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A Mom’s experience on the mission field

Michelle Venter, a South African woman, shares her experience of living as an MAF missionary in Papua New Guinea with her husband and three children.

A long time before I was a mom on the mission field, remember being a little girl, playing “mommy-mommy” with my baby doll, having a pretend husband, cleaning my dolls’ house and making pretend food and having tea parties…

This was what I dreamed of being one day when I was “big”. I can tell you that if you had told me 15 years ago, when I married Brad that I would be living in Papua New Guinea today, I probably would have cried! You see becoming a missionary wife was the last thing that I would have planned for my life but it was God’s plan for my life.

Since accepting the call to MAF and then to PNG, I have felt that my call has been to be a support to Brad and to care for my children. I have come to realise that this role of mine, as a wife and a mom, can actually be carried out anywhere in the world. Yes, the setting may look different wherever we are but the skills needed are no different. It still requires love, patience, grace, decision making, cooking, cleaning, organising, shopping, budgeting, etc.

Leaving for an unknown country like PNG, way across the Indian Ocean was one of the hardest things we have ever had to do and at the same time the best thing we have ever done. There were questions (some of our own and lots from others): What about education? What about malaria? What about doctors? The cost? Will you be safe? What will you eat? When will we see you again? How long are you going for? There were lots of tears, frustrations, challenges, and paperwork. But, there was always an overwhelming sense of God’s peace through it all. So we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were doing exactly what God wanted us to do. No, this did not mean that it would be easy and plain sailing, but it did mean that God was with us in every decision that we made and in every step that we took.

Often we want to see the whole picture and understand all the details, but we know according to scripture that God leads us one-step at a time. His word is a lamp (not a spotlight) to our feet. As a mom, it is easy to get caught up in worrying about our children’s needs and future. But so often I have come to remind myself that God knows.

In our situation in PNG we have lived where there was no suitable school for our children to attend. I home-schooled my three children for two years. It was hard work at the time but what a blessing to me when my children look back to it with such fond memories. Now we live in a town where our children have the privilege of attending a school run by New Tribes Mission. They have lovely Christian teachers and get the opportunity to have a class with friends. This means that in a few weeks’ time I will have my first empty nest as all three of my children will head out on the school bus in the mornings, leaving me on my own until lunch time.

Over the years people have asked how we deal with the lack of opportunities for our children in PNG. Maybe from an outsider’s perspective we do have less (or no) extra-mural activities, cultural groups, sports clubs, theme parks and malls to keep us busy, but after living in PNG for seven years this has become normal for us. Despite what we might seemingly lack, God has also blessed us wherever we have lived with friends, art lessons, karate lessons, a piano teacher, mom groups, mountain biking, guitar groups, the beach and pets. I remember a few days before leaving South Africa seven years ago thinking that I would never have friends or things to do. WOW. God has proved me so wrong.

When you ask my children where home is, they will say Goroka (the town where we live in PNG). They have grown to love the people and the country in which we live. They are international children now. Their friends come from all over the world, they love to fly in planes; they know how to travel through airports; they know at least four different currencies; they love going to the market to get stick meat and big fat bright red sausages and our old J75 Land Cruiser is to them, the best car in the world!

Sometimes I look at my children and wish that I could be as adaptable as them. I wish I could just take my shoes off and enjoy playing in the mud.

This season of my life has been one of the hardest for me. And despite the way that God has worked in me for the best, I still find myself resisting. It’s like this that I have to trust that He knows best. He knows our future, and He holds us in His hands.

Brad and Michelle Venter have been married for 14 years and have three children, Nathan, Hailey and Megan. They are from South Africa but are currently in Papua New Guinea serving with MAF. Brad is a pilot and also as an aeronautical engineer. Michelle is a qualified teacher and remedial teacher. Currently she is a full-time mom. Outside the home she is involved with various groups.

Story by Michelle Venter

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