If you haven't read Delightful Deputation (Part 1) The Focus, click HERE to read it.
Maybe your definition of deputation is this: That time period when a missionary family's home is a cramped hybrid of a minivan and a hotel room until they get a real home again on the field.
I must admit, five people living in a tiny hotel room with two double beds (on a good day) and one tiny bathroom isn't my favorite living space, but I must challenge you to transform your definition. Not your definition of deputation, but your definition of home.
Hours and hours on the road together in a van. Day after day sharing the same hotel rooms. It is a challenge when you are use to everyone having their own rooms and space. But we found a pleasant surprise hidden in all this togetherness. We truly got to know one another better than ever before.
We had no choice but to learn to get along in close quarters and to share space. We had to learn to be creative and work as a team. We learned to communicate better. We learned each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we learned how to use that as we worked as a team. We learned to laugh together when things got a little tough or strange. We learned to be creative in our entertainment and our living space. (I never imagined using an ironing board as our kitchen table, but throw a clean linen over it and there ya go!)
We were all learning to detatch ourselves from the place we use to call home and to make everywhere we went home. We learned that home... well, for us, home was (and still is) wherever we were together as a family.
We never realized how close deputation would bring our family together if we took advantage of the opportunity. I mean, think about it. We spent two and a half years together. We spent more time together than we will ever have the opportunity to do again. We have come to learn how valuable that closeness is on the field.
Have you ever heard someone say, "Lose your family, and you lose your ministry." It's true. And the field can make or break a family. The struggles of the field will put a magnifying glass on any problems there are in the family. Deputation is the perfect time to learn how to pull together under pressure instead of pulling apart. This includes the marriage relationship as well as the parent/child relationships.
So let's get practical. How do you learn to pull together instead of pulling apart under pressure?
If you haven't yet, take time to study healthy communication skills. There is more to it than just talking. Learn how to open up about how you are feeling as well as listen to others about how they are feeling. In communication, timing is everything. The main thing is to keep the lines of communication open between every member of the family. We need to make sure we are approachable, safe, and understanding. We also need to consistently approach other members of our family.
In tight quarters everyday, tempers can flair. I have always told my children, "If you can learn to get along with each other, you will have an easier time working things out with your future spouse." Deputation provides a great training ground for practicing healthy family communication.
2. Go on Dates
Finding time to date your husband during deputation is not the easiest thing sometimes, but it is important. Make it work. There are tons of ideas for indoor/at-home kind of dates on Pinterest that will work in the hotel or prophets chamber situation... Things to do when the kids fall asleep. Sometimes churches will offer to watch the children for a little while. Take advantage of the opportunity.
We were blessed to have a teenager when we were on deputation. We felt confident enough in certain places to let the teen watch the youger two children sleeping while we went down to the hotel breakfast area for a quick bite early in the morning a couple of times. We enjoyed taking the children to small parks during the day. There was hardly anyone there because most children were in school, so while ours played we could still keep a close eye on them while we talked. It wasn't the perfect scenerio, but we made it work.
Your husband isn't the only one who needs some one-on-one with you. Your children also need it. Jason and I often take turns taking a child out for private time. We make it an event. A date. Cleaned up, dressed up, and special.
3. Take a break
When the family is getting tired and stretched too far, take a few days off. You need it! It does no good to make it to the field in record time if you are too tired physically, emotionally, and spiritually to handle the pressures of the field as a family. Pace yourselves. You don't want to be on deputation longer than you need to be, but you don't want to arrive on the field experiencing burnout, either.
Confession: I am the race horse of the family. I like everything done as quickly as possible. Jason is the work horse of the family... slower, but steady and strong. One day he said some very wise words to me. "Charity, race horses may get there faster, but they are only good for a few years. Work horses, however, pace themselves. They last for years and years." Made sense to me. I sure am glad God partnered me with a work horse. He tends to help me to settle down and pace my steps.
4. Be a family thermometer
I had a specially appointed job while we were on deputation. Jason gave me this job. I was the thermometer. Children sometimes have a difficult time understanding or expressing what they are feeling. As a mother, it was my job to keep in tune with their physical and emotional condition. If they were being overexerted, stretched too far, emotionally exhausted, or needed a day just to be a kid, it was my job to pick up on it. I kept tabs on their physical and emotional temperature.
Listening is so important. Don't panic if your children say some shocking things. They are in a very difficult time period. They are saying goodbye to everything familiar. They are in transition and children need stability and security. When they are not feeling that stability, they will express it sometimes in very frustrating or shocking ways. Be compassionate, understanding, and patient.
Diagnose their needs and keep daddy informed. Yes, churches love to see the whole family, but children also need to have a chance to be children. Our whole family made it to almost every meeting, but there were a couple of meetings Jason actually commanded the children and me to take a break. We were so thankful! After four conferences back to back, we were all tired of sitting in a car for hours, sitting in a school chair, and then sitting in a pew!
Sometimes the children don't need to stop. Sometimes they just need mommy's attention. Face it. People command a lot of our time and attention during deputation. Our children still need us. Don't forget that we are "mom" before we are "missionary." This also goes for our husbands' needs, too. We are "wife" before we are "missionary."
We have some great memories of stopping at rest areas and tossing a football. We had some fun picnic lunches on the road. We swam in hotel pools, played board games in the hotel room, listened to the funniest audio book in the van, had surprise junk food nights, had Nerf gun wars... we played. Life didn't have to stop just because we were in a van or hotel room. We chose to instead make fun family memories every chance we got.
When we packed, everyone had their own wheeled suitcase for their clothes and supplies, but we had another wheeled suitcase for toys. Then we removed a chair in our van. On the back of the driver's seat we attached a TV. We hooked an X-Box to it. We brought DVD's, too. Sometimes I would crawl in the back and watch a movie with the kids. If the kids were occupied with a movie or game, Daddy and I had some quiet talk time, too.
One of our silliest on-the-road word games is called One Word Stories. Every person takes turns supplying a single word for a story.
And so on. Try it. You will laugh until your stomache hurts.
6. Spend time with the Lord
As an individual and as a family. The closer we all grow to the Lord, the closer we all grow together. Do not neglect devotions. If you maintain your devotional time under the pressures of deputation, you will be more likely to be faithful to them on the field. And speaking from experience, family devotions here on the field are priceless at drawing the family closer together and bringing unity in the home.
7. Don't complain... be thankful
Complaining says "I am sacrificing too much!" If your family hears that message, they, too, will feel they are sacrificing too much. A thankful heart sends the message that what you are doing is valuable.
I remember when we stayed in a prophets chamber one time. It was Cadillac of prophets chambers. It was private, quiet, clean, well furnished, and spacious. It was more like a vacation home. We rested better there than we had in months. Then we went to the next prophets chamber. Let's just say, our family went from the best of the best to the worst place we had ever stayed. There were roaches and not enough bedding. It wasn't clean. Mosquitoes almost turned us into dried raisins. We had to run to Walmart and grab mosquito repellent. At night, I slept in the middle of the bed because I was afraid of what was crawling around on the floor in the dark. I barely slept. We were determined to only stay one night even though we were scheduled for two. Then we discovered the next morning that the shower didn't work. I was almost in tears... until God convicted my heart. We were so willing to praise God in one place, but quick to complain in the next.
Before we left for the church service, we all stopped and prayed. We asked God to forgive us and thanked God for providing us a place to stay. We had pillows. We had food. We had shelter. As a family, we learned a great lesson that day. We went to the church service and really had a wonderful time. We even stayed the second night.
8. Make it a family ministry
On deputation, our family was a team. Everyone took part in some way. Jason's part was obvious. He did the calling, scheduling, preaching, teaching, and presenting. I taught Sunday school classes, ladies fellowships, played piano, sang, and gave my testimony whenever asked. Ben loves working with technology. He set up the video presentation. Michaela loves to sing. She often sang with me if we were not singing as a family. She wore a traditional outfit from our country sometimes, and even taught in one Sunday school class. Gabriel loves to work, so he helped tote things. He also was our cutey. You know, that child who decides to wink at the elderly ladies while the family is singing and mom and dad cannot see. Yes, that was him. Everyone had their part. Everyone felt needed and useful. We were a team. And on the field, we are doing the same thing. Everyone is finding their place and their part. Family ministry.
If you dread deputation, so will your family. Learn to see deputation as a wonderful opportunity. It is a blessing if you choose to see it for what it really is. It is a grand opportunity to grow closer as a family.
So, now we have added to our definition of deputation...
for growing closer as a family
To be continued...
Delightful Deputation (Part 3) The Fun
Delightful Deputation (Part 4) The Friendships