Review: For the Joy

For the Joy feels like a warm Sunday afternoon in your favourite Aunt’s kitchen. Both comforting and brutally honest, For the Joy is a parenting book like no other. Instead of offering advice and strategies, this book offers friendship and sympathy. Consisting of twenty-one stories from Australian missionary mothers, For the Joy presents bite-sized pieces of insight, charm and humour. The stories are focussed on the challenges and joys of cross-cultural parenting. While this book is sure to be especially helpful to missionary families, it is also an excellent resource for anyone who desires to live for Jesus through both the unexpected and the mundane moments of life.

For the Joy is an ‘easy read’ in the best possible sense of the word. The conversational style and intimate tone make it an uplifting but not demanding page-turner. As the stories progress, a very honest picture of life on the mission field is painted. Within the first few paragraphs of Gabrielle’s chapter she simply writes, ‘I’m angry’. Similarly, Irene, a mother of two who served in Hong Kong shares her fears, ‘Lord, how can we raise our children here?’. Julie recounts the devastating trial of the death of her 18-month-old son Owen, while on the mission field in Asia. For the Joy is so clearly a book about real women and families, with real struggles. It is this tangible vulnerability which makes the book so powerful.

However, For the Joy is not just about the struggles of missionary and family life. There is also a deep sense of hope and purpose in all the stories told. From tales of a family living on a bus in Bolivia (this one involves a llama!) to heartwarming moments of hospitality and family discipleship, this book is encouraging from the first page until the last. For the Joy, though peppered with stories of cultural barriers, family struggles and loss, is coloured by the overarching joy its title suggests. The first person narratives allow readers to stand in the shoes of these mothers as they come to terms with their new lives and learn to trust God more through that process.

For the Joy is sure to be an encouragement and solace for mothers. One of the authors, Sally, writes, I saw my job as no different to what I would have done in Sydney had we never left: to support Tim in his demanding ministry roles, raise our children and be available to love and serve the people in our community. After my husband went off to work or was at home behind the closed office door, I too was at work. I may not have been dressed in a suit or uniform, but my ordinary clothes perfectly defined my job—one done by millions of people all over the world every minute of every day’.

The willingness of the various authors to share the highlights and lowlights of Christian parenthood makes it a wonderful witness to others in the same season of life. The mix of practical and spiritual challenges that these families are up against may be different to yours, but the solution proposed is the same: trust in Christ’s purposes for your good and His glory.

Perhaps the most valuable thing about this book, however, is its usefulness as a resource for people from all walks of life. In ‘Red’s Story’, the author says this,

I know from reading the scriptures that God’s plans are always unfathomable and hilarious. It’s His pattern to send ill-equipped, weak people way out of their depth so He can bless them and use them to bless others. Then the glory goes to Him’.

This is the pivotal message of the book. None of these mothers feel capable of living up to their calling. All of them feel overwhelmed and burdened. Yet, they fight to see God’s goodness and sovereignty in the midst of confusion and fear. This is a phenomenon familiar to every Christian – whether you are a missionary in a remote Chinese village or an office worker.

For the Joy would make a wonderful gift for a newly sent missionary family. It would also make a welcome gift for that mother in your Playgroup who is finding life a bit hard. Or that young woman at Church who loves a good adventure story. Buy it for yourself and reap the benefits of the wisdom and life experience shared in this book. For the Joy is an honest look at parenting on the mission field and an uplifting read which deserves a place on your bookshelf.

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