Last month at this time I was in Sierra Leone. It still feels a bit unreal. While it was only four weeks ago, the routine of day-to-day life has mostly returned to normal. Mornings are spent trying to get three kids ready for school while I myself try to get ready for work at the same time. In the evenings, I’m back to cooking dinner, checking homework and hanging up coats all while trying not to trip over the random toys scattered on the floor. To the outside observer, it would appear that it’s business as usual in my home. Except that it isn’t. I am forever changed because of my trip. Not only am I different, my family is different.
When I first became a mom I remember thinking that my mission trip days were over. I stayed patiently at home as my husband went on mission trips wondering how many years it would be until I would be able to go serve somewhere again. I figured the earliest would be when they were in high school, and as a mom of toddlers, that seemed forever away.
I didn’t wait. Last year my husband and I saw this window of opportunity for me to go, and I seized it. The logistics of how I managed is for another post, but I’m writing today because I think more moms need to look for their windows. The windows are sometimes small and they require a lot of planning, but they are well worth it and here is why.
It is good for your spouse.
I don’t want to speak for all moms, but in my house I tend to run the show. I call a lot of the shots. I decide bedtime, I decide what snacks are allowed in our house and I decide when the kids have had enough time in front of the TV. These are all things that my husband is perfectly capable of doing. However, when I’m around, he doesn’t have a chance. When I was gone, it was his turn. He was able to plan the meals for the two weeks of my absence. Sure, one night they had the contents from a Harry and David basket, but they survived. And when I returned, he had never been more grateful for my mostly mediocre cooking in his life. Moms, many of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do everything in the household. We think that if we don’t do it, no one else will. Mission trips are a great opportunity to remind ourselves that we don’t have to carry the entire burden. We can ask for help from our spouse.
It is good for your kids.
When you go on a Mission Trip, it opens up a whole new set of questions from your children. They want to know everything about why are you leaving and what you will be doing. When you come back, they want to know everything about your trip. Not only does this offer a great opportunity to teach them about different cultures, but it also provides a first-hand lesson in teaching your kids the way they can serve others who have different life circumstances than you. It brings me so much joy to listen to my kids talk about Sierra Leone and how they can’t wait to go there. I know their passion to go there is largely based on the fact that both of their parents have traveled there. They care so much about it, and they are anxious to serve there because we went there.
It is good for the kids you serve.
When I was in Sierra Leone, I served at the Child Rescue Centre, which is a home for children who were orphaned in the country’s civil war or for children who were trafficked into child labor. While these child are being cared for by amazing “aunties” and loving adults, they aren’t being raised by their moms. Many of these children have lived through things that I have only read about, and they deserve all the love in the world. I was on a team of mostly college students, and it was great to see the way the students interacted with the kids; but I also loved watching the other moms on the team interacting with the kids of the CRC. We hugged like moms. We kissed boo-boos like moms. We listened to them tell us about their dreams for the future like moms. For that short week that we were there, we got to be moms to a group of amazing kids.
It is good for you.
Imagine waking up to an alarm and not a child. Imagine getting ready in the morning and only worrying about yourself. Imagine going your entire day, and the only person you are responsible for is yourself. For 11 days. It’s unreal. The mental capacity that you have is unbelievable. You feel like you could solve world hunger.
Instead the only thing you have to do is love a group of amazing kids. Kids that just want to play with you. They have their moments. They fight each other. They might try to convince you that they’re allowed to do something they aren’t, but you can’t help but fall madly in love with them. You can’t help hug each of them and cry deeply when you have to say goodbye. I realized how distracted I allow myself to be when I’m home with my kids. I allow myself to get so caught up with the things that need to get done that I don’t allow enough time to just enjoy my kids. This mission trip taught me how to love my kids better.
I thought when I had kids that mission trips were a thing of my past. But they really aren’t. They are possible. They take preparation. And your time might not be the same as my time, but I cannot tell you how much all the preparation is worth it. Every hard conversation with your husband, every frozen meal you have to make ahead of time, every carpool arrangement you have to sort out or contingency plan you have to prepare in your absence is worth it. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to what you get back in return.