January 15, 2016

A family says yes

Written by  Karen Baker
Lydia Baker washes sheets to prepare for guests' arrival. Lydia Baker washes sheets to prepare for guests' arrival. Photo provided by Karen Baker.

This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

We are obedient to God no matter what He asks or where He takes us. That’s how we ended up serving in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. That’s how we ended up living in a village with no running water, a community well in our yard, no refrigerator or electricity, and with solar power. I have never considered our family to be risk-takers.

We never could have imagined what serving in Guinea-Bissau would mean for our family. In preparing to go, we heard great things about how much freedom our children would have living in a village and how great it is for children to know a second language. We also thought it would be good for them to be able to see how other children live in the world. We didn’t truly understand what it would mean to live in a village with our children. We now know that it means children in our yard from sunup to sundown each and every day. It means that our children are now exposed to what life is like for much of the world. Our children now play with children who know how to play only two ways: soccer or fighting.

A gathering place

On top of having children in our yard all day, we also have a community well. That means people come for water all throughout the day and that we have dirty water. This is the water we use for everything. There are days when our water is clear, but most days the water is cloudy at best. We never imagined we would have to worry about clean water for our children. We also see the power of prayer, as we have prayed for clean water, and God always gives it.

In training we heard about trials from other missionaries and battles of illnesses with their children, but for some reason, we thought it’d be different for us. We are serving in a village with a local nurse. The healthcare system in the rest of the country is very poor.

One of the hardest trials was when our daughter Lydia became seriously ill. We had little medicine, no good hospital, no car to take us quickly to a hospital, and our daughter was only getting sicker. Our local nurse had told us this was beyond his knowledge. All we had was prayer, but with each day she seemed to get worse. This was a risk I never wanted to take, having a very sick child with little to no healthcare system. With prayer and guidance from friends, we decided to take Lydia to a Senegalese hospital. God provided quick transportation, friends for translation and childcare, and the perfect doctors at the hospital.

We now know a bit of the suffering of the people we serve. We understand what it is like to be worried about your child and not have good medical care. We understand being in a hospital room and seeing another child suffer while your child lays in a bed right next to him or her. In every risk we had to take, God provided a way through it.

Called to love

Michael recently did a sermon series on marriage and family. He taught about disciplining children, teaching children about God, and loving one another. He left time for questions and answers. One response stood out: a believer told us that if they taught their children this way, they would be bullied by their peers. Many heads in the congregation were nodding in agreement.

But our answer was Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Our children face bullying daily. We never wanted our children to experience persecution at a young age, but God has given them a deep reliance on Him and what they need to get through the persecution. Throughout it all, they have been able to teach many other children about the love of Christ.

Many adults have asked us why our children are so different and how they can make their children like ours. We have been able to share the hope we have in Christ. We notice a difference in children who play with our children daily because they didn’t hide in the face of persecution but continued to love through it all. They play differently, deal with conflict differently, and speak differently.

Going into the mission field is a risk, but it is a risk worth taking. You never know how God will change you and your family until you take the risk of saying yes. We do not regret a single step of our obedience.

Jada told me the other day that she is really glad our family came to Guinea-Bissau because in America she didn’t really “need God, but living here I need God every single day.” The faith of our children is deeper now because of what they have gone through. Saying yes to serving God in a foreign country is saying yes to being changed by God.

Karen and Michael Baker and their five children, Lydia, Jada, Josiah, Isaiah, and Micah, serve in Guinea-Bissau.

This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.