Yet another letter in our mail box! This one was quite long but also interesting. The person involved seemed to know quite a lot about South America and was asking me detailed questions about our work and location in Chile.
Feeling a sense of thrill I decided to answer the letter right away, responding to each point that had been made and adding interesting details. The letter went to the mail right away (You may already realise this was decades ago – before emails!).
Two weeks later I received an answer to my letter, thanking me for the details and asking for more. Knowing that we would be posting our usual quarterly letter within a couple of weeks, I added his letter to the pile that would be answered at that time.
Ten days later I received a third letter from this gentleman. This time his letter was not polite at all. He wrote: ‘I would think that by now you would have had plenty of time to read my letter and respond. I don’t know what else is more important than keeping in touch with the people back home that support you there. I am so disappointed that you haven’t answered me yet. You really need to get your priorities right!’
Get my priorities right? Does this unmarried(!) man, thousands of miles away, have any idea what a missionary wife has to cope with, I wondered? He must have had in his mind a picture of what he considered an ‘Ideal Missionary Wife’ – and his expectations were off base and unreal!
The ideal missionary wife(!) is really worth meeting
Why – she is so special and unique, you’ll never forget her!
She will impact you with her vibrant faith, and many gifts and talents. She can quote the whole New Testament verbatim, preach, teach, sing, play all instruments, a specialist in children’s ministry and women’s ministries and is Bible school personnel extraordinaire.
All this she has achieved through her six-hour a day devotionals. It insures her constant happy smiles, never knowing a depressing day, or sickness.
She always dresses just right, in accordance to each occasion, matching shoes and handbags for every outing. Of course she can manage this because she lives by faith! So all she has to do is confess it and she’s got it! Her kids, too, benefit by this, and never lack any good thing.
Ever excelling and indefatigable!
The ideal missionary wife excels at hospitality. Whether five, l5 or 50 unexpected guests arrive at her doorstep at dinner time she can serve them with style. She made sure she took the missionary school course on How to Miraculously Multiply Food #101 and also graduated from Bible college with a PhD on Feeding Multitudes Miracles # Matthew 14/15.
Consequently she is a renowned chef. Just give her a fig, small loaf or little fish and watch her make a banquet out of it! She feels especially fulfilled when serving and entertaining larger groups until midnight and always feels blessed when it’s time to clean up.
She is indefatigable when it comes to Bible studies, and willingly travels many hours to reach a study group. Her constant counsel is filled with wisdom and always has the right answers to give. She enjoys services every night and can preach on the spur of the moment. Her mastery of the foreign language makes her a popular preacher among the women, and she always takes time to pray with each individual after the services.
So talented and valuable!
Her home is a true example of Christian decor, thoroughly spotless and every item in its place. Her kitchen is perfectly disinfected and has plenty of provisions in stock always expecting guests.
She never has a backlog of ironing to do, and never procrastinates her housework knowing she is providing valuable role-modeling to the natives. Her children are a wonderful example of discipline and good manners, because she makes sure she gives them each her time and undivided attention.
Remarkable memory? Especially gifted here, whether on furlough or on the field, she will never forget a name or face; even recalling where and when the last meeting took place. She’ll also remember startling facts such as your kids’ names and grades, and even what sort of pets you might have.
She is incredibly flexible, feeling at home wherever that may be – whether a temporary, single star motel or a wooden hut in some strange land – it’s all the same to her!
Moving frequently from nation to nation, city to city, town to town exhilarates her, and makes her natural creativity blossom with each move. Her boxes are uniquely organised with colour coordinated labels so every move is an instant house change. This is why she never gets homesick for her homeland, and is always ready for the next home.
Her office talents are of vital help to her husband and the mission in general, for she is an expert at accounting, short-hand, typing, computers, printing, editing … just name it.
‘Peaches and cream’ is her idea of keeping up with the correspondence. She literally ‘loves’ answering each and every one of the 175 letters received in a month – from the Sunday school child who would like a pen pal to the pastor who wants to know what you’ve been doing lately. Having plenty of free time, she can happily spend several hours a day by her desk.
If only supporting churches and ministers really knew all that the missionary wife has to do, deal with, put up with and how precious is any free time that she occasionally gets.
Reality – the RMW, not the IMW!
Far from the ‘Ideal Missionary Wife’ stands the ‘Real Missionary Wife’ – the one that like all other Christian women battles with insecurity, fears, doubts, depression, loneliness…
She is not necessarily gifted, and in fact many times wonders why she’s even on the field with so many other talented people around. She finds it difficult to bring up a family on the foreign mission field and balance a ministry as well, all this while getting adjusted herself to new country, language and culture.
How can she tell if she’s doing it right or wrong? The spiritual and cultural drainage keep her functioning at low energy levels, and at times this can be depressing. No one ever told her that the nationals aren’t always lovable, and at times it’s impossible to understand them!
At times her loneliness and homesickness make her want to give up.
Did you think missionary wives are perfect saints? No, not yet! We are just as human as you are, and need many prayers and encouragement. We too have to trust the Lord to provide for us in so many ways and trust in scriptures such as Philippians 4:13 GNB, ‘I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.’
Thank you for praying for the MW – the missionary wife! As they stand alongside their husbands in foreign lands and reach out to the unsaved, they have a lot to deal with that no one sees but the Lord.
Erica Grace is author of Foundations for the Family, a biblical teaching series suitable for the whole congregation. Warmly welcomed itinerant ministers, the Graces are also on the ACC Multinational Pastors Team, Victoria. Links: firstname.lastname@example.org / (041) 270 2945