My husband and I are missionaries in Mazatlán, Mexico. Last week, our oldest son, Ethan, started first grade at the public school in the low-income neighborhood where we live. It’s been a rough transition. He loved kindergarten and his sweet Maestra Alma. But Alma teaches in another building, and the elementary kids look huge.


Four out of five days last week,

Ethan sobbed when I dropped him off.

Two days, I had to drag him through the doors. After crying and pleading Sunday night, Monday morning, I agreed to sit just outside his classroom door for a while to see if that helped.  It didn’t. I spent two hours at school. Ethan cried every time he looked at me. When I tried to leave, he rushed to pack his book bag and refused to let go of me crying, “I want to go home with you!”


I left anyway. I walked out, without looking back,

knowing that tears were still spilling down his face.


This incident influenced my whole day. As pastors, our weekends are full. We usually rest on Monday. Instead of feeling rested, I felt stressed and worried.


I prayed. I reminded myself that Ethan knows and adores plenty of kids in school. I considered the alternative—full-time homeschooling. Ethan’s school day only runs from 8:00am -12:30pm, so I already homeschool part-time. But with two younger boys at home, I’m not sure I’m up to the full-time challenge. At home I fretted and sulked.


A couple hours later, I stood in the boiling sun with a crowd of other moms anxiously waiting. Ethan ran out laughing and happy, just as he had after school every day last week. Walking down the dirt street back to our house, he jabbered about funny things his friends had said and done.


He had already forgotten how he felt earlier that morning. I still felt frustrated and resentful.

He took my emotions on a wild, painful ride, and then forgot!

When I pointed this out, he quickly apologized, throwing his sweaty arms around me in a bear hug. Now it’s my turn to forget, forgive, and let go.

0133430e0f3d1b9e50f5d6d1bf35da0403f8ca5cc4Ellen Benefield writes about missionary life and parenting at She and her husband, Kyle, planted a church in a low-income community called Doña Chonita seven years ago. They have three children, all born in Mazatlán.

In Her Own Words: 

My husband Kyle grew up planning to be a doctor. He met Jesus late in high school. Our first year in college, we went to a church planting conference. He very clearly heard the Holy Spirit tell him that he would be a church planter in Latin America. He argued for a while, and eventually gave in. In the 12 years that have followed, he hasn't looked back. When we told me his new plan, I was thrilled. I never saw myself as a doctor's wife. We got married, finished out degrees, and spent 9 months in training at our local church. In the summer of 2007, we loaded up my grandpa's pickup and moved to Mazatlan, Mexico.
Seven years later, we have three small children and a bustling church in the middle of a low-income neighborhood. We consistently meet women who think they need to be perfect before they can connect with God. Poverty puts people in difficult situations, and many have made choices they aren't proud of as a result. Our church motto is "Imperfect people full of Jesus' love." Over and over again we find ourselves explaining God's wonderful, amazing grace. My favorite part of ministry is watching people hear from the Holy Spirit.
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