“What’s our evacuation plan?” That question at our recent Chad team meeting is important given how many of us are new to the country. Missionaries here often refer to the importance of having a “Go Bag” ready for your entire family in case of an emergency, whether medical or because of unrest, where you have less than 10 minutes to evacuate. With the help of veteran missionaries from our team and from other missions we have been compiling our list. It includes a sling shot in case we meet baboons or monkeys while stopped along the road!
But somehow, trying to get prepared has me feeling slightly overwhelmed, very fearful, and very unprepared as a mother. How do I stay motivated to reach the lost with the Gospel of Christ even amidst any fear I feel as a mother raising my children in Chad?
How did I even end up here in Chad with my husband Danny and five boys aged nine and under? Growing up in Montana, and later attending college in Pittsburgh, I had several short-term mission experiences which were foundational for me. Following college, I was able to travel with a professor and some classmates to Tanzania for one month. Later, for five months, I joined Mercy Ships, on a hospital ship that serves people in Africa. Several years later in Montana, as Danny and I got to know each other, we immediately talked about a common desire to serve in Africa. A month after our marriage, we moved to Fergus Falls, Minnesota so he could begin seminary, and we began conversations with LBIM regarding missions in our future.
Now I am so much more aware of how naive I was both in that desire and in picturing my life as a missionary. And I was not yet a mother as we began talking and praying about moving to Africa. Later, as Danny and I shared with others about moving to Africa, people would often ask about our children. Sometimes I wondered if those people thought that I hadn’t even considered the impact of moving our children. In fact, that was almost all I thought, cried, sought advice, prayed, and spent time in the Word about. If I knew then what I know now about the painful, heart-wrenching goodbyes to family, the grief associated with each transition and goodbye, the constant transition and packing, the loss of a physical place called “home,” how truly difficult and humbling it is to attempt to learn a new language, and the many health questions and concerns I can think of daily for my boys here in Chad, I wonder if I would have continued down this path. But still, the call was there.
So is all fear gone simply because I’m called to be here? That would be a resounding NO! Sometimes when Danny is traveling, I will feel suddenly fearful when I go to lock our door in the dark African night. As we get closer to moving out into the bush, I wonder, will I actually have the courage at night to go outside our home to use the bathroom, or will I be too fearful of the scorpions or other creepy crawly creatures here? I may think I go to sleep without fear, but when I hear the baby cry out in the night due to illness and consider the few medical resources available here, I can feel the fear and anxiety bubble up and try to overwhelm me. What might we be asked to give? What might I be asked to sacrifice?
But I am here in Chad, Africa, and some days just taking the next step is enough. And God has used a few words to encourage me:
Abide. This word intrigues me as I hear it throughout the letter of 1 John. It basically means to remain or sojourn, which is not always easy for me when I prefer to make a plan of action. We remain linked to Christ in all areas of life, and depend on him for grace and power to obey. Jesus Christ is the source and sustainer of our lives.
One thing. When I’m exhausted, overwhelmed, fearful, and it’s VERY hot, just do one thing, even if I can’t get the 30-minute quiet time I want. Today, I will open my Bible and read one word. Today, I will look at the Scripture I had written on the wall. Today, I will play worship music. Today, I will pray with a child when they come to me over the “owie” on their knee.
Scripture. Some days, fear can almost paralyze me, but God’s Word brings victory over it. The verses I know well are what carry me through. Fear isn’t reality, God’s promises are, and they are found in his Word.
Prayer. Talking to God about my fears. Daily giving my children to God and realizing he loves them more than I ever could. Now as we are preparing to move out of the capital into a small town where we’ll get to know and live among the Bilala people, there are SO many new things I could fear. But I am reminded and grateful that we can go to him in prayer.
Even if. As a mom, I can often find myself saying, “What if…?” What if something happens to my children or my husband or to my family back home? I have been encouraged instead to say, “Even if…” Even if something happens to my children, or to my husband, or to my family back home, God is still good, constant, and that’s enough.
It is Well. As I sit here listening to the amazing hymn “It is Well,” blaring loudly over the noise of my boys, I am thankful for the reminders within its words: “Whatever my lot, he has taught me to say, ‘It is well with my soul.’”
God’s Word and the prayers of those who have sent us here are what truly uphold and sustain us on the days when we can do no more.
Your life may not seem as intense as this, or maybe it does. As Christians, we are often called to situations we do not control, as much as we might want to try. In those moments when fear and uncertainty threaten to overwhelm you, remember who really is in control. It is God who has called each of us to our position in life. Through his Word, and the encouragement of his people, he will sustain you.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
Mandy B. serves Lutheran Brethren International Mission with her husband Danny and five children as missionaries to the unreached people of Chad, Africa.