Marriage & Family On The Mission Field

Article - Marriage.png

Marcia was really the key person in whatever we accomplished. I could not have imagined life without her now. When we met I was a committed Christian and a single man serving in the Air Force. I knew the Lord was calling me to serve Him in ministry. When things developed between us and she learned about my calling, she wasn’t at all deterred. Only two months after our marriage, we left together for seminary in New Orleans to prepare. We served together as partners through our first five years of ministry in two rural churches in Mississippi. Without her, there was no way I could have been as effective in pastoral ministry. She was my best critic who gently corrected a seemingly unkind word or an implied nuance too easily misunderstood. She was the one who helped me be more thoughtful and sensitive in every sermon and in every relationship. 

Our sons Josh and Matt were born while we served those two churches. While the boys became her main focus, she continued ministry in the churches through teaching, serving, caring, praying and loving. We sought God’s will together about every decision. When the Lord made it clear we were being called to be missionaries, her response was “I was called while a teenager!” So, we went expectantly and joyfully, following the will of our Lord. 

We left from Starkville in 1984 for the Philippines where we had been assigned to do rural church planting. We went as a family, because missionary service is indeed a family affair. The whole missions experience made our family relationship stronger. We were focused on ministry together, and everything we did brought us closer as a family. We adjusted to a new culture and learned a new language together. There were fun adventures, places to explore, things to learn in a new language, and new friends to meet along the way. The best part was most of the distractions we had experienced in the USA were left here. There was real time for one another, time to pray and seek the Lord together, time to read together, time to talk things out. It was a real advantage.

There were problems and difficulties, of course. The biggest one was missing out on extended family’s events. Parents and in-laws, brothers and sisters were across the ocean, and we felt isolated in those days before the internet, email, or Skype. We could write letters in the normal course of things or make expensive phone calls in emergencies. So, other missionaries became like a real family to us to the point that our sons called them “aunt” and “uncle.” Also, the local Christians in the churches we started were always there for us in fellowship, and it was a real joy to us that they helped us by sharing in the struggle of the hard work. 

Marcia was always totally committed for the long haul. While I was out making new contacts, discovering new villages to start churches, or teaching Bible studies, she usually took care of things at home, doing the shopping, watching over the boys, homeschooling them, and teaching Bible stories to the local children in our front yard. She really did have the biggest adjustment to our new place of service. (Think open-air meat markets in a developing nation.) 

Our biggest concern was for our boys, but we need not have worried. They were so young when we left, they wouldn’t have known any other way of life. They adjusted better than we parents did and made friends more quickly. As the only American kids in a small Philippine town, they were an attraction and a curiosity to the locals. Because of them, we made lots of contacts and were invited as guests to many local family gatherings. Our biggest concern was for their health, but it turns out they had fewer health issues than they did back here – there were no colds in a tropical climate!

After four years, there was another whole adjustment when we were asked to open work in a new area which involved a move to Germany! So, Marcia and the boys were ready to go for more language learning and more adjusting. I would be traveling for extended periods to open work with an unreached people group, so much more of the responsibility at home fell to her. This time it was easier because, of course, Germany was a developed nation. The boys went to local German schools, and we all made new friends easily. God blessed us in every way we could have imagined. 

Thinking about it, there are some basic principles which God taught us and we learned to put into practice: (a) When we love the Lord and love each other, we can do anything He asks us to do; (b) We can find joy and fulfillment in doing His will whatever it is; (c) Without fail, the Lord will always provide everything we need spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially; and (d) He will give us the courage, the ability, and the special spiritual giftedness we need to do whatever He asks. 

Really, making sure marriage and family work out well on the mission field isn’t that much different than anywhere else. Everything worked out great for us when we were loving each other, seeking God’s will together, and working together as a family.