I’m so thankful for my dear friend and former teammate, Carol Ann, who loves Jesus, her hubby, and her family and is such an example to me in her going – even with little ones! I pray she encourages your heart to go too!
Before you read my story, here is a quick word about me. My name is Carol Ann. I live in Norman, Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner!). I am wife to Blake, who runs Life For All International an International Pro-Life Ministry. I am mom to Jordan (7) and Marcus (4). I homeschool. I serve in my church in many areas, but I especially love discipling college students. I go on short term mission trips to Guatemala every year and last year went on a college trip to South Padre Island.
Missions is in my blood. I can’t help it. It’s how I was raised…in Panama (Central America) with a mom and dad who were called to take the Gospel to the nations. My childhood was exciting and a blessing, which is something I took for granted until adulthood. The lessons I learned were numerous. I know what true poverty looks like. I’ve seen a church planted and growing. I’ve worshipped in a completely different context and culture. I did not always appreciate where God placed my family, but I would not trade my childhood for anything.
As an adult, I’ve wrestled with my call to missions. I married a guy who felt called, even though I was unsure of my call. God worked that out and we headed off for two years in North Africa. Even though we were passionate, we failed miserably and learned tough lessons on reliance on God and not on our own pride. It was a hard season, but we always assumed we would land back on the mission field.
“Assume” is not a good word for a follower of Jesus. We also assumed that we could have kids whenever we were ready. God had other plans and more lessons to teach us about reliance on Him. After some hard years of waiting, we adopted Jordan in 2012. He was a fire cracker; full of energy and life. He also had some bonus challenges as a result of pre-natal exposures. But we loved being parents and tried to adopt again three times. Once again, we assumed we knew what God had in store. After a year of loss and grief, God surprised us with a biological baby. Marcus was born in 2014 and is the sweetest boy I know.
So, there we were with this call to missions and yet, because of the challenges our then 3 year old was facing, we did not know what God had in store. We had “assumed” that our call to missions meant our going, but God made it abundantly clear that this was not His plan. It took a lot of wrestling to figure out that God wanted us to stay. We handled it in our own ways, but to summarize, we are called to be Senders in our church. We give, we pray, we teach, we encourage, and we go!
When my kids were born, short term missions was not on my radar, because most of my time and energy were spent restraining an overstimulated Jordan and keeping Marcus alive (if you’ve met him, you would understand that statement). I was drowning in diapers, potty training, toys, discipline…you know the drill. Being a mom to little humans is so hard. But somewhere in the chaos, God whispered “You need to go”. At our church’s annual missions banquet, a friend shared about his experience in Guatemala and his desire to take a group from our church. I said “yes” to God and signed up, but the trip was still seven months out.
As the trip approached, my anxiety grew. Marcus was 2 and Jordan was 5. They were wild, and as I mentioned earlier, Marcus is extremely accident prone. The day before the trip, my anxiety level was at an all-time high. I purchased an overpriced security system and wrote an 8 page schedule (manifesto) with every single detail I could think of, including warnings about parking lots and water in the area. Blake is a great dad. He was willing to let me go, but I was a mess. I was having nightmares about my kids getting hit by cars or drowning (hence the manifesto). I forgot why I wanted to go. I didn’t want to leave my kids.
But I did leave. I got on the plane, only after one last call to my mother-in-law to remind her about the small lake by the ball fields. But I got on the plane. And I’m so glad I did. Turns out, God protected my children even though Blake never read my manifesto. I got home after a week and there they were with their unmatching clothes and dirty faces. But they were alive! All of the anxiety was for nothing. And I’m so grateful that I went, because God showed me He was faithful and gave me a deep love for Guatemala in the process.
I recently returned from my 5th week-long trip (3 to Guatemala, one to Padre, and one to Virginia). This time I only had one pre-trip nightmare and my schedule for Blake was just a schedule with reminders about ball games and birthday parties. Blake travels for his job, so my kids have adjusted to parents who go. They even are counting down the years until they are 16 and can go to Guatemala with me. Even though they are a little sad to send one of us off, they do just fine and they have learned so much from having parents who go.
So what does being a mom who goes look like? Why do I do it? Well, because I am a mom who loves Jesus and He can use me in all of my “Mom-ness”.
1. I do it for Jesus. He saved me and He wants to use me. He called me and He provides. I can stay here and share the Gospel but I am honored that He would allow me the privilege of telling people in Guatemala about Him.
2. I do it for my kids. I want them to understand God’s call for us to take the Gospel to the nations. I’m so thankful that I can be an example of obedience. They make sacrifices, yes. But they do it for Jesus and for the people who are hearing God’s Word in Guatemala.
3. I do it for the moms in Guatemala. I love sitting and encouraging a sweet lady who is overwhelmed with parenting children. And many of them are parenting children in very difficult situations like extreme poverty or absent husbands. On this past trip, I was able to share with a group of moms, all raising kids in the shadow of the dump, just how proud I was of them for how they were raising their children. I have had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with many moms who have then accepted Christ. They are now trying to teach their children and are praying for unbelieving husbands. It’s a blessing to hug them and encourage them and pray for them.
4. I do it for the students on our teams. I have several high school and college students who call me their “Guatemala Mom”. This is a very specific passion that God has given me…to encourage and disciple students who are experiencing missions for the first time in their young lives. I’ve held girls while they sobbed about the poverty and brokenness they had witnessed. I’ve encouraged and counseled students as they struggle to share the Gospel. I love the “on the ground” time with the girls on these trips and they have always turned into discipleship relationships here in Norman. I’m even “mom” to a few boys, which means they can come to me for hand sanitizer and hugs. I cheer them on and have had the joy of watching them mature into leaders who are experienced and passionate about sharing the Gospel. I love being “Guatemala Mom”. It’s a joy and a privilege to walk with these young people.
Being a mom who goes is a blessing to my family and to my church. It’s not for everyone; I understand that. It takes a lot of faith to get on that plane and leave your kids behind. It takes a rock star husband who holds down the fort. It takes lots of conversations with the kids about God’s heart for the nations. That first trip was brutal. I came very close to not going, but I’m so glad I did. I would have missed out on so many blessings. God doesn’t need me, but He’s chosen to use me and I get to go be a part of His work across the ocean.