Becky Schuster is our first interviewee. She and her husband, Jonathan, are missionaries in Ireland. So Becky is a missionary wife and mother.
Interview with Becky Schuster… Q. Becky, did you grow up as a missionary kid? A. Yes I did. I grew up in Spain.
Q. Were you born in Spain? How long did you live there? A. Yes. Born in Barcelona. I moved to the U.S. on my own when I was 16 for my senior year of high school.
Q. Did you enjoy growing up on the mission field? A. I loved it. We were right by the Mediterranean and got to go to an English speaking British school.
Q. What did your parents do there? A. They started the Spanish Bible Institute.
Q. Are they still there? A. They are still in Spain working.
Q. How did growing up on the mission field shape your life? A. I was comfortable in places outside the U.S. and related well to people from different cultures.
Q. What was it like visiting America and visiting different churches as a child? A. There was definitely a Christian culture in the U.S. that was different from the American culture. It was very obvious how materialistic the U.S. was and how little they realized what they had already and how many believers were really there. They were so used to it that they didn’t value what they had, both materialistically and even the churches.
Q. What was the hardest thing you faced as a missionary kid? A. Not belonging to either culture. It’s the normal thing for third culture kids not belonging in Spain but not really feeling comfortable in the U.S. either, being caught between.
Q. When did you know that you wanted to be a missionary when you grew up? A. I always loved missions and even when I went to college I was very interested in missions. I loved missions, but it wasn’t until I met my husband, and he wanted to go into missions that I really felt that the Lord was actually calling me because my parents were eager that I should not go into missions just because I wasn’t comfortable in the U.S. yet. Which I was, but it takes a long time to actually feel American because there’s always things that come up that you’re not familiar with. So I always loved missions growing up. Always did.
Q. When you met Jon and knew you wanted to be a missionary did you have a particular mission field that you felt drawn to? A. Yes, Europe. Definitely Europe. It’s advanced. You don’t have the inconveniences of some third world countries, but the spiritual need is extremely high, more so than on most continents and in most sections. Even places that are third world countries have more believers than Europe does. But people don’t normally think of that. So the need was definitely there, and I was already used to Europe.
Q. So when you went to college you didn’t go specifically to pursue being a missionary? A. No, I didn’t because I wasn’t sure if it was just something that I really wanted or whether God was truly calling me to do that. I mean, I was comfortable in missions but being comfortable in it doesn’t mean that’s what God is calling you to do. So I was trying to pursue majors that I could do whether I stayed in the U.S. or whether I went into missions, such as nursing. Not that you would use nursing in Europe but I didn’t know if I was going to go as a single missionary or where I was going to end up. I didn’t even know if it was Europe until I met my husband.
Q. What did you study then? A. I studied nursing. I did the first year where you would have to do a lot of science to go into nursing. I considered education like a primary school teacher. But then I met my husband my first semester of my sophomore year, and I pursued Bible.
Q. So you met your husband in college? A. Yes.
Q. When did he have the desire to be a missionary? Was it when you met him or before? A. No, it was the summer before he met me. He’d always grown up meeting a lot of missionaries… his parents were very missions minded. But it was after his sophomore year of college, that summer, that he felt called to missions and that autumn he met me.
Q. When and where have you served as missionaries? A. We first served in Spain for four years. Then God redirected us to Ireland, and we’ve been here for twelve.
Q. Why Ireland? A. Ireland has a very small number of Christians, I think it’s less than 1%. But of all English speaking countries it has less believers per capita than anywhere else in the world. But it follows the same statistics as the rest of Europe….very, very low number of Christians. So the need is there.
Q. What do you do as a missionary in Ireland; what are your roles and what are your husband’s roles? A. The first thing that attracted us to Ireland was the Irish Bible Institute was in need of some teachers, and Jonathan is a gifted teacher. Jonathan interviewed with them, and they asked him to come on as their Old Testament teacher. He has some other responsibilities there but that is his main one. I’ve been involved in children’s clubs and starting women’s Bible studies. So that has been my major emphasis.
Q. What is your favorite thing about Ireland? A. Being by the water. I guess growing up along the coast in Spain I’m used to having the sea next to me, and we live very close to the sea here. I see the sea the whole way driving the kids to school. So it feels like home in that respect.
Q. What advice do you have for any missionary kids that might be reading our blog? A. Hang in there. There are other kids that feel the same way and God will use the differences that you have to help you grow and prepare you for what He has planned for you.
Q. What types of positions are there on the mission field for girls that may be considering being a missionary? A. Well Europe would be quite different from other places in the world. Obviously third world countries or places that don’t have great schooling have lots of other needs such as medical missions or helping in an MK (missionary kid) school or things like that. In Europe specifically, there’s starting to be a lot more of business as mission where you go as a tentmaker but that really does make it difficult for you to have a lot of free time to do ministry just like if you were working full time in the states other than the people at your work. That fills up most of your time. You don’t have a lot of energy left over for doing a whole lot more ministry. But there’s a lot of opportunities depending on what God has gifted you in whether it be evangelism or discipleship or starting Bible studies or mentoring people. The churches are weak over here. They’re small. A lot of pastors haven’t been trained, and a lot of people are young Christians. Even adults and then they don’t know how to teach their children; they’ve never sat through a Sunday School. So there’s all sorts of needs. And that should be more led by what is your gift and what is God calling you to do.
Q. What advice do you have for girls that feel called to be a missionary? A. Pray about it constantly. Ask other people what their opinion is. Have them praying for you. Maybe do some short term trips if you don’t know really where you’re going. God leads you. He’ll open the door. He’ll show you where He wants you to be.
Q. How would you suggest they prepare for the mission field? A. Obviously it’s good to have some Bible courses. That’s always helpful. Maybe find other missionaries that can help mentor you even in your Christian life. But it’s very important to keep in mind that wherever they go on the mission field, more so than where you go, you need to know who you will be working with and if that’s someone you can work with; almost like a job because not all believers can work well together, and you need to know who’s going to be your supervisor. Those are the kinds of things you really need to look into more than the policies of a mission agency. You need to know who’s your field leader and what are you going to be doing there and who you’re going to be working with.
Q. What is the hardest thing you have had to face on the mission field as an adult? A. Dealing with other Christians. Because I think you already expect Satan’s attack from the world but sometimes we were blindsided seeing his attacks coming from within the church. So that’s usually the hardest ones to tackle.
Q. What is it like being a missionary in such a beautiful place? A. Cold!! You know what, it is beautiful, and we have a huge advantage of being in an English speaking country when there’s a lot of aspects of missions that we do not face. A huge hurdle. Language is the number one hurdle in missions, and we don’t have to face that in Ireland. You learn to find the things you love about it here. It’s cold and windy so I’ve invested in lots of scarves. I find a blessed opportunity to enjoy it anyway. So you adapt, and everyone’s going to have issues, but if you can pray that God’s going to give you a love for the country, you’ll love it. There’s beauty everywhere. And Ireland has beautiful people with lots of different accents especially within Ireland and then just people that have moved here.
Q. Do you have any children? A. Yes, we have three boys. One’s in college, one’s going to be a senior in high school and one’s going into 8th grade.
Q. So what’s it like being a missionary mom? A. You meet a lot more people being a missionary mom than any other way just through the school and contacts with the kids so I would say that’s a huge plus more so than a single man trying to make in-roads. It’s far easier for a woman especially if you’re church planting or something like that.
Q. Do you see any difficulties your boys face as missionary kids that you didn’t face when you were a child? A. No. They have the same ones with very few Christian friends. I have an advantage being a missionary mom having been an MK because I know what they’re going through and I anticipate it before they get there. And I’ve been there so I totally understand. Like them having stew for the first time when they were 12 visiting their grandmother, and she was shocked that they’ve never had stew. There’s just dishes and things that seem so normal to most Americans growing up in the states they don’t understand why their kids wouldn’t understand that, but there’s issues of two cultures and not totally fitting in and not having a lot of Christian friends here, people their age. So I faced a lot of the same things.
Q. What is your favorite part of being a missionary? A. It’s a privilege to be in ministry. It’s a privilege to be called to do that full time. And to have so many people praying for you and backing you up and encouraging you. It’s not easy but it’s an honor to be able to spend full time doing that. It’s a dream job. Like Jonathan said it’s a dream job. He has so many friends that would love to be able to do what he is doing. It comes with it’s difficulties and challenges but God blesses you far more. Sometimes you have to wait for it but He provides beyond your expectations.
Q. So what is your favorite Bible verse or passage? A. Lately I’ve just really enjoyed Isaiah 40. Is it Isaiah 40 that ends with you will soar on wings with eagles? But before that there’s verses about God’s strength and his power and his gentleness and carrying you like a lamb. I think it’s in the same chapter. So I really like that passage about he’s really strong and he’s very, very gentle with us. You don’t usually think of those together. But I love that whole passage there.
Q. Is there anything else you want to share with our readers? A. When you meet missionaries, and this would also go for pastoral staff, their kids are just kids like any other kids. They get in trouble, they’re not perfect, they’re not saints. They need to be allowed to just be kids. Don’t put them on a pedestal and have them talk to the class about their experiences. They’re just being kids. Their life is normal for them. So let them be kids and don’t hold expectations that they should have better manners or better anything. They’re still normal children. They like the same things that other kids do. They still face maybe more challenges and maybe in some ways they’re more grown up because they’ve learned some things. But they’re still children, it’s going to take time for them to get there. Cut them some slack. Unfortunately, most MK’s, whether you like it or not, feel like their parents’ ministry is based on their behavior when they visit a church. Like it or not, that’s what happens. And while the passage is there that elders need to have a hold on their kids, it’s also true how would your kids behave if they were traveling all summer and visiting strangers and having to be on their best behavior all the time and not be able to go home for months on end? So I would just advise them to go above and beyond encouraging them and treating them well without expecting things in return. Besides, if the kids are doing well, the parents will do well. If your kids are hurting, it’s very hard to focus all your energies on ministry. You’re not freed up to do ministry if your children need you more. I think that there needs to be a greater focus not because someone’s deserving, but there needs to be a greater focus on praying for the children because then the parents will be able to do well.