Home General News Missionary Diary: snot noses, dirty laundry and 24-hour meals

Missionary Diary: snot noses, dirty laundry and 24-hour meals

by ervte

Joy Oliveira Woolmer and her husband, Pedro, are new missionaries with the Church Missionary Society (CMS). They have three young children and have lived in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay in South America, for two and a half years. They serve with the local staff and students of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) movement in Uruguay.

When I look at my calendar and plan my week, it’s hard to believe we’re approaching the end of June. Where have the past six months gone? So much has changed in this time. At seven months old, our baby is no longer a newborn. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve also moved to a new house, changed churches, started our two-year-old in kindergarten five days a week, and we (almost) came out of a pandemic. And now, halfway through the year, I still don’t know what a ‘normal’ week looks like. Every Friday, I wonder how on earth we made it to the end of another week. Life is full, and while some are rewarding, most feel exhausting.Missionary Diary: snot noses, dirty laundry and 24-hour meals

At this time, more than at any time in our missionary service up to this point, I have wondered what God has made me do here in Uruguay. Most days, I feel like I’m just surviving and not doing it well! As for being a missionary, I’ve wondered if I’ve changed from being my own missionary to “just” a missionary’s wife. As my husband continues – plows indeed, full speed ahead – with new and exciting ministry opportunities, faithfully teaching the word in and out of season, I feel like my current mission field has snotty noses, dirty laundry, and round-the-clock meals. Couldn’t I do all this in Australia? I must have traveled too far (and at too high a price for the supporters back home!) to wrestle with as a wife and mother in Uruguay! What am I doing here?

“It’s a pleasure to know these students who have become members of our family,” says Joy.

As I struggled with this issue of purpose and identity, I was rebuked and encouraged by some basic gospel truths. Reprimanded because the question worth asking isn’t, “What am I doing here?” but “What is God doing here?” And encouraged because the answer to this question is that God is doing something in me and through me simultaneously.

God works…

God is always at work. His work is always fruitful! And until Jesus returns, he will not stop working out his plan of salvation in our world. And so whatever our human eyes can or cannot see, we can trust that our efforts, resources, and prayers are not wasted under God. And this truth has fueled our perseverance in recent years when we often felt like unproductive, unprofitable servants.

… in me …

The Bible assures us repeatedly that God is at work in us, teaching and transforming us through His Spirit to make us like Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith, working all things for our good for this purpose. Undoubtedly, despite my slowness and stubbornness, God will do whatever it takes to finish the work he has begun in me – including taking me halfway across the world! As one friend and fellow missionary put it beautifully, “God is so devoted to my sanctification that He would send me to Uruguay to make me more like Jesus!”

… and by me!

Miraculously, God is also working through me. His good work in me means good works that I must do in every season of my life. And so I can be sure that even now, his refining work in me bears fruit, grows his kingdom, and brings glory to his Son. Titus 2 has inspired and challenged me as I thought about what this looks like in my current season as a wife to Pedro and mother to our children. It warns and encourages us to teach sound doctrine and live accordingly while we wait for Jesus to return; the two go hand in hand.

I have been reminded that how I live can either praise or slander the gospel we have come to preach. The danger of dishonoring God’s word in my daily life is real. And at the same time, how I choose to talk about others and what I allow to influence my behavior and decisions can adorn our message. Likewise, how I relate to Pedro and our children, my character and conduct, and my housework can also train others to live their lives.

“Inviting Uruguayans into our crazy, messy lives,” says Joy.

Our time in Uruguay has shown us the power of teaching through good and bad examples. While we use our home as our ministry base, students watch us daily, often at the cluttered times of the day. We involve them with school pick-ups and family meals; when Pedro is away, they need an extra pair of hands. And whether we like it or not, what they see will encourage or discourage them from persevering and maturing in their faith. And so we pray they will see God’s transformative work in our daily lives. We pray that they will see our joy in knowing God and being known by Him. We pray they will see our hope and how it sustains and motivates us. We also pray they will see repentance and mercy when we forsake God and hurt each other.

So what am I doing here? Or rather, what is God doing here? He molds me daily into the image of Christ and teaches me to live out His redeeming work in me. He is conforming and educating himself between the snot noses, dirty laundry, and round-the-clock meals – just like he would if I were in Sydney or any other part of the world. But in His wisdom, God is doing this in me here, in Uruguay, and among Uruguayans who, like me, need the gospel’s transformative power in their lives, regardless of the season. And because this is what God is doing here, I know that my work is not in vain.

You may also like