This past weekend, our American football team hosted a camp with a group of American football coaches from Georgia. Jesus + Football + Southern accents = the perfect mission trip. During the camp, the coaches were able to share their faith through testimonies and devotionals in between drills and at the end of the day. They also hosted a Q&A Bible study, where two of the players were able to share their testimonies, and others were able to ask questions about the Bible and about Christianity.
This is our mission field. God has called us to Portugal to work along side an American football team to proclaim His name and to serve the team by teaching them about football and building relationships with them.
As a mom of an active toddler, this can be difficult at times. Especially since my son is as passionate about football as the guys on the team…if not more so – it’s a challenge to keep him off the field! Add to that, the fact that I am extremely pregnant at this point (almost 8 months!), and it is getting difficult to chase him around and occasionally hold him so he won’t go play with the big boys. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
Part of our ministry, as believers and as parents, is to show others how a family is supposed to function biblically. (Our first response to a non-believer’s question is always, “What does the Bible say about that?”) So, our kids play a major role in our ministry. We love doing things as a family, and that includes Gid and mommy going to daddy’s football games, practices, and camps. At this last camp, because of my size and diminished capacity for air and overall stamina, daddy took a larger role in watching Gideon. Mommy also learned to let go a little, and she let little man run free (within reason) among the guys.
They love Gideon. (What’s not to love?) Part of that is the Portuguese culture – they love kids. I think the second part is, he’s the coaches son. We practice with the team, go out to eat with the team, invite players over to our house, and really just try to be a part of their lives. Plus, he really likes football. And I am very grateful for them.
In American culture, so often parents are made to feel like kids should be hidden away and not involved in adult events. If you can’t get a baby sitter, you shouldn’t go. Kids are seen as a distraction and annoyance. Even in church. (Now, while I am a big fan of nurseries, and have worked in many Church nurseries and Sunday school classrooms, sometimes as a mother, you don’t feel comfortable leaving your kids with strangers. But that’s another topic.) All around the world, kids are seen as a part of life. This is something I’ve really had to adjust in my way of thinking. My current church does not have a nursery, so David and I take turns taking him out if he can’t sit still in church. Or, thankfully, we have a few women in our church who will watch him so we may enjoy the service together. I see these as mini dates. I love this part of the culture where random strangers will give your kid a banana on the bus so he won’t be fussy. Or a stranger will offer you a ride home so you don’t have to walk with your toddler in the rain. Or a big football player will make friends with your two year old and play with him during practice.
As a mom, this can be difficult. As I said, this was the first time I did not hover and just let him roam during the camp. He didn’t get hurt. He didn’t get trampled. He didn’t get in anyone’s way. He got muddy. He made friends. He had a blast! Now, don’t get me wrong. This was not the first time to go to a camp or anything like that. Gideon has pretty much grown up on the football field. Last year, though, he couldn’t really walk, and was much easier to manage.
Being a mom on the mission field, or anywhere for that matter, is tough. Juggling ministry with raising your kids is something that I struggle with daily. I sometimes envy moms in the states who have Mother’s Day Outs available and Bible studies with other moms and have grandparents nearby or friends who will watch your kids at the drop of a hat so you and hubby can go on a date. (If you have these luxuries, don’t take them for granted!) I have asked many moms on the mission field, “How do you do it? How do you raise your children while doing ministry full time?” The answer is always the same. “Only by the grace of God.” I am so thankful that my God loves children. I am also so thankful that He has called us to the mission field, and that that mission field (right now) involves football.