“I (Terese Benton) became a missionary wife and mother in 2003, well 2001 actually, because even though we left for the foreign mission field of Tanzania in January of 2003, the preparations to leave took about a year and a half. Toward the end of 2001, when we started to see that God was serious in this calling, our four children were the ages of 5, 7, 9 and 11. I was trying to prepare myself and my family for all the unknown scary things like diseases and snakes and for spiritual attacks that would shake us. We were, and still are, a close family, so we were in it as a team and it has become an adventure for Jesus far beyond our own thoughts and plans. The following is a list of things I would say, in hindsight, to a mama who is getting her brood ready to leave for a foreign mission field.
1) Stay close to God. I know this one seems like a no-brainer, but in many ways I believe you need to be intentional about this. I suggest that morning (or whatever time of the day works best for you) devotions are a must. Because often times, after a decision of this magnitude (at least it was a huge one for me), the enemy wants to steel away God’s good purposes for our lives. Take time to listen and be still before the Lord. Share any concerns and fears and joys that you have – He can take it!
2) Stay close to your family. This would not be a good time to start a new endeavor that you do by yourself. Make good efforts to have time with your husband to talk about his and your feelings and concerns. And it would be a good time to make intentional moments of connecting with your kids to help them work through this transition.
3) Don’t sweat the big stuff. Yes, there are going to be MANY unknowns, and that doesn’t mean you don’t do your homework to foresee potential dangers or needs, but you won’t be able to control many big issues. You must trust that God has all the details worked out and has purpose in even the hardships that will arise…and they will arise. They will grow you and stretch you and change you, but they will arise. And honestly, if you were to stay in the States, they will arise there too…just in different ways.
4) Take time to do other things together besides getting ready to head to the mission field. Don’t let it be everything. Make sure to spend lots of time with the family and friends that you will miss because in my eyes, this is the greatest sacrifice you will make. Make sure everyone in your family has the time to say face-to-face goodbyes and allow time to even say goodbye to places that have been special.
5) Encourage the whole family to practice saying the phrase, “That’s just how we like it!” There will be many opportunities to use this phrase on the mission field because so many situations will be different from what you are used to. In fact, for our family, laughter has been one of the greatest blessings that God has given us…along with a very funny husband/father. We’ve been able to throw back our heads and get a good laugh instead of sulking in our mistakes or becoming bitter because things are done in a way that is completely opposite to our thinking. I believe it’s a good idea to help your kids to not compare America to the country you plan to serve in, but to look for the positive aspects of both cultures. Every culture has wonderful things to learn from and enjoy!
May God bless and guide you, giving you wisdom for the task ahead, with a cackle bubbling up from down deep inside.”
Terese and her husband, Mike, have now served in Tanzania almost 13 years. They have raise 4 children on the mission field. All four now live Stateside either going to school or involved in ministry. The Bentons’ service to the Lord in Tanzania has and continues to have a vast and deep impact for Christ in their community, especially in the lives of children. Pray for their ministry and their family. And, if you are a mama considering the mission field or preparing to leave for one, I am sure Terese would love to hear from you! She can be contacted through Grace Ministries International at http://www.gracem.org