My husband Jeff and I sat in the front of the auditorium packed with students. My heart was full of contrasting emotions as I tried to wrap my brain around the idea that after 16 years of ministry, this was our very last NavNite. We were preparing to move from campus to serving at HQ. I wanted to take it all in and be fully present, soaking up every minute.
In a funny way it felt like a backwards memorial service. (We literally declined to select the worship songs for the night!) As the evening played out a few men and women shared prepared highlights of interactions with us through the years. We heard funny stories or things they learned from us. There was lots of laughter and trickling tears, just as the evening should be.
But what also unfolded that evening was reflective of my current reality of life as a mommy missionary. So many men had countless stories to tell of Jeff. One after another and another and another they spontaneously shared. Sitting up front I started to squirm a little inside. Of course I was proud of my husband and enjoyed his moment to shine. But it was plain for everyone to see that not as many women knew me. Not as many women had funny stories to share. Not as many women were discipled by or traveled with or laughed late into the night with me. Why? Because I wasn’t there.
I wasn’t there because I was at home.
With my kids.
Throughout the years on a variety of campuses there were some years I never missed an event. Other years with babies and toddlers, I hardly attended at all. Most days were full of life and good things, but not much of that time was on campus doing “formal ministry.” Sometimes I did get a sitter and show up to a late night event. Or I even put in the effort for us all to make an appearance. But a lot of the time I was at home. For me this meant that I didn’t have 30 women stand up telling funny stories about me after seven years of ministry at SDSU.
I had to ask myself if that was “o.k.” I asked myself, Would I change anything about where I spent my time?
No, I wouldn’t.
Sure, I would have liked to have known, and been known, by more women. For them to see I can be crazy too, and have wisdom to pass on, just like the handsome man next to me. But, in the end, wouldn’t it be sad if that night all these women knew me but my kids and my husband hadn’t gotten enough of me?
Don’t get me wrong, I did do ministry outside my home; some semesters more than others. Even in my busiest mommy years I stayed a little connected to campus through hosting the leadership team and events in our home. And Jeff faithfully freed me up through the years to lead Bible studies, workshops or do evangelism when I had the capacity to do them. I am very grateful for his willingness to give me these opportunities. I went deeper with a few women, whether for formal training or just doing life together (I’ve dragged more than one to grocery shop with me)! I invited women into our often chaotic home, opening the Bible together or folding laundry while we talked. And countless students came through our home for fun and training, all witnessing our family in action – both the good and the bad!
As I sat in front of all these students that last NavNite feeling a bit torn, awkward and blessed all at once, I learned a really important lesson. All those years I couldn’t always be present, doing the “formal” ministry I had been trained to do, I thought that I wasn’t making an impact on the campus. But God had something special planned that night just for this little mama’s heart. It came in the form of’ a young college gal who had been on our leadership team. She bravely spoke right to me in front of all those students and said that in college women are focused on preparing for a career (as they should be) but zero time is spent preparing for marriage and mothering. She reminded me that the husband in Proverbs 31 is able to be at the gate because he has a good wife at home keeping things going. By my absence I was modeling what they needed to “hear” about mothering. What no other voice was saying. Our time at home as a mom is a worthy investment and shouldn’t be looked down on as less important.
Her comments made my heart sing. Next to helping others to know Jesus’ love, I want to pass onto women that loving their future husbands and children well is an important choice full of purpose and lasting impact.I never gave a NavNite talk or led a workshop on the subject, but God had let me pass on the lesson anyways.
God surprised me that night by showing me all that He was doing when I wasn’t even showing up for “ministry” in my mind. He revealed to me that when I do what He asks of me, He will bless my absence as much as my presence. He will reap where I didn’t even think I had sown.
Blessings to you, dear mamas!
Sherry has been on staff since 1997. She and Jeff have been married for 14 years and have served in WI, SD and now in CO. They have 3 boys ages 5-10 and there is never a dull moment in their house. Sherry just recently launched their youngest to K and enjoys writing and encouraging mommy missionaries when she isn’t busy shuttling boys around town. To contact Sherry email her at: email@example.com.
What about you? Has God surprised you by using you where you didn’t even think you were able to have an impact? Are you finding ways to stay connected to campus maybe without even having much time there? What you have discovered works well might be just the thing another staff mom needs to hear! There is no “right” answer or way to be a mommy missionary; each of our lives will look a little different. Please share your experiences/ thoughts/ questions below in the comment section.