I would like to thank Beckie Garrison for taking the time to write for us today! I am so excited to share with you what she has to say. I have known Beckie for quite some time now, and am blessed to call her friend! In bold are the things I asked Beckie, the rest, is her response. Without further ado….
It’s hard to believe that Gabe and I just celebrated our 5th anniversary. Even stranger to think about, in those 5 years the longest we’ve lived in one place has been our past two years in Russia. Gabe and I met in 2005 while working together at a Christian summer camp in Maryland. We had both just returned to the states from short-term missions trips with the feeling that God was calling us to serve in missions. Three years, 2 babies, lots of prayer, and several moves after our wedding, we arrived in Tambov, Russia as missionaries with SEND International.
We are newbies in a lot of ways: as a couple, as parents, and as missionaries. We’ve come a long way in 2 years, but we are still figuring out where we belong and how to live and serve here. Gabe finished his official language study last year and has been gradually adding more and more ministry opportunities to his plate. During the summer our main focus is camp. Gabe is currently involved in program planning, constructing a multi-purpose sports court, facilitating games and adventure activities, and building bunk beds. When it’s off-season for camp, Gabe helps with ministry to orphans in our area; serves as an on-call driver for various ministries and people; and takes carpentry orders for everything from furniture to church signs.
Gabe and I are incredibly blessed by the churches and individuals who support us, and because of their faithful giving we have all our personal needs meet. If you are interested in being a part of what God is doing in Tambov, Russia, we are currently raising funds to put in a multi-purpose sports court at the camp we help with. Any gifts towards this project can be sent to:
P.O. Box 513
Farmington, MI 48332
Please be sure to write “Sport Court – 29585″ in the memo
How do you manage being a wife, mother, and missionary?
Although there are certain activities that I’m involved with officially, I would consider my main missionary assignments to be WIFE and MOM. I actually just had a conversation about this with our area director and am very thankful that SEND supports and values me in this season of life where most of my ministry is in my own home. We have two kids, Levi (about to turn 4) and Iris (2), and are expecting baby #3 in October. So my day to day looks like any other mom with preschoolers: shoes full of sand, sticky hands, hilarious conversations, potty breaks, cartoons, discipline, snuggling with books. Although I don’t feel this way everyday, in general I really love this season of life with two toddlers. I’m sure I’ll get thrown for a loop in October though )
How do you deal with the language barrier?
While most of my day is fairly “normal,” step outside and the language barrier is a quick reminder of the unusual/uncomfortable part of being a missionary. I can survive in Russia (shop, travel, make small talk), but still can’t thrive in deep relationships. Being a mom with two little ones can be isolating wherever you live, but when you’re learning a new language you feel isolated all the time, like you’re stuck in a bubble. It was really hard when we first arrived and even when I made it out to social events I felt alone because I couldn’t keep up with conversations. Russian is a challenging language to learn and progress is slow but I enjoy studying (the inner nerd) and I’m motivated to keep working, so I know it will keep getting better.
What are some of the cultural differences?
Even harder than learning a second language, has been adjusting to a different culture. I would have never guessed this before coming to Russia, but one of the most difficult adjustments was to differences in parenting and what is considered acceptable/unacceptable with kids. One example of this is how dirty you should let your kids get. In the states, a dirty child after a day of playing outside is a kind of badge of honor, a sign that he/she had a good time. There are a variety of reasons why that’s not the case in Russia: people own fewer clothes; not everyone has a washing machine; most people live in apartments so your kids are playing in public spaces complete with stray animals, trash, broken glass, and unfortunately the icky stuff animals and people leave behind when there’s not a bathroom nearby. Although I have changed some in this area, I still allow my kids to sit directly on the ground, dig in the sand with their hands, and generally get dirtier than a Russian mom would. And I have to accept the criticism that comes with that, because Russians are much more open in sharing their opinions when it comes to parenting. It’s almost a daily occurrence that a complete stranger will tell me their opinion about how I’ve dressed my kids or how close together my kids are in age. On the positive side, this same observant stranger will jump up to give you and your kids a seat on the bus, pick up the mitten you dropped in the snow, and warn you if your child is doing something dangerous that you didn’t notice.
Best thing/hardest thing about being missionary:
The best thing about being missionary, is also the hardest. In moving to Russia, almost all our comforts were stripped away. We could suddenly see and feel things that were always there but muted by the comforts we had padded our lives with. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and fear – moving to Russia brought that to a crisis level intensity. It was really awful and uncomfortable and self-destructive, but forced me to cry out to God and allowed me to see His awesomeness in answering that prayer.
Ironically the same language barrier that makes it harder to get to know people, can sometimes allow you to see another persons character more clearly because actions and body language become more important than words. I can think of endless examples where God has used the difficulties of living in a different world to reveal truth about Himself, others, and myself. The past two years have been a roller coaster ride, but I’m thankful to have been on it.
Thank you again, Beckie, for taking time to share with us. If you feel led to give to Beckie and her family as they serve in Russia, please follow the leading of the Spirit. I hope that this will encourage all of us to pray for missionaries around the World. We so often forget that others have willingly placed themselves somewhere where the comforts of America do not exist. If there are any other questions you have, why don’t you leave them in the comment section and when Beckie has time, she can come back and answer the best she can!
I would love to be friends!
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