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As clearly explained in the subtitle, this book contains “21 Australian Missionary Mother Stories on Cross-Cultural Parenting and Life”.

Editors Miriam Chan and Sophia Russell, have skilfully drawn together a marvellous range of women to speak of their experience being mothers on the mission field, across different circumstances. Some are dwelling in large cities in Asia or South America, others live rurally in Africa or South-east Asia. Some are retired and are reflecting on years of service with now adult children, and others are still on the field in the midst of parenting young ones. Some are homeschooling, others are working in paid ministry roles.

Some things unite them all … and every story finishes with a confirmation that God is good, that God is faithful, that he is with us in all circumstances, and that serving him has been worth it.

For the Joy
Miriam Chan and Sophia Russell (eds)
For the Joy
Miriam Chan and Sophia Russell (eds)
Grace Abounding Books.
Grace Abounding Books.

Within that range however, some things unite them all. They all have a trusting faith that they are saved by God’s grace alone and they share a conviction to serve the Lord overseas. All have been humbled to realise their own weakness in situations that have been challenging. All call Australia their home country, or their sending country. They are all mothers, and write from their perspective as mothers. All have had cause to reflect on parenting in a cross-cultural context—to see the benefits and the challenges of raising “third culture” kids. And every story finishes with a confirmation that God is good, that God is faithful, that he is with us in all circumstances, and that serving him has been worth it.

Some stories invite us into the ordinariness of parenting, the little people that you care for, love, protect and teach. These are similar wherever you are, even if still in Australia. Other stories will cause you to wonder, “how did she live through that?” “How did they keep going?” You may find yourself weeping for the loss and grief some families have experienced, while also noting that some of the tragedies could still have happened in Australia.

Although all the contributors are Australian missionary mothers, it would be a great shame if only other Australian missionary mothers read this book. There is much here to encourage and challenge all Christian mothers as we think about parenting with faith. But men too should be reading this, to appreciate the service, faithfulness and challenges facing mothers serving overseas. I’m sure this is being put in the hands of many women planning to go on the field as well, although my word of caution would be to read it with others prayerfully and talk about it together, rather than read it solo imagining yourself in all the situations.

Those supporting missionaries should also read it to gain insight into the potential joys and challenges for families on the field. Indeed, if you are like me, and have been in Australian Christian circles for a while, supporting and encouraging mission, there’s every chance you’ll know some of these women personally, maybe your church has been supporting them, or you may have been praying for them for years through mission organisation prayer diaries.

Some mothers might worry that “the average Christian mother” reading it would end up feeling “not good enough”. That is, thinking our life is not that hard and yet we really struggle, or that we could never be that faithful, or that trusting in God, or that prayerful. But that would be missing the point. These are stories about women in various encouraging and challenging circumstances, but who all have had to trust in God in their weakness, lack of support, or despair. I found them incredibly encouraging, and a helpful challenge to my own faithfulness in parenting. 

It is also a refreshing way to see God’s goodness in all circumstances and to be reminded that parenting is a God-given gift that we do well not to squander.

I usually include lots of quotes when I review a book, but I decided just to read and appreciate this one. Having said that, I’ll include one from Penny’s story that sums up what many of the women indicated:

[God] slowly broke down the expectations I’d had for myself around what living missionally looked like, and taught me the value of forming genuine friendships and unconditional love. Missional living wasn’t about me being a hero. It was about me walking humbly with God, allowing Him to set the priorities – kingdom and gospel priorities – for how I could respond to my family and community.

Yes, this is an honest, challenging, and sometimes confronting collection of stories. But it is also a refreshing way to see God’s goodness in all circumstances and to be reminded that parenting is a God-given gift that we do well not to squander. Most of all, this is a collection that bears testimony to our faithful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and his work both in individual people and across the nations of the world.

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