Gazing around the crowded room of almost two hundred Christian medical professionals and residents, I recognized more twenty and thirty-somethings than gray-hairs like my husband and me. They gathered to hear the latest opportunities to take their much-needed health care expertise to 15 of the hardest places to serve across the globe. Most of the desperate communities were Muslim and poor, ravaged by terrorist activity and harsh natural environments in Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia.
These young adults and families were making room in their professional plans to leave the U.S. and share the Christian message through their medical training. Babies and pregnant women were everywhere in the church auditorium with more young children in the adjoining classrooms.
What were these couples thinking taking vulnerable children to risky places?
What mission could be more important than raising healthy, safe little babies to become solid, believing adults?
Disciple Making Mothers
So, is motherhood a divine calling? Is it The Mission? Are mothers actually missionaries?
I have heard godly women preach to their eager audiences caught up in daily diaper duty and repetitive language training, that, Yes, motherhood is your mission field. Whereas I applaud the dedication and sacrifice of full-time mothering, I have to wonder:
- Where does that leave single women or childless wives?
- What about the fact that our female bodies have a distinct season for childbearing that comes to an end? What is our mission then?
Jesus’ parting words to His little flock of followers (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15-16) told them to make disciples as they went along. He talked about teaching others to obey all the things He had explained and commanded during their three years together. Baptism is mentioned and being a witness of Jesus in near and faraway places.
Sounds like what Christian moms try to do with their little ones, train and teach as they go through each day and each season of life. These women are doing important work, making disciples.
But isn’t disciple-making what all Believers are supposed to do?
Motherhood is a Means Not an End
Having been a mother, a Women’s Ministry and Bible study leader for decades, and then a missionary for seven years in my empty-nest stage, I have pondered how to encourage all Christian women, mothers or not, in their missional role. These are my thoughts:
- Before the final words of Jesus now popularly labeled the Great Commission, He said in Matthew 22:37-40 that the Greatest Commandment is to love God and love others.
- All followers of Jesus- men, women, mothers, fathers, teachers, pastors, businessmen, and politicians- have the same mandate, the same mission.
- When we fully surrender to this love directive, we naturally share the fullness of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to a hurting, disconnected world of people all around us, including our own family as our first ring of influence.
Jesus’ words indicate our children are not the sole object of our efforts.
Rather, as we engae with other families, merchants, postal carriers, neighborhood immigrants and foreigners on vacation or in cross-cultural assignments, we take our children with us into The Mission, teaching them how to respond to others with the love of Christ and sharing the gospel message in appropriate, respectful ways.
Here are some ways to use motherhood to further Christ’s mission:
- Have houseguests and involve children in the preparation and hospitality efforts
- Teach children how to interact during meals with guests, showing interest and asking polite, thoughtful questions
- Involve children in outreach activities at church or as a family like serving and delivering meals to community residents in need, collecting toys for sick children, cleaning yards for elderly homeowners
- Sponsor orphans as a family, write letters, and learn about their country and culture
- Visit an immigrant family with your children, develop an ongoing friendship
- Read age-appropriate materials with your children about cross-cultural workers from the past and present, cast vision for making disciples of all nations
- Take family members with you on short term missions trips and introduce a new perspective about how others live in the world
- Teach and model prayer for OTHERS
Motherhood on Foreign Mission Field
Before I moved overseas myself, I knew women who had children with them in a foreign land. They often experienced frustration and tension as they homeschooled and tended little ones, not being able to devote full time to cross-cultural activities outside their home. Long-planned impact seemed insignificant and they often saw single men and women and their husbands as the real missionaries.
Not so. Modeling Christian love as a married woman and mother to curious, watching neighbors makes a strong statement and offers a connection local families can embrace. Single women in any culture feel most comfortable with other women and enjoy a baby snuggle as approved physical affection, so invite them into your home.
Mother Teresa, when she received the Nobel Peace Prize, responded to a journalist question about world peace with these words:
What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.
Even as a single woman, Mother Teresa recognized the power of children raised in a loving faith-focused home, being trained to love others. These disciples can change the world.
Mothers, train up disciples in your home and take them with you to make other disciples in your community, in your town, in your country, and in your world. When these children leave your nest, trust the multiplication is happening through their lives and all those you touched together.
Continue your disciple-making efforts until the Lord calls you home. The Mission remains the same for all of us and Jesus promises, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:20b