The Missionary Mum
21 Aug 2017
Many of our Pioneers office staff have previously served as missionaries. This experience brings wisdom, empathy, and unique insights into helping others do well overseas. In our current series on Life after Missions, we asked one of our staff about the change from field worker to office worker. Meet Suzanne, who serves on our Finance team by day, and edits our blogs at night.
What did missions look like for you?
My husband and I, with our three kids, lived in Nepal, and then in India for a total seven years. Our primary focus was church planting among Nepali Muslims.
What does life look like now?
It’s twelve years since we returned to Australia, and for the last 10 years I have been working in the Pioneers office in Melbourne as part of the Finance team. My husband works as an administrator in an inner-city church. Our kids are older teens / young adults and I am loving our interactions as family.
What was your transition like?
It was difficult finding my place back in Australia. So many things that should have been simple, were confusing. I couldn’t work out what I was supposed to wear. Layers had come in, and I just didn’t get what went over what. And just who were Kath and Kim, and why was everyone talking about them? Small talk with other mums at school pick up was particularly embarrassing. I just couldn’t connect with anything that was being talked about, and if I tried to throw a sentence into the conversation it usually led to an awkward silence. I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut, and to never start a sentence with “In India …”.
When you move overseas as a missionary, you often leave behind a lot of your identity, especially if it’s based on what you do. You get to your new country and often you are not working in the profession that you are an expert in, but you restart as a learner of a new language, a new way of life, and new ways of doing ministry. In a similar way, when I first came back to Australia, it seemed that all my life experience over the past seven years counted for nothing. The harsh reality of this hit me when I went to talk with the administrator about helping out at my kids’ Australian school. I felt I had so much to offer. At my kid’s school in India I had run the school library, taught Science in the grade 5 class, and run an after-school craft club. But here in the first world, there was no need for such help. There were trained, paid staff to do those jobs. I soon found myself cleaning the staff toilets. God did some needed work on my pride that first year back, which I am grateful for, but boy did it challenge my sense of identity and self-worth.
What has stayed with you from your overseas culture?
I still love to cook Indian food, and I don’t mind a bit of bright colour, and shiny bedazzlement about the place!
How do you think God used your missions experience to help shape who you are?
I used to be a black and white person, confident in what I thought was right and wrong. Living in Nepal and India taught me that life is colourful and messy and confusing, and that’s OK. In many situations, there is no right or wrong. I don’t always need to understand everything, I just need to trust God, and follow his lead. I think that God has taught me to be slower to make judgments, which helps me to be a kinder person.