For the Joy came in the mail two weeks ago.
A friend, Miriam Chan, who once took me on a mission trip to Thailand, compiled 21 stories from Australian missionary mothers about their experiences “on the field” with co-editor Sophia Russell and published a book.
“It took four years,” Miriam tells me over the phone.
After receiving rejection after rejection from international publishers, she stopped for a year and wondered if the book was ever going to eventuate.
“That’s when a friend reminded me not to hold on too tightly. If God wanted these stories to be told, he would do so. He will open doors to make this happen.”
Then one day, He gave Miriam the opportunity through a Facebook post. The post was a call for help with books a non-profit Christian aid organisation was publishing. She approached the organisation about submitting her book proposal and it was accepted.
“The stories are as varied as the experiences of the women who wrote them, but each one of these mothers really sought to be faithful to Jesus,” Miriam explains.
“As you read each story, you’ll realise these missionary mothers are ordinary women. They are normal people. Not the extraordinary heroes we’ve read about in our youth, but people we can relate to making difficult choices and sacrifices for the eternal joy set before them.”
So I sat on our balcony and started to read. The book opened my eyes to stories of quiet heroism and love as women put their missionary experiences to paper for the world to see.
Stories included home-schooling while living in a bus, a harrowing account of a household accident, the daily struggles of racism in a foreign land and the soul-searing grief of losing a family to persecution.
These stories were honest, powerful and gut-wrenching at times. But it was also remarkable to see these ordinary women fix their eyes on the author and perfecter of their faith throughout their struggles.
After losing her sons and husband in a violent mob attack on the mission field, one mother is assailed by people.
The authorities came. The media came. “What is your reaction to your family being killed?” “Are you angry?” they asked. I replied, “No, I am not angry — upset but not angry. God has helped me to forgive the killers.” This was something that no one could comprehend. “How could you forgive?” was the question. “Jesus Christ has forgiven me for my sins, and He has taught us to forgive. Please give a message to your readers and listeners: Jesus Christ has enabled me to forgive. He wants us to consider our fellow man better than ourselves — to not kill or harm”
Instead of abandoning that country, this mother stayed on a few more years and continued to care for the people in her community.
I know. Their stories may seem like utter foolishness to those who do not believe. They may even seem reckless, irresponsible. One mother confesses:
I am a bad mum. I will not put my children in the best schools. I will not give them a home where there aren’t bats in the roof and the sewerage doesn’t flow into the streets. I will not stop them suffering culture stress. I will not stop asking them to say goodbye to transitioning friends and houses and pets. I am a bad mum because I could rescue my kids from all that hurt, but I won’t… There is no reason on earth to serve on the mission field. But there is also every reason… in Christ.
Their busy, difficult, sometimes traumatic lives were a huge encouragement to me because of their conviction — that God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. They would not put themselves and their families in harm’s way unless they truly believed this love and this opportunity to know God was for the whole world; for people from every tribe and nation.
For my friend Miriam, the idea for the book started with a question to a bookseller. She wanted to know if there were anything for missionary mothers and wives by missionary mothers and wives. She soon discovered that other than My Seventh Monsoon by Naomi Reed, there really was nothing out there for them.
“Studies show that married women do not tend to thrive as much as others on the mission field,” Miriam explains.
“Many are mothers with struggles that are rarely understood. While we support single women, married men and sometimes single men who decide to become missionaries, there is little material that supports missionary mothers and wives.”
In the introduction to For the Joy she writes:
This book sets to explore some of these issues through the lens of 21 Australian missionary mothers telling their own stories. These writers show us how parenting on the mission field involves a great level of intensity — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In light of this intensity, greater intentionality is needed to care for their children, their spouses and themselves. The challenge to do this well is made all the more challenging because missionary mums are personally stretched beyond measure.
And what started as an encouragement to these women has ended up encouraging and challenging me in my comfortable little part of the world. I am certain this book will encourage others in the Church as well.
Reading their struggles and challenges, I can’t help praying for all of the mothers and wives out there on the mission field:
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. — Psalm 5:11
May they never forget the eternal joy set before them by Jesus. May we Christians all keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him as we run the race before us, doing the good work He has assigned until He calls us back home.
All profits from the book go to Anglican Aid for their work among vulnerable communities in the world. Some of these communities are the one where these writers currently live and minister.
If you are interested in supporting their work, the book can be purchased here.