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Eliza Ferguson*

Missionary to Central Eurasia

WIM: What is your position and general job description? How long have you served in this position?

Ferguson: My husband and I are missionaries with the Assemblies of God. We were appointed in 2004. My job description depends where we happen to be at any given moment. When we are itinerating, I keep our household running while my husband travels and preaches.

Overseas we work with university students. However, our first few years in a new country are focused on language learning and building relationships so we can start to understand the culture. This allows us, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to adapt our ministry to the context in which we live.

WIM: What steps/preparation led you to this position?

Ferguson: God called me to be a missionary when I was a young girl, and He has prepared me in many ways over the years. He helped me to develop a strong relationship with Him and guided me in my education and marriage. I also have a master's degree in intercultural studies which has been invaluable.

WIM: Is this role a vocation, a "calling" for you? If so, how did you live that out?

Ferguson: Yes, being a missionary focused on unreached people groups is absolutely a calling. When I was in grade school I began giving to missions. Since then, I have been willing to go wherever God is calling us to, in addition to continuing to give financially to cross-cultural ministry.

WIM: What are the joys of this role?

Ferguson: For me, nothing approaches the joy of being in the will of God. Besides this fundamental joy, I have had the privilege of meeting and becoming close friends with women from all over world. I find it especially a blessing to worship Jesus with sisters and brothers from Central Eurasia. And it is hard to top the thrill of seeing new believers follow Jesus in baptism.

WIM: What are the challenges of this role?

Ferguson: Where to start? Besides living and working in a culture with much spiritual darkness, we have had challenging living conditions. In our first 2 years we were without Internet and our electricity was unreliable. Our home was broken into, we were routinely stopped by traffic police for spurious fines, and our gas meter reader attempted to extort money from us. However, we keep it in perspective. These things pale in comparison to Paul's sufferings for Christ. We've never been imprisoned, or beaten, or shipwrecked, or hungry for the sake of the gospel.

WIM: What have been significant blessings about raising children on the mission field?

Ferguson: I am thankful that our children have a global perspective on life. They can empathize with people from different cultures. They know that God has a heart for all the people of the world. For our family, living outside the American culture of consumption is a blessing.

WIM: What have been some challenges with raising your children on the mission field, and how have you dealt with these challenges?

Ferguson: It is heartbreaking to ask our children to make multiple transitions. They must leave friends and family and make new friends and attend different schools, and just when they are connecting, they come back "home" and find that everyone they knew has moved on. I am sad that they don't have a sense of a hometown or belonging in the way that my husband and I do.

I try to help them stay connected with a few special friends in America, so that they have a little continuity as we move back and forth. I make time to listen when they are having hard days. I pray for them, specifically for good friends in each place we land.

WIM: What has been your perspective about being a mother and missionary on the mission field? How do you balance your home life and ministry outside of the home?

Ferguson: When I was in graduate school, I was blessed to have a class on women in ministry. I took to heart the concept of a woman's life having of a variety of seasons. I am called to be a wife, a mother, and a missionary. However, during the season when I had several young children at home, I had to let go of my internal drive to achieve in ministry. I spent much more time at home, and when I did participate in ministry events, our children came along with us. Now as our children have grown and become more independent, I have been able to go back to school and participate in a more hands-on ministry again. I am thankful I have had flexibility to make the best choices for our family in this way.

WIM: What would you tell another woman aspiring to work in this field in terms of preparation, needed skill set, etc.?

Ferguson: First, to everyone considering full-time ministry, I would advise them that our ministry must flow out of our relationship to God. Doing flows out of being. If we are so busy that we have a hard time squeezing out 15 minutes for God, it will be challenging to be productive in ministry over the long term. Develop your relationship with Jesus and discover the patterns and disciplines that work well for you to maintain this primary relationship.

To those interested in cross-cultural ministry, I would strongly recommend taking courses in intercultural communication and contextualization of theology. It is not enough to take what has worked in an American context and plop it down in a new culture. Relationships have different patterns in different cultures, so take time and understand the new culture, as well as your tendencies and cultural views as an American.

For women heading into missions work, I would say that you need a strong sense of calling. For married women, your calling should be more than just that of supporting your husband in ministry. You need a deeper calling to live and minister in a cross-cultural environment. This ministry may be one of hospitality or primarily of ministry to your family, or it may be teaching theology or church planting, but knowing that God has placed you in your country of work will help sustain you in the difficult times.

For single women, I would say that I admire and honor you for your decision to forsake all and follow God's calling on your life. Be careful with your heart, and beware of entering a romantic relationship with a man who loves Jesus but doesn't share your calling. If God has not released you from your calling, you may regret marrying a nonmissionary. I meet women in churches regularly who wistfully tell me their stories of calling and then settling down in America with their husbands.

I would remind both single and married women the need to look out for one another. Families need to invite singles over for game nights and shared meals. Singles need to remember that missionary kids love their "aunties" and are thrilled when an adult takes an interest in their lives.