It has been 3 1/2 years since our family first left our life in Waukee, Iowa to move across the ocean to Nairobi, Kenya where we would be committing to the work of Africa Inland Mission, helping to establish Christ-Centered Churches among all African people, particularly among the unreached. I had put up a long and stubborn fight. This kind of work was not for me. I couldn't imagine the kind of life our young family would live. But as God started a very humbling work in my heart, the closer we came to our departure, the more convinced I became of His leading. And though I sat on the plane with sweaty hands and shaking knees, I knew God had an adventure waiting for me in Africa.
I would like to be able to say that in the past 3 years I have participated in the work of planting many churches, discipling new believers, and carrying God's Word to places it has never gone before. That is the kind of adventure I thought the Lord brought me here to live. And although being here has helped other people be able to do those things, I personally have been pretty far removed from the action that I thought was part of missionary life in Africa...part of the adventure.
Instead, my daily life is pretty routine and not a whole lot different than my life in Iowa used to be. I wake up each morning, make breakfast, spend most of my morning homeschooling our two kids, wave at the neighbors while we all busily hang our clothes on the line outside, welcome my husband home in the evening, cook dinner for my family, wash dishes, make sure the kids are bathed and off to bed, and get rested up so I can wake up and do it all over again the next day.
I am not proud to admit that most days, somewhere in that routine, in moments of discontent, I find myself questioning God. Really, Lord? Is this all you brought me over here to do? Where is the adventure You promised? Haven't You purposed me for so much more than this? I want to serve You and somehow fit into all that you are doing!
Sometimes, those feelings get the best of me, and I wallow around in tearful frustration. Guilt that I put on myself for not doing more hammers me down until my very purpose feels flattened and insufficient. Even the fact that we have supporters back home who are sacrificing for us to be here can be reason enough for me to put extra pressure on myself to be doing more than just being a homemaker on the mission field. People ask me what the hardest part about living in Africa is…..it’s not so much the lack of things I am used to, or the differences in culture, or even security concerns. Without even having to think much about it, the hardest part about life on the mission field is the pressure I put on myself.
I have always dreaded Proverbs 31, titled “The Wife of Noble Character.” Just the mention of the verse reference makes me anxious. It’s always been that passage that makes me feel so far from what I should be. I am hard enough on myself without comparing myself to this flawless woman whom I will never fully measure up to. Yet, this very passage has been the tool in which God has most met me in my feelings of inadequacy, not to further those feelings, but to free me of them.
As God has brought me to these verses time after time in the past three years, I’ve actually come to a place where I can begin relating to this woman, viewing her more as an encouragement than a stumbling block. Almost everything she does happens within her own home. Her focus is on her husband and her children. She works hard at ordinary, routine things that are necessary for the day in and day out good of her family. God would not have spent so much time detailing this kind of woman if those qualities were not of upmost importance to Him. Not only are they important, but also rewarding and praiseworthy. And in me being faithful to reward them, I am promoting other ministry to take place outside of my home through my husband.
I love the beautiful friendship that we get a glimpse of in Scripture between Jesus and Mary. If you ask me which Mary, I would say any one of them. Mary Magdalene, Mary, the sister of Martha, and even Mary, the mother of Jesus all had one thing in common. They were not known by what they did but by who they were in Jesus. The closeness of relationship they each had with the Lord defined who they were. And 2,000 years later, through their relationship with the Lord, people are learning about the tenderness of Jesus through their simple trust in who He was to them…their Savior.
That is what I want to be. I want my life, not just here in Africa but even in the United States or wherever I am in the world to be defined by my relationship with Jesus. I want to be so closely connected with Him through conversation with Him, time spent in worship and in reading His word, and in humble, submissive obedience to Him to be what makes me able to minister to others. And just like the woman in Proverbs 31 and all of the Marys, I may never know how the tender love of Jesus displayed in my life will touch not just my own family, but others’ lives around me as well.
In brokenness I write these things. Because as I am being emptied of my will--the kind of “adventure” I thought I was getting into here in Kenya, I am realizing more and more that it isn’t really so much about what I am doing for Him as it is about who I am in Him and obedience to what He has asked me to do. Right now, being a wife and mom is the ministry He has called me to. And I am okay with that, because the adventure is not Africa or ministry or in the doing.....the adventure is in knowing Him.
Emily Holmertz has spent most of her life growing up and starting a family of her own in West Des Moines, Iowa. Just when her life was starting to get settled, God began showing her that His dreams for her life would far exceed her wildest imagination, and He gently began tugging her family toward full-time ministry in Africa. She now lives in Nairobi, Kenya with her husband, PJ, and their two young children, Sarah (9) and Aiden (6). Her husband, PJ, is the International Director for Short Term Missions for Africa Inland Mission (AIM). She and her family desire to see the transforming power of God's Word sent into unreached places throughout Africa and all parts of the world.