On any given weekend, Rachel and Joshua take their sons to the desert and visit archaeological ruins where the children can run around and dig in the sand – exploring a world of imagination that children back in the UK only find in museums and books.
It’s just one of the advantages enjoyed by the family, who have been serving in the Middle East for the past 10 years.
During the week, Joshua travels to the city language school to help mission workers learn Arabic, while Rachel takes care of their three boisterous boys, Jonathan, six, Sam, five and Tim, two.
“Although I often feel the pressure that I should be doing more outside the house, I also see that the busier I am, the quicker things fall apart in the home,” she admits. “I’ve learnt the hard way that children of all ages need a lot of attention and my primary role is to take care of my family.
“The most important thing for our boys is for us to walk closely and genuinely with the Lord and have daily habits of spending time with him as a family.
While raising a family halfway across the world can be daunting, Rachel and Joshua, who are sent by a church in Birmingham, say it is a privilege to help their sons follow God as they grow up in an Islamic community.
“As we teach the boys about Jesus, they often ask whether their friends and our neighbours love Jesus too. As a family, we then pray for them to know the Lord.
“Raising our family in a new culture gives great opportunities to talk to our children about the differences, particularly if the host culture is made up of different religions. Not fitting in is also a reminder that for all believers, our citizenship is in heaven and we are only passing through this life.”
Learning to speak Arabic is also a must for Rachel and the boys: “If the mother and children don’t learn the language, they will feel isolated from the father and his ministry. This makes it hard to immerse into the culture and stay long term.”
It has also helped them build relationships and to show God’ love by inviting schoolfriends and neighbours into the family home.
“Middle East culture is very people-centred and spontaneous,” Rachel explains. “Although sometimes this means you need to flexible with your plans, which can be hard if you enjoy routine as visitors can arrive at your door anytime, but it’s important to show you care by genuinely welcoming them, even if the timing is inconvenient!
“The Lord has challenged me to see that interruptions are divine appointments and feeling prepared is not as important as being ready to give your time to the person who’s come to spend time with you.
“Arabs love children and our landlady and her extended family who live in the building have become like family to us and we are grateful for the way they have adopted us.”
So what advice does Rachel give mission families thinking of serving overseas?
“When you live in another culture, you will always be a student: Ask questions, listen and learn. The longer you are there, the more you will realise what you don’t know. It’ easy to get discouraged and critical by the differences between your culture and the new one, so guard your heart and keep a close, personal walk with the Lord and ask hm to keep your heart soft, not hardened by trials, but moulded more to the likeness of his son.”
By Kerry Allan
- For the family’s close neighbours and others in their building to know the Lord.
- For wisdom as Rachel and Joshua decide on the next school for their son Jonathan.
- Give thanks for the provision of a new pastor to lead the family’s local church.