mom on a mission

Being a mom is incredibly rewarding, considering it is also the utmost challenging responsibility I’ve ever taken on. Before and after Audrey was born, I was faced with countless choices that made my goal of being the best mom I could even more difficult.

Epidurals versus natural births, diapers or cloth, breast-feeding or formula, bottles that prevent colic or mimic the breast, thousands of cribs, toys, binkies, organic foods, doctor’s visits, shampoos … oh, my.

We are spoiled. American families have an overwhelming amount of options on what to provide their children, including the always available doctors, medical treatments and yes, Google search.

And I have fallen victim. I want Audrey to have the healthiest food, most developmental and educational toys, all her shots, the cutest clothes and the safest car seat.

Therefore, when I chatted with Brookings-bred mother-of-three Belinda Moffit, I was more than humbled. Moffit, along with her husband and children, has been a Christian missionary in a remote and fairly volatile farming village in the Philippines for roughly seven years.

They help build churches, teach, provide Bible lessons and translations, and help any way they can with the daily needs of the community.

Moffit and her husband, Josh, along with their children, Daisy, 11, Ally, 9, and Neo, 3, live in what they consider an “average” house consisting of no air conditioning, heating, dishwasher, washing machine or dryer, vacuum and only a fire to cook food.

Supported financially by church and individual charity, they haven’t been back to the states in more than four years. They never know what they are going to receive financially or when their mission will be complete.

As I asked her questions, I was dumbfounded at how comfortable she was with the fact that they live more than three hours from the nearest city, cook everything from scratch, have very limited doctor care and have learned to live with no privacy and sharing everything.

Arnold: What is a day in the life of a missionary mom?

Moffit: Actually, being a missionary mom isn’t that different from being a mom. We still potty train, nag our husbands, write emails, cook meals, etc. But, it all looks a bit different because it’s in a foreign context. If there’s not a blackout (which happens once or twice a week), then I start the day with a hot shower, otherwise … I just throw my hair back in a ponytail and hope the power comes back on soon.

At 7:30, I have a whole gaggle of ladies who work at our house every day. The kids start school around 8 o’clock. I am homeschooling them, which I find to be a constant frustration. I know missionary moms aren’t supposed to admit that, but being a teacher is hard work!

My favorite times each day are 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the whole household stops our work and we sit and have a coffee together. And not just any coffee — fresh coffee grown, roasted and ground right here in our village!

People do not go out after dark, which has become our saving grace. At 5 p.m., the ladies go home and we lock up the house for the evening. We have dinner … unwind … then it’s off to bed, collapsing in a tired heap, which I think all moms do at the end of the day, not just missionary moms.

Arnold: I used to think I was in a foreign country moving from Portland to Roseburg. There are things I miss that are now harder to get. What are some things you miss, don’t miss and have learned to live without?

Moffit: I miss fast food and takeout. I miss Walmart. I also miss libraries, wide streets and blending in. But, I don’t miss some aspects of the American culture. For example: rudeness, brutal honesty and self-centeredness. The culture we’re living in right now values interdependence, smooth relationships and sharing — all things that I’m so happy to have my kids growing up around. One time Neo shared a raisin with a girl sitting next to him at church, and the girl broke it in half and shared it with the kid next to her!

Hmmm, things I’ve learned to live without? Privacy. Seriously, privacy is not valued at all in this culture, and I’ve had to learn to stop seeking it.

One thing I will never learn to live without, family. I miss, miss, miss my family (sniff).

Arnold: What has changed about being a mom?

Moffit: Cooking is harder. We don’t own a microwave, enough said. Keeping the kids clothed can be a challenge … (because) we’re not exactly “Asian-sized.” Diapers were an issue with Neo. At one point we ran out, then bought every diaper in the little village shops where we live, then we were forced to potty train.

Arnold: Do you have a different take now on the American vast variety of “baby needs?”

Moffit: After watching my village friends mother their babies, I have become a lot slower to complain. They can’t afford diapers (except one on Sunday mornings), so they just basically get peed on all day. And they don’t have Johnny-jump-ups, carriers, swings, etc. … so they literally just hold their babies all day. That’s no easy task! And it makes getting any other work done pretty difficult. So, yeah, we (Americans) are definitely spoiled.

One thing that is frustrating is how expensive baby items like strollers and car seats are. They are only used by the “upper class.” It killed me to pay $70 for an umbrella stroller when I knew Walmart has them for $10.

Arnold: My family has been huge lifesavers as a new mom providing me with sleep, date nights and just some peace. How did you prepare yourself to raise children away from family?

Moffit: Our missionary team functions as a sort of a family. One of the Filipino families on our team has stepped beautifully into the role of “adopted parents.” They look after us, take care of us when we’re sick and have an endless supply of lollipops for our kids. Living here has actually given us a larger extended family than we ever would’ve had back home.

But, at the same time, I ache for my family back home. It grieves me to see my kids growing up so far away from their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Being separated from family is a huge sacrifice, but worth it in the end.

Arnold: Every society has customs to raising children. What have you been introduced to there that you either agree with or don’t?

Moffit: I don’t agree with … where we live it is believed that a child under the age of about 5 can’t understand between right and wrong and, therefore, are seldom punished.

Also, fear is used as a stimulus for obedience instead of discipline. So, for example, instead of a child realizing that there are unpleasant results to poor choices — discipline — a poorly behaved child is told, “There’s a man with an ax standing outside who will chop you if you don’t obey.” So, even as adults, there’s a lot of fear in this culture.

But now, the things I love about raising children here… Filipinos love, love, love children. No matter how unpleasant your child is being, a Filipino will never show annoyance or impatience. Filipinos don’t want to embarrass anyone, so they don’t discipline in public. You never hear a mom yelling at her kid and making a huge spectacle of herself. I really appreciate that about the culture here.

Arnold: If I were going to be a missionary mom right now with Audrey at 9 months old, what are some tips?

Moffit: Don’t go expecting to be a godsend/lifesaver to the people you are going to … they often end up being the ones who help us.

Don’t try and re-create America wherever you go. Try and become part of the culture you are going to, no matter how hard it is at first. Learn the language, cook their food, love their ways.

Find safe people whom you can confide in who won’t be shocked when the missionary mom has a bad day and wishes she could board the next plane headed for home.

Moffit ended the conversation with a laugh, saying that while it’s difficult, she loves what she is doing because it’s made her a better person, given her a wider, healthier view of life in general — and a full-body massage only costs $7.

As for me, I stopped complaining about needing a massage because I’m really not holding Audrey all day, I get a hot shower and I have a microwave. Talking to a missionary mom makes life over here seem pretty blessed and easy.

Belinda Moffit sits on the village plaza with her son, Neo, right, and Wen-wen, a local boy, on her lap. Wen-wen was born while Moffit was out of the village, but his mother waited until Moffit returned to help name him. They settled on “Wendell,” the middle name of Moffit’s father. Moffit and her husband and three children live as missionaries in a remote village on a small island of the Philippines.
Moffit and her daughter, Ally, feed a piglet at the home of a friend. She and her children helped to rescue two runt piglets and bottle-fed them to health.
Moffit and a group of local women “tag-alamon,” or pick rocks out of, a recent rice harvest. Each day, a team of about 10 women helps Moffit with daily duties. They assist her with homeschooling the children, office work and housework, and teach her the local language. They have become some of Moffit’s closest friends.

 

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