Missionary families often say that the hardest part of our job is being far away from family. Especially when you have a close and loving extended family, you miss them a lot. When we were preparing to become missionaries, the “experienced ones” all told us that the other missionaries on your field become like the aunties and uncles and grandmas and grandpas for your children. I was offended by this idea. My kids already HAVE aunties and uncles and grandparents. I didn’t want them forgetting their real family, and I didn’t want them replacing those roles in their hearts. And I wasn’t really keen on the idea of someone else’s kids calling me Auntie. I wasn’t impressed with this substitute idea of family.
But time has passed and my attitude has softened. My kids have NOT forgotten their real family and thanks to Skype and Face Time, we can talk to them face to face whenever we want to! They know who their real family is and they love them like no other. But it can get kind of lonely and sad out here. There are no relatives to babysit for you when you need a date with your spouse. There are no proud grandparents taking pictures at your school plays or sporting events. And don’t even get me started on all the birthday parties that my family has missed and we have missed in our turn!
So here is where the missionary family comes in handy. We KNOW we aren’t really related, but we ACT like we are. I have taken care of children who are not mine– overnight, while their parents were out of the country. I have pulled loose teeth, tucked them into bed, bandaged owies, and packed school lunches for kids who are not mine. I have driven kids to school, picked them up again and taken them to youth group. I have watched school plays and cheered at sports games. I’ve taken kids to the movies and McDonalds and go carts. I’ve attended every birthday party we’ve been invited to. I’ve earned my Auntie status in a million ways.
It in no way diminishes my love and connection to my real family, but we all need a “Jesus with skin on” so to speak. We all need the Village to raise a child (we just hope and pray that our village isn’t full of idiots!). And we try to be that kind of community for others that we are missing ourselves. It’s about living in harmony with people that you don’t get to choose… just like a family.