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A mother’s heart

Raising children in South Asia

Rearing children in another culture is not an easy task. In addition to the struggles every parent faces, parents raising children in a culture different from their own can add to the strain.

Ella* serves with TMS Global in South Asia. Here she shares her struggles with parenting in another culture, and the ways God has revealed Himself to her as she sought His wisdom to parent third culture kids.

I sat in the car, wondering why I was so irritated. I had just dropped the kids off at school and I was on edge. I asked Jesus to forgive me and show me what was making me so grumpy. I turned on some worship music and began driving home.

A song came on and the radio sang out, “There’s no shame in looking like a fool when I give You what I can’t keep and take a hold of You.”

I began to cry.

Lately I have been anxious, wondering how the choices my husband and I are making are affecting our children. Are we foolish to live the life that we do?

Although our daughter loves learning, she has had some struggles at school. She’s only three years old and is publicly shamed when she is unable to write certain letters on command, or when we forget to have her complete her homework. She has caring teachers, and her school is a good school, but, in South Asia, shame is the primary tool used to mold children’s behavior, and it is very apparent in the school system.

Our one-year-old son has struggled to gain weight, and has had a series of unidentifiable rashes and fevers. We do not have access to healthcare like that in the US, and, so far, his ailments have gone undiagnosed.

I find myself worrying about the present, and inevitably worrying about the future for our kids. Will the shortcomings in my children’s educations affect them in the long term? What happens if one of us contracts a serious illness? Will we be able to pay for our kids’ college education or braces if they need them? Are we being unwise to raise our children in South Asia?

That day in the car, the Lord impressed upon my heart that there would be nothing more foolish than chasing after all that the world offers in hopes of securing a neat, clean, safe, “normal” life, instead of chasing after Him with our whole hearts and lives. I’ve believed this truth for myself, but somehow, in the process of becoming a mother and taking on the huge responsibility of raising little ones, I haven’t fully believed it for my children.

I repented and asked God to give me more faith in my role as a mother.

To be sure, there are some very concrete things that we have let go of to serve Jesus in this place as a family. However, Jesus' promise to me and to my children in Luke 12:28-32 is, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (NIV)

When we trust Jesus with our lives and our children’s lives, He will do more than provide. He knows what we need—He will care for us, and it is his pleasure to give us the kingdom!

Since that day in my car, my heart has been reoriented to this truth and my heavy burden has been lifted. We are not fools for giving the Lord what we cannot keep to follow Him here. We know Him more intimately than we did when we moved here five years ago, and that is a beautiful gift. Our children are experiencing Christ in tangible ways through our ministries.

Perhaps my children’s school environment is less than ideal, and they are exposed to a wider degree of communicable diseases than their peers in the US, but our children are getting a kingdom education that is invaluable. God is teaching them persistent prayer, boldness in the Lord, compassion, tenacious faith, and kindness. And, they have yet to have a need that the Lord has not met.

*A pseudonym.