What does life in a least-reached community look like for a mom? Below, Emily,* a mother of four serving in South Asia, shares a typical day.
I peel myself out from under the covers because of the promise of caffeine. I am vaguely aware that Eric snuck out of bed a few minutes ago to get the coffee started. Five in the morning will never not feel early, but it’s worth it to get up and watch the sun creep up over the neighboring apartment buildings. Eric and I started this tradition when we first moved here: We take turns rising first to get the coffee going, then sit in the stillness of the living room (the only stillness of the day, honestly!) and read the Bible, pray and prepare for another day.
Laundry. Then I straighten up the kitchen and put a few misplaced items back where they belong. Eric and I talk through the day’s schedule to make sure we’re on the same page. Once the kids are up, there’s little time to talk adult to adult.
Andy, my oldest, is always the slowest to wake, so I start with him and then move to the other three. My daughter is a morning person (like me), so she jumps up and bounds into the bathroom within seconds of hearing my voice. I don’t think I fully realized how worried I was about their adjustment when we were preparing for the field. All the questions of any parent anywhere were compounded with additional concerns: What if they get malaria? What if they hate school here? What if language learning is too hard for them? What if they can’t find friends? It’s almost hilarious now to think of how I let fear creep in. They are thriving! It’s Eric and I who need additional grace for language and adjustments. The kids have been incredibly resilient.
I try to work a lot of local flavors into lunch and dinner here, but teammates with children recommended we keep breakfast near to their familiar American tastes. The kids chow down on bananas and toast spread with thin layers of the peanut butter we are rationing.
What do my kids miss most about America? It’s their friends, yes, but it’s peanut butter the most.
In the 10 minutes before home schooling begins, I rush to hang the clean laundry on the clotheslines strung across the balcony and then do a quick cleanup after breakfast.
Our kitchen table becomes the school desk as the kids and I start home school for the day. Ryan, Gavin, Andy and Kayla spread books over the table surface and take turns on the tablet as they work through their assignments. I bounce from kid to kid, explaining simple fractions and adverbs and double-checking their spelling.
The doorbell sounds, cuing our language tutor’s arrival. Nicky has been meeting with the kids and me every morning since our second week here. He’ll come back in the late afternoon for a second lesson with Eric and me. The kids love him because he is energetic and silly. I love seeing how quickly they learn.
I head down the steps of our apartment building to the veggie vendor just outside the building entrance. The mounds of vegetables on carts lining the streets is one of my favorite sights here. My stomach flutters with nervousness as I recite the exchange I’ll have with the woman selling the produce. I select a head of cabbage, small potatoes, a few carrots and a gourd I’m not exactly sure how to prepare. I love to survey the available ingredients and then take on the challenge of making a meal my family will enjoy.
I mutter through the transaction and smile at the woman who kindly endures my mediocre vocabulary, but pivot before she sees my red face.
Back home, I wash the vegetables in vinegar, chop them up and a make a potato curry with rice. It’s simmering as the kids finish up with Nicky.
Eric walks in the door for lunch just as Nicky is leaving, and the kids help me clear the books off the table so we can all sit down to eat.
I’m out the door, rushing two blocks to the language school for my formal Hindi lesson. While I’m there, Eric is home with the kids. Some days they watch cartoons in Hindi to practice; other days they finish up the morning’s school work.
My teacher ends the lesson, and I exhale; my brain is crammed. Now I get to blow off steam at the gym. The language school and the gym are both just two blocks from our flat, making it easy to fit them into our routine. Sometimes I think those 25 minutes on the treadmill are necessary to keep me from losing my mind. I walk in and greet the woman at the counter in Hindi. She exclaims back at me in English, “Hello!” Our family has developed a reputation here pretty quickly. From day one people have approached us, curious about why we would move here. It’s a great conversation starter and, once they realize we are working hard to learn Hindi, they are anxious to show us their desire to help.
I walk through the front door, where the kids are ready for me to walk them over to their Tuesday art lessons. I settle in a chair in the corner of the room with a small cup of steaming chai while the art teacher explains (in Hindi!) watercolor to the kids. I’m amazed by how well they understand! The 30 minutes rush by and we are on the move again, back to our flat for more home schooling.
As I finish the afternoon lessons with the kids, I switch gears again. Eric and I have yet another language lesson with Nicky since we lack the ability to sponge up every vocabulary word like our kids do. While we go over the vocabulary lesson on “modes of transportation,” our kids have what we call “rest time.” They don’t have to nap, but they have to quietly read, rest or play. Meanwhile, I do my best not to kick myself for my imperfect pronunciations.
After the hour of language, the kids and I head down to the field by our building where the neighbor kids all gather to play cricket. While the kids play, I gather with the other moms who walk around the field. The mothers are so kind to me, gently correcting my Hindi, teaching me new words and concepts, repeating sentences when I don’t quite understand what they’ve said. One mother has invited me to her home to help perfect my chai-making skills. In general, the other moms are sweet and kind and so curious about our family. There are times where I crave deeper conversation, but I am so thankful for these women each afternoon.
Back in the kitchen I pan-fry some chicken and make a West-meets-East stir-fry of sorts while the kids help with setting the table, chopping veggies and measuring ingredients.
Eric and I do what we can to keep a consistent schedule for our sanity’s sake. (OK, it’s mostly my sanity with my Type A personality shining through.) I always feel a little celebratory when I get the meal on the table right at 7. In this country, being on time is not a value and I’m working on being okay with that. But, for the few parts of our lives we can be timely about, I really enjoy watching things come together.
Dishes are washed, teeth are brushed, pajamas are on. We imported our American bedtime routine—another step to normalize this drastic change for the kiddos. Andy picks out the book for our nightly family reading. It’s a book my mom sent the kids in a care package last month. I swallow a wave of sadness and settle in to read aloud. By 9 p.m., the kids are all asleep.
With the kids in bed, Eric and I take some time to just talk. Then, we settle on the couch to study and prep for tomorrow’s language lesson.
I really need to be in bed by 11 every night. I try to ignore the gnawing sense that there is always more to do, more to clean, more to study. Eric is much better about accepting this. I’m so thankful for his gentle reminders of how far we’ve come, how great the kids are doing and how many doors have opened for relationships with neighbors.
Before we fall asleep, Eric and I talk about how amazing it is that we get so much attention—how the locals watch us constantly. It’s funny to us, but it’s also our prayer that as they watch they will see something different in us, something desirable, something that has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Jesus in our lives. We pray that through meeting us and knowing us, God would capture the hearts of our neighbors and new friends and that they would come to know Him in such a way that their lives would never be the same.
How can I get involved?
- Praise God for giving moms on the field opportunities to share the hope of Christ as they share life with other mothers in least-reached communities.
- Ask the Lord to give wisdom to workers who are parents as they raise their children in places where few know Jesus.
Explore long-term opportunities with Christar.