When people hear that I’ve voluntarily raised three children in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones, they often say things like, “I could never do that. How do you do it?”
These responses always make me smile; the truth is that raising kids on the mission field can be terrifying. Nearly every day since I gave birth to my kids, I’ve had to fight against fear as a mom. But I think whether we’re rich or poor, old or young, confident or timid, motherhood is marked by being afraid for our little ones.
Twenty years ago, I said “yes” to the adventure of a lifetime. My new husband, Dave, and I moved across the world together to help victims of war and terror attacks.
When you pack up your life to go live in a rural nation caught up in civil war, it’s easy to be scared because it’s all unknown. Is this water safe? Will we be attacked today? Will we have enough food to eat?
These questions and many more ran through my mind daily. But the biggest fear factor introduced itself when we started having kids and decided to raise them in the war zones of Burma and the Middle East where we serve.
After having our three wonderful kids, the fears that bothered me in our earliest days on the mission field came back full force. What if one of them gets injured and becomes deathly ill because we don’t have top tier medical care? What if they’re kidnapped? What if …?
I went so far as to make a “runaway pack” filled with emergency supplies in case we ever needed to flee the region unexpectedly. To say that fear for the lives of my kids was top of mind is an understatement.
A scary reality
Oddly enough, it was during one of my scariest times as a mom that I finally started letting go of the fear.
All of my children were under the age of 10. Many of the locals had fled our village, but we had decided to remain so we could be there for the few families that were staying. I tried my best to make everything feel stable and secure for the kids, but nothing ever felt settled.
I would hear nearby explosions and attacks as often as three times a week. Each time they happened, often while my kids were off playing, my first question was always, How quickly can I get to the kids?
Though the explosions were never within our village, we always knew that a surprise attack was a possibility. I was constantly on high alert.
I believed wholeheartedly in the purpose of the work we were doing and that being together as a family and raising my kids with abundant love, no matter where we were, was the best gift I could give them. But despite my best efforts to put on a brave face for my kids during the day, those worst-case-scenario thoughts would creep in and consume my mind while I lay in my sleeping bag at night.
What helped me let go of my fear as a mom
I can still recall one particular night when our situation was weighing on me heavily. If there was an attack tonight, there is no possible way I could manage all three kids and the pack. I wouldn’t even worry about the pack … just focus on staying with the three of them. But then, what about all the things we’d have to leave behind, things that would get stolen or burned?
Then came my real point of crisis: I wonder if the kids are afraid? What do they know of all this? The village kids go through this because they live here … this is their home, but we have come voluntarily. What am I subjecting my children to? How can I insulate them from fear and pain?
I wanted to wrap them in layers of plastic bubble wrap as a barrier from everything that could harm them.
At that moment, words of comfort came to me that I will never forget: “Do not deny your children the chance to call out to Me. Do not try and insulate them so much that they never need Me. After you have done all you can humanly do to protect them, step back, and let Me take over. Give Me a chance to work in their lives.”
I felt God was telling me this was just one of many situations when I would need to prayerfully hand my kids over to His care and loving provision. God was asking me to trust He was inviting my children to know Him as a genuine source of comfort and strength who would give them the tools they need for their lives ahead.
Learning to trust their Father
As mothers, we often view the unknown or unstable as a threat to our kids. When finances are tight, medical emergencies shake us, or sudden changes in a job or home upset the status-quo, our first thoughts are often fear-based.
Most of us live in the mindset that when something goes off plan, it means things are not as they should be and we have something to fix.
But what I’ve found through raising kids on a dangerous mission field is that our unknowns are known by God, and the very moments we think are scary are opportunities for growing our faith.
The truth is I can’t protect my kids from everything, no matter how hard I may try. And the more perilous our living situation became, the more I wished I could. It’s when I finally let go and decided to trust God to be their ultimate fortress and protector that my fear as a mom transformed into faithful thanks.
So, mamas, whatever it is you and your family are facing, I encourage you to let go of the fear and give it the One who knows your situation through and through.
Because there is no Being more qualified to take care of our kids than the One who made them.
Copyright © 2020 by Karen Eubank. Used with permission.
Karen Eubank runs the Good Life Club in Myanmar, where Karen and her husband, Dave, do their rescue-relief mission work. Free Burma Rangers, a documentary based on the mission work of the Eubank family, will show in select theaters across the country February 24 and 25.
To learn more about the film, follow it on Twitter.