Brian and Kelly McPhail's daughter, Elsie, poses for the camera in baby photo shoot in China. Illustration by David Fast.
By Kelsey Hochstetler
Sunday, January 17, 2016

Raising a child comes with a steep learning curve. How do you turn a screaming baby into a sleeping angel? Or make a little one giggle? How do you feed a child, cook supper, and double check your grandma’s recipe while chatting on the phone—with one hand. Then there’s that whole imitation phase. No one said it’s easy. But you learn a lot.

 

 

Last year, five mission worker couples dove into parenthood. (And we're thrilled for two more little ones on the way!) They not only learned to parent, but to do so in another culture. Here are five things that they (and some veteran mission workers) have learned in the process:

1. It takes a village to raise a child. The African proverb still rings true—wherever you are. For Lynda Hollinger-Janzen, who served with her husband, Rod, in Benin, this meant that once their children were walking, they joined a group of neighbor kids, playing together and eating at each other’s houses. “The older ones responsibly looked after the younger ones,” she said. “When it was bedtime, I would go through the neighborhood asking where my kids were. ‘They ate fish and cornmeal here and then they went that way,’ neighbors would tell me. Eventually, I would find them.”

2. It’s OK to give up control. Peter and Delicia Wigginton-Bravo have lived in various cultures, but raising their daughter, Aliyah, while they serve in Quito, Ecuador, has brought its own set of challenges. “We think twice about everything,” Peter said, mentioning security, food, water, and travel.

Lynda and Rod learned quickly that they couldn’t control their children’s environment. As their children ran about, they didn’t always wash their hands before they ate. “Worm cures were routine about every three months,” she said.

3. “Even good healthcare for a childbirth abroad can be scary because it's done differently,” said Nate and Taryn Dirks, who serve in Gaborone, Botswana. Their son, Malakai, was born in May.

4. There’s more than one way to raise a child. “Third culture kids (children who are raised abroad) learn early on that there are many good ways of living and doing things, that there is not a single story,” said Lynda.

While serving in Benin, Lynda learned to carry her babies on her back. As her children heard her heartbeat and swayed with her movements, “it usually soothed colic and rocked the baby to sleep,” she said. Bonus? Better posture for tired mamas.

5. Having a baby abroad opens up opportunities for relationships. “Initially, we thought that having a baby would hinder our time with students and other people,” said Kelly McPhail, who with her husband, Brian, serves in Bejing, China. “But in many ways it has opened up many new opportunities, and people are often coming over to hang out at our house.”

A week after Brian and Kelly McPhail’s daughter, Elsie, was born in May, friends from their Fengtai Church community stayed with Kelly for a day when Brian returned to work. “They arrived in the morning with an armful of fresh fruit and vegetables and stayed until the late afternoon, preparing both lunch and dinner,” but the best part was that they watched the little one so that Kelly could sleep. “It was a very generous demonstration of their love and care for us, and we are so grateful to be a part of the Fengtai Church community,” Kelly said.

As it turns out, raising children abroad does bring its own unique challenges. But maybe parents around the globe have more in common than we think. After we look past the differences in how we raise children, aren’t we all hoping that our children turn out to be productive members of society? As I look into my own 7-month-old, I pray that someday at the very least, she will learn to look past her own differences and play nicely with others.


​Peter and Delicia Wigginton Bravo's daughter, Aliyah, enjoys the beach.


 


​Mma Bulayani Mosweswe, the wife of a local pastor, watches Nathan and Taryn Dirks, son, Malakai.


 Related

 

 

Friends become familia at God’s tableHispanic-Mennonite Heritagehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4769/Friends-become-familia-at-God’s-tableFriends become familia at God’s tableGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
El camino hacia la paz no es fácil, pero sí es necesariohistorias de pacificaciónhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4757/El-camino-hacia-la-paz-no-es-fácil-pero-sí-es-necesarioEl camino hacia la paz no es fácil, pero sí es necesarioGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Barranquilla
The path to peace is not easy, but necessaryStories of peacebuildinghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4756/The-path-to-peace-is-not-easy-but-necessaryThe path to peace is not easy, but necessaryGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Barranquilla
Our strength comes from GodCaleb Gunawanhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4759/Our-strength-comes-from-GodOur strength comes from GodGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
A furry, four-legged test of patience radiates unconditional loveInternational Dog Dayhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4752/A-furry-four-legged-test-of-patience-radiates-unconditional-loveA furry, four-legged test of patience radiates unconditional loveGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Monthly food packages provide a chance to meet Jesus at the wellColombiahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4748/Monthly-food-packages-provide-a-chance-to-meet-Jesus-at-the-wellMonthly food packages provide a chance to meet Jesus at the wellGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Bogotá
Lessons I’ve learned from my catsInternational Cat Dayhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4738/Lessons-Ive-learned-from-my-catsLessons I’ve learned from my catsGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Tension is essential for lifeSermonhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4730/Tension-is-essential-for-lifeTension is essential for lifeGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Bammental
'Women and Peace' project creates sacred space for peacebuilders of faithColombiahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4720/Women-and-Peace-project-creates-sacred-space-for-peacebuilders-of-faith'Women and Peace' project creates sacred space for peacebuilders of faithGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
God is in the City!Outreachhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4719/God-is-in-the-CityGod is in the City!GP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Juneteenth acknowledges freedom delayedJuneteenthhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4716/Juneteenth-acknowledges-freedom-delayedJuneteenth acknowledges freedom delayedGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
I bike for world peace, personal shalom — and because I love bikingBikinghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4712/I-bike-for-world-peace-personal-shalom-and-because-I-love-bikingI bike for world peace, personal shalom — and because I love bikingGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Reflections on the Sent ConferenceSent Conferencehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4709/Reflections-on-the-Sent-ConferenceReflections on the Sent ConferenceGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
God laughsWorld Laughter Dayhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4696/God-laughsGod laughsGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Like Jesus, 'Juan' Driver encouraged women in ministryRemembering John Driverhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4685/Like-Jesus-Juan-Driver-encouraged-women-in-ministry-Like Jesus, 'Juan' Driver encouraged women in ministryGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476

 

 

Kelsey Hochstetler works in the communication department at Mennonite Mission Network, lives in Sugarcreek, Ohio with her husband, Jeff, and 7-month-old daughter, Mariella.

 

 

Friends become familia at God’s tablehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4769/Friends-become-familia-at-God’s-tableFriends become familia at God’s table
El camino hacia la paz no es fácil, pero sí es necesariohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4757/El-camino-hacia-la-paz-no-es-fácil-pero-sí-es-necesarioEl camino hacia la paz no es fácil, pero sí es necesario
The path to peace is not easy, but necessaryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4756/The-path-to-peace-is-not-easy-but-necessaryThe path to peace is not easy, but necessary
Our strength comes from Godhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4759/Our-strength-comes-from-GodOur strength comes from God
A furry, four-legged test of patience radiates unconditional lovehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4752/A-furry-four-legged-test-of-patience-radiates-unconditional-loveA furry, four-legged test of patience radiates unconditional love
Monthly food packages provide a chance to meet Jesus at the wellhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4748/Monthly-food-packages-provide-a-chance-to-meet-Jesus-at-the-wellMonthly food packages provide a chance to meet Jesus at the well



 

 

Mennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 yearshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4765/Mennonite-Mission-Network-celebrates-20-yearsMennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 years20th Anniversary
Video series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4782/Video-series-teaches-ways-to-Stir-Up-PeaceVideo series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“Webinar
MVS Minute #11: The secret ingredient?https://www.mennonitemission.net/video/4768/MVS-Minute-11-The-secret-ingredientMVS Minute #11: The secret ingredient?MVS Minute
Friends become familia at God’s tablehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4769/Friends-become-familia-at-God’s-tableFriends become familia at God’s tableHispanic-Mennonite Heritage
Football league fundraiser is no fantasyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4777/Football-league-fundraiser-is-no-fantasyFootball league fundraiser is no fantasyExtra-Ordinary Giving
MVS Minute #06: What does MVS smell like?https://www.mennonitemission.net/video/4774/MVS-Minute-06-What-does-MVS-smell-likeMVS Minute #06: What does MVS smell like?MVS Minute