A Time To Be A Mother?

12th August 2013 - by Gertrudes Samson

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The Bible says: “For everything there is appointed season for everything there is a time under heaven”. When I was a child I told my mother, “Mum, when I grow up I would like to have many children, a big family like what you and father have”.

Both of my parents came from big families. In my mother’s family they are eight children, and in my father’s family they had ten. Of course, my mother just smiled at me and said, “Why do you say so?” I said, “Because it seems like having a big family is happier!” I had lots of uncles and aunties who gave me presents during Christmas, and most of all lots of cousins to play with whenever we had reunions and family gatherings. I loved being with all of them.

My mother said “Yes, you are right, having a big family is happier, but together with big families come big responsibilities too – of raising the children and big expenses also for their education in order to give them a better future. Do you not notice? I only have four of you as children, but it feels like I already have a hundred”. Then we just had a good laugh for we knew that me and my siblings were all very playful most of the time, and we were always turning our house into mess… Then time passed by…I grew up…many things happened in between…then later I became a lay missionary…Then that longing to have a big family slipped my mind. Being at my advanced age now, I am even thinking that if God would still give me the chance to get married, I would consider it a very big miracle and a very big blessing if He would give me one or two children. I am beginning to think that I would not experience the opportunity to have many children anymore.

But God is also full of surprises too… When I became a lay missionary and was assigned in Birmingham, England. God brought me to Lady Pool Congregation Church (or Lady Pool as we call it) and called me to help in their Crèche. It became my main ministry at that place, though I also helped in teaching English every once in a while whenever there was shortage of English class teachers. In the Crèche I helped watch over around 6-12 children at their toddler age, the youngest at that time was 9 months and the eldest was around three years old. At Lady Pool, I was the only single volunteer there. My co-volunteers were already married and most of them already had children, so I learned a lot from my co-volunteers on how to handle children. It became a great opportunity also for a single lady like me to experience a glimpse on how to be a mother of many children. Since majority of my co-volunteers are missionary Christians, it was great opportunity for us also to talk about faith, pray together, and find ways to show the love of God to people of other faiths, because most of our students were not Christians and we have co-volunteers also who are Muslims.

Every Thursday Lady Pool holds English Classes for migrant women, and most of them are from Yemen, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The Crèche was set up side by side with the classes to help the students concentrate on their lessons because most of them are mothers and have no choice but to bring their children with them for no one could watch over them at home. Most of those women have very limited English when they came to England to marry or to be with their husbands. Some even need to start learning with the basics of reading and writing the English alphabet and some simple English terms. This is because in their countries giving women an education is not a priority. Because of their situation, we could imagine how difficult it is for people like them to have limited English in the midst of a Birmingham population where English is the main means of communication in a multi-lingual community. So what we are trying to do at Lady Pool is to help them learn the basics of English language, so they can communicate better and adapt faster and easier to their new environment in England which is now their new home.

At the Crèche, though it is very challenging, I really I enjoy being with their children too, even if I cannot understand their languages for they speak Arabic words or Urdu or Punjabi. We always set up their play area and put some toys so they could play with one another and with us too as we watch over them. It is a great opportunity for me to be a child again also. The ministry may sounds easy, but not for a single lady like me at the beginning, who does not have experience with toddler children at all. All I have is a willing heart to be with them and journey with them because of my faith in God. As I mentioned, the youngest at the Crèche when I started was 9 months at that time. He was so little the other children could easily push him over. So I always kept an eye on him. There were many times that I had to carry him and other small children in my arms. They were not yet strong enough to climb on the slides and rocking boat, or sometimes I needed to separate them immediately when they looked as though they might hurt each other. So at the end of the day, my back usually ached, especially when winter came. There were even times that I could not sleep at night due to back aches.

That experience made me realise many things. I suddenly remembered what my mother said, that together with having a big family and having many children comes big responsibility too. The experience made me realise more also the value and importance of the mission of our parents in our lives, especially our mothers. It is really true, we are who we are now, we are here because of them, and because they did their mission at their best too. Honestly speaking, I salute the parents for their dedication in raising their children well, not to mention that the mothers even risked their lives whenever they gave birth to each of them. I am sure that our parents back aches more than me and probably their hearts too at times that their children get hurt or sick, or get into trouble. Therefore being a parent or a mother is not an easy role in life. It is indeed a serious mission full of challenges!…It was only when two of those children started to call me “Ammaaa” and “Baapu” that I realised that I served as their substitute mother or parent whenever I am with them. My co-volunteer smiled at me and said, “Those words means Mother and Father” in their language. So I realised at those moments that I am now a mother and a father too. It made me smile and it put joy in my heart knowing that in their eyes I began to be a mother or a father also.

Being with those children reminds me also to reflect on the important values my parents and God himself would like to instil in me as I grow: the value of friendship and forgiveness, living each moment at a time, not worrying about tomorrow, etc. Children do fight sometimes, over toys or for a place in the play area, etc, so we always remind them to make peace and make friends with each other, and to learn how to share things with one another. Hopefully they will learn and remember that as they grow. What is very nice about children as I have observed is that they are very forgiving. Though they fight, a few minutes later they are friends again, laughing again together, and playing again as if nothing happened.

I love watching them as they play too. They play with all their might up to the last minute. They live each moment and do not seem to worry what is going to happen next. They entrust everything to their parents or whoever is watching over them to take care of everything for them. I realise maybe that this is the way God wants us to live our lives as well. He wants us to entrust everything to Him that he can take care of everything, and we are not to worry. Perhaps if most of us would keep our childlike attitudes, maybe we would become more friendly and willing to share, more forgiving, more joyful and enjoying each moment of our lives, and not worrying so much about the future.

Towards the latter part of my term at my Lady Pool ministry, my back does not ache as much as it did before. Maybe because the small ones have grown and there is no need for me to carry them in my arms, or maybe also because I have learned some techniques from my co-volunteers who have more experience in handling children. I am thankful to God for journeying with me too. Through them I learned that I do not have to carry the children all the time. I could also hold their hand and guide them instead when they want to climb the slide or rocking boat. Sometimes I just have to encourage them to walk on their own too, with matching encouraging words like “you can do it baby” plus some claps and a smile to affirm them so they could do it too. Then at times that I still need to carry the children, I learned from my co-volunteers too that I could carry them instead at my hip side instead of holding them in my arms so it would not hurt my back, and many more learning tips on how to handle children.

The experience reminded me most of all how God journeys with me in life. Sometimes I could feel Him carrying me. Sometimes I could feel He is just guiding me. Sometimes I could feel I am walking on my own too. Sometimes He also likes me to exercise my knees and legs on my own in my walk of faith so I will be stronger and be able to help others too in their journey in life, only to realise later that he is still there just beside or behind me ready to catch me or pick me up when I fall. I am very thankful to God for all those learning experiences at my Lady Pool ministry. Those children serve as a reminder to me to pray to God to give me the grace to be childlike always and have a childlike trust in God at all times.

Now going back to the title of my sharing, “Is this my time to be a mother?”
Or not just as a mother but also as a father? (as one of the children called me “Baapu”.) Maybe yes…but perhaps just a glimpse of it…
But most of all, it is my time to feel like a child again and to remember how to be childlike again too. And I think that is the most important aspect, for as Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God”.