Months ago, even before I sent in my application to ReachGlobal, just as I was starting to be willing to CONSIDER missions work as a job, a friend of mine in Port Alsworth told me an amazing analogy: she said that the way support raising prepares you to be on the missions field is very similar to the way that pregnancy prepares you to be a parent. It was the support raising that I was most fearful about at the time.
I of course, nodded my head, like wow, what a great thought. Of course, I’m not pregnant, nor do I plan to be any time soon, so that picture is a bit lost on me.
Later on, as I realized the full weight of my reality, that support raising was indeed in my future, I went back to her and asked her to explain the analogy more for me. She said that in pregnancy, you experience things emotionally that prepare you for parenthood. That your body gets used to a lack of sleep and other strange sensations and it’s all helpful when the baby actually comes. In support raising, you get used to trusting God to move in ways beyond what you’re used to in life, and that is excellent preparation for field work as a missionary.
A few weeks ago, I found myself at her table yet again. This woman has been a career missionary, she and her husband have been serving with their organization for over 20 years now, and are still filled with joy and delight and passion for the people they serve and the work they do. I had a picture in my head finally, and it was like we were having two parallel conversations.
I thought of a lot of my friends who are pregnant right now, or have been in the past few years. It’s just baby season for most of them. During their first pregnancy, they talk a lot about all the fears and the changes in their bodies and the unexpected parts. And did I mention fear? Then they go find someone who has already raised their babies, or who has had 4 kids, and they pour out all the fears. These “veteran mamas” are incredibly calming, saying “Don’t worry, that’s normal. Don’t panic, it happens to us all, it will pass, I remember those days and it is a distant memory now. Don’t be afraid, you are going to survive and thrive and be a good mama too.”
I sat with this woman and poured out my fears— am I just being foolish? Should I really go to the field? What if I get up in front of my church and everyone laughs at me and tells me to go get a real job? Is it normal to feel this way? Is it normal to have all these questions and wonder how it’s going to work out, and wonder if I am going to fail miserably? All these sensations make me feel like a crazy person, and the emotions that go with preparing to be a missionary are bizarre and slightly frightening. And she, the “veteran mama missionary” responded with “Yes, that’s normal. Don’t worry. We all experience that. You are not crazy. Yes, it is scary, yes it is hard. It’s going to be okay.”
So, in some ways, I’m not sure how to continue on with the picture. I feel like it’s not I who will be “giving birth” to a ministry, since that’s something that God does and I just show up. But as I have more and more women speak into my life on this subject, I feel less and less afraid (sometimes). The excitement grows and the fear diminishes, and the birth of it is going to happen regardless of how I feel, so I’d better just keep preparing.