Australia to South Asia: Intentional Parenting While Building Community Overseas
Even before we were married our conversations centred on what we could do to make the world a better place. We would spend hours discussing poverty, justice, different countries and people groups around the world. A life of working 9-5 and saving for a house held no interest to us, and so 5 months after we were married we sold everything we owned and moved to Uganda. There we worked alongside friends who ran an organisation that educated and equipped vulnerable children and communities. We loved life there and the work that we were doing, but sometimes life doesn't always go according to plan. At 19 and 22 we found ourselves on a plane home pregnant with our first child.
We converted a garage into a small unit and attempted to fit back into Australian life. Over the next few years we had our 3 babies and pastored the youth out of our local church. We never stopped talking about missions and nations, but for a season we were content with caring for our little people and leading an awesome bunch of young people. However while we were right in the midst of small children, sleep deprivation, and ministry God asked us to go to south Asia. So we did.
In 2013 we founded Sparrow, an organisation that provides access to education and health care for vulnerable communities and in 2016 we packed our little family up and spent the first 4 months of the year living in a foreign city at the base of the Himalayas. It is now in November and in less than a week we will once again put everyone on a plane and spend the next 3 months overseas working alongside our national team to see the work of Sparrow grow.
Coming and going can be tough on a family; there is a lot of instability and unknowns. While living in foreign cities can be adventurous and exciting, its also at times uncomfortable and lonely. As a mama to 3 children my heart aches when they miss their friends, get sick from local food and feel intimidated or scared by being in a different culture. Let me tell you, three blonde, blue-eyed kids can definitely draw a crowd! But although there are tough times there are also amazing moments and my heart rejoices when I see my kids playing cricket with local children, buying samosas for hungry toddlers, and speaking so passionately about how we need to help as many people as we can. These moments are precious because I know there’s a richness that is added to their lives because we are able to love on these people. We often get asked why we take our kids to these places and make this a priority for our family, and the simple answer is because we care. How can we walk away and forget about other families living in desperate poverty, unable to send their child to school or buy medicine for their babies when we live such a privileged lifestyle? How do I pretend that injustice doesn't exist when I have heard the stories and looked into the eyes of those that are living it? Maybe it is crazy that we would take along our kids to focus on running an organisation that strengthens communities, but as a family we have decided that this is a priority for us. We will continue to move forward believing that we are making a difference in this part of the world.
On a practical note though, we do have certain things that we do to try and make family life work best. When we are packing to go away for a few months we do our best to let the kids take a bunch of toys/personal items that are familiar to them. My 9 year old usually has a stack of great books to take, my 7 year old a pile of action figures, and my 5 year old is usually stuffing her suitcase with as many teddies as she can fit on top of her clothes! Even when we are living in an apartment that is unfamiliar, they still have their favourite special things from home. We also intentionally make room for fun and adventures, creating memories together is so important! Living in a coastal town on the east coast of Australia our family times are usually spent swimming at the beach and snorkelling in the creek; family time in South Asia looks very different. Riding toy trains, bowling in big malls, yak rides, sightseeing and seeking out great places to eat have all been ways that we press pause on work and just be together as a family in another country. While I’m sure our kids do remember the tough days, they talk way more about all the adventures they get to have!
At this stage we have no idea what the future looks like in regards to our family and living overseas. As much as we would love to be permanently on the ground, we have yet to obtain a visa that allows us to do this. So for the moment we do frequent trips, and while this may not be the most stable way to do family life, we will continue to do our best to make it work! As much as kids want stability, I think the stability they long for is a secure family unit. Life looks different in another country, but the way we do family is the same and as we continue to love on our kids and intentionally live out the values that we believe in, I honestly believe that we are creating not only a great childhood for our children, but a great launching pad for the rest of their lives.