

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  2. Ashley, I love your heart! Being a mother and wife is difficult anywhere, but doing it on the mission field has to be way more difficult! I applaud your decision!!! Lots of love and prayers!

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  3. Ash—-this was so well written—helps us all to understand what you are facing—-we support you all the way—you go girl!
    Love you—Aunt Pat

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  4. Ashley,
    What a wonderful post. It is so great to hear your “voice” as you reaffirm your commitment to support Dave and provide a loving home for Daniel and him. That is a very important part of your ministry as a couple. Also feel you are doing much more, though more for sure is not necessary. Helping your workers become more knowledgeable in different areas that will go a long way in providing life skills for them and leading a ladies’ retreat to encourage others in your situation are natural ways that you can share God’s love which is so important. May God continue to bless you as your family serves with MAF in a much needed capacity in which you are all gifted in your roles. Praising the Lord with you as you continue to be in our prayers.

    Love in Christ,
    George & Becky Douglas

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