We hear a great deal about missionary men and their preparation for the mission field, but we often forget the part a woman plays in a man's missionary experience. I believe that hers is an important part, and that she, as well as her husband, should be given opportunity to prepare for service. When my- husbatid was under appointment to a mission field, one of the first things the Mission Board asked him was whether or not he was planning on getting married, and to whom. This is a clear indication of how important the missionary's companion is in his work.
In the mission field there are two kinds of wives —the missionary's wife and the missionary wife. I shall mention here some of the things that a wife can do to contribute to her husband's success or failure.
The missionary's wife has a hard time in the mission field. She does not learn the language of the people for whom her husband works; therefore she cannot love them, because she does- not know them. She cannot comprehend the reason for their strange customs and ways, and considers them uncouth and dishonest. The people feel that she mistrusts them; consequently they do not come to her home, nor are they friendly.
The missionary's wife sends her children to an expensive English school, to keep them from associating with the native children. Thus the children have missed a wonderful opportunity to learn to speak a foreign language as the natives speak it. These children often go back to the homeland and study this same language in school, under more unfavorable circumstances.
She pays exorbitant prices for foods shipped in from the homeland, in spite of the fact that the markets are full of good foods that are adapted to the needs of the climate in which she lives. Thus her family lacks some valuable elements not found on her table, and her husband's salary is not sufficient to pay the bills. They both become sick and discouraged, and soon begin to 'long for a permanent return.
Now let us think of the missionary wife. She finds so many interesting things to do all the time that before she knows it, the time has arrived for a furlough. She has been happy making a pleasant home for her husband and children, even though they live in a trying climate, under difficult circumstances. Her table is spread with delicious foods grown in the country, for she knows that not all health foods come from a tin can. Her furniture is often made from boxes dressed up in attractive ways.
The missionary wife must be willing to do almost any task. She may have to teach her own children if there is no church school near, or she may have to be the teacher Of the school herself. She nurses the sick and helps clothe the poor. She is often the general adviser for the youth and may even have to help arrange a marriage for a-timid boy with the girl of his choice. The Dorcas Society needs the missionary wife's counsel and help, as do also the progressive classes, in connection with Missionary Volunteer work. Since the native women like to learn to sew and cook under her guidance, she finds time to give a few classes in these arts.
The missionary's wife feels that the church services are for the native people only, and forgets that she needs the encouragement the services give just as much as she ever did. The mission field is a good place to dry up spiritually if one does not take an active part in the church. The natives believe that the missionaries have come from a good country where everybody is good; therefore it is expected that they should be an example of everything good. But if the missionary's wife does not attend services or take an interest in the activities of the church, the native members soon begin to feel that they do not need to attend either. The true missionary almost stands in the place of God before the people, and they are disappointed if his wife does not come up to the standard set for her.
I am truly glad we answered the call to the mission field twenty-seven years ago. We have had a full, interesting life. We get out of life just what we put into it. If we put into our mission life a heap of loving service for the people, we reap many sincere friends and much genuine satisfaction, in addition to souls won to Christ.
All our harder experiences came to us in the first years of our mission life, while we were still young. Now we are able to appreciate more fully a few modern conveniences in our home in Costa Rica. Some things that are so common to houses in the States seem luxuries to us. We are thankful for the way the people in the homeland have stood behind us all these years with their money and their prayers. We have no other desire but to continue our work in the foreign field until the harvest is finished.