Kirsten Strand used to live in DuPage County — a wealthy Chicago, Illinois suburb. But one day, while driving to a meeting, she embarked upon a poor community and was stirred to launch Community 4:12: a ministry that brings social justice and community development outreach to under-resourced neighborhoods.
“I was shocked that I was living so close to a community where the children had a reality completely different from my kids,” Kirsten says. “[As Christians], we have a responsibility to do something about the injustices we see.” After discussing it with her husband, Kirsten and her family made the radical move from their wealthy suburb to a lower-income neighborhood. “There is a difference between serving the poor and loving the poor,” she says. “I believe that God called my family to love the poor I have to live in their midst to do that.”
Halfway around the world, Jennifer Jukanovich lives with her husband, Dano, and their three young children in Rwanda. They relocated from the United States in 2009 to help alleviate poverty through job creation. But, as Jennifer explains, their role is not merely about trying to serve those who are socially vulnerable and marginalized. “Dano and I believe that being in Rwanda is a gift to our whole family. We’re not just there to help alleviate poverty. We are using our gifts in a place where we really can do some good with what God has given us,” she says.
Jennifer and Kirsten are examples of “missional moms” — women who embrace their unique callings as mothers and wives; while simultaneously striving to advance God’s Kingdom with their passion and gifts. In recent years, the word “missional” has become increasingly popular. It is commonly used to describe Christians who have an outreach-oriented perspective, rather than a self- centered life-mission. Missional moms recognize that missionaries aren’t the only ones who should be thinking about ways to spread the Gospel, love others, and make disciples of all nations. Instead, they understand that every Christian has a responsibility to be faithful to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8).
In the Bible, Micah 6:8 states: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” For mothers, the temptation to become self-absorbed or “children-absorbed” is great. But when women become intentional about incorporating missional values into their lives, everyone in the family starts to learn that “it’s not all about mom.” It’s all about God and His perfect will. In essence, the central lesson of walking humbly with God teaches that you are not, and should not be, the center of your universe.
For Kirsten and her family, the decision to move to a lower-income neighborhood was not made lightly. The entire family wrestled with the call for a number of years – trying to understand the implications of leaving a well-resourced community that routinely topped Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” survey. Chief among their concerns was how the move would affect their children. But Kirsten explains, “We decided that God knew we had children and would take care of them. We had to be able to lay down that cross and say, ‘Even if the worst happens, we know God has called us to this.’” Despite their concerns about their children’s safety and education, Kirsten and her husband listened intently to God’s call for their family. Consequently, they chose a path that some might view as foolish. Kirsten recounts hearing Dave Goetz, author of Death by Suburb, speak on this topic at a conference. “Dave said that the number one toxin in suburbia is that we live through our children. [Our children’s] success has become our measure of success. We have to be able to let go of that. Other qualities, such as compassion and a deeper connection to God, are more important.”
Missional moms recognize that missional living ultimately benefits the whole family.
Without a doubt, being a missional mom requires sacrifice. One’s time, resources, desires, and comforts are frequently forfeited. However, the benefits to the Kingdom of God and your family are substantial. Kirsten Strand’s boys, for example, have become instrumental in their family’s neighborhood ministry. “We started having kids over to play on Saturday afternoons, and one week the boys asked if a couple of friends could come to church with us,” Kirsten shares. “That has become a weekly event. We now have so many kids coming to church that we have to take two cars!”
Kathryn Johnson, another missional mom of three, has a family rule that once the kids are in junior high, they must volunteer in the community and at church. Kathryn says, “The reason we have this rule is that we really strive for our kids to be ‘givers’ ... knowing that it’s in our nature to be self- focused. At that tough middle school age, when the world screams that your life should be all about you, we teach our kids that isn’t biblical.”
Like Jennifer, Kirsten, and Kathryn, women around the world are demonstrating that everyday mothers can advance the Kingdom of God. Not all moms have the freedom and flexibility to move to another town, but all moms can do something – right where they are. With a loving heart and obedient spirit, you can also be a missional mom who is impacting the world – and your family – for Christ.