Serve your family and assist in ministry as you can.”
My wife is a pediatrician at the hospital and both of us have been called to missionary work. Even before we came to the field I was a stay-at-home dad and looked after the kids. I did some work, part-time, but we felt that it was our God-given responsibility to take care of the children that the Lord had blessed us with. When we came to Papua New Guinea in 2001 we still had a child who was not in school. Currently both our kids are in the MK (missionary kid) school here. I do try to be home when school is out. You only have your kids with you for a short time and then they are gone!
Other than that, I do most of the cooking for the family, as well as the shopping and town-related stuff. I look after the things around the house like any guy would do, and I even do laundry (although I will add that I don’t like to fold it!) We live on a hospital compound with other doctors and families around us. As the only male on the compound who doesn’t have a job that puts me in the hospital or in an office during the day, I’m able to make airport runs or help out visiting volunteers. For five years I was the PE instructor for the kids at school. Our mission station has two vehicles and I look after one of those, and have been involved with the maintenance department, too.
My wife and I are a team. We both feel this is where the Lord wants us. You may wonder if people will think you should be doing more, but you know the call God has placed on your life and what he is asking you to do. You must be comfortable with that and not care too much what others think.
Answer from Jeff in Papua New Guinea, who has served with the Nazarene mission hospital in Kudjip for eight years.
“Hang on for the ride of your life!”
I worked more than twenty years on the compound of a large mission hospital in rural Kenya, East Africa. I only remember one family in which the only medical professional was the wife, although the husband played an equally important role in the ministry.
I don’t know where you will be, but in many rural African settings, a father acting as main caretaker of the children would be seen as quite unusual. Even in the poorest areas, though, relatives help with the children. The activities of daily living require some kind of house help. Everything takes longer: cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, everything. If you have a baby in diapers, just think about laundering diapers. Unless you are in a big city, it will be very difficult to keep enough disposable diapers on hand, if they are even available and affordable.
If you need someone to help with household tasks, be careful about gender issues. Finding a young African man who will be willing to help launder diapers would be a challenge. However, at least half the household helpers on our compound, helping with cleaning and food preparation, were men.
So while the father staying home specifically to take care of the children will be unusual, it should not discourage you from going. As everywhere, your attitude toward it and the traditions of the people you go to serve will be the most important. If you as a family decide this is what the Lord has for you, he will certainly supply the grace.
I know child rearing is near the top of God’s priorities for parents. But my personal belief is that unless you also find an avenue for outside ministry there is a high probability that you will always have a sense of dissatisfaction and feel unfulfilled. That is something that God places in the heart of those he places in missions. That may be something as simple as a men’s Bible study. Let me also suggest that you will want to find a way to help others around you. Can you teach some type of skill that can improve their life?
This is simply my perspective. Your situation will undoubtedly be different. The one thing I can promise is that the grace of the Lord is sufficient! Hang on, you are about to have the ride of your life. It will be so much more than you can even imagine!
Answer from Susan who served in East Africa for twenty-three years.