“I don’t want to go to the mission field unless or until I get married. It seems like you have the most opportunity to meet people and be effective in ministry when you have kids.” I remember being told this a lot before I had kids.
Different life stages bring different opportunities
I have experienced missionary life as a single person, married without children, and then with children. It is a myth that you are more effective once you have children. It is also a myth that you are more effective when you are single! The reality is that there are different opportunities in each life stage.
When single, I felt free to go out and meet people whenever, and I had opportunity to get to know other single people living in my share house. With kids it has been more natural to meet other parents who take their children to the park, but I have found relationships develop more slowly. I need to invest more time and energy in meeting the needs of our family, and have at times struggled to find time and mental-space to message back and forth with people and prepare bible studies etc. I’m sure other people with families would agree that having no family or people who can help babysit or invest in our kids as they grow can be hard too.
As a married couple, before we had children, we arranged a lot of outreach activities together, and also met people individually. Even now we often invite single people or married couples to our home for a meal or catch up with people individually, as well as meeting up with other families. Actually, a number of the relationships we have now are with people we met before we had kids.
Learning to walk in the now
We are learning to walk in step with the Holy Spirit, praying before we go out and trusting God to bring people into our lives who he wants us to meet. We are learning to recognise there are seasons when we have more or less capacity to invest in different people or ministries.
We are also learning to recognise and accept our own limitations compared to God’s limitlessness. He can still work in the lives of our friends even when we don’t have as much capacity as we might like. And we have also been able to rejoice when God had brought people we had lost contact with back into our life again!
By an OMF worker