Screaming Babies & Praying Mommas

by contributing writer Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry.

Finding God’s balance for motherhood and ministry is sometimes a difficult (and continually changing) tug-of-war; but I believe the struggle is healthy. As a homeschooling mother of seven, I place a high priority on God’s calling to care for our own children; however, I also feel a call of God’s heart for the needs of world missions. Multitudes across the globe desperately need God’s salvation and millions of orphan children are in need.

God cares about my kids and God cares about the lost. As a mission-minded mom, how can I keep these two “pulls “on my heart in balance — in a way that will truly please the heart of the Lord?

Most of the time, just doing another load of laundry, or drilling the kids on grammar, or reading a bedtime story . . . doesn’t seem very important. But God sees the big picture. He highly esteems motherhood and He values a faithful mom who is willing to lay down her “big dreams” . . . to serve her family.

At the same time, He sees the lost and the reality of heaven and hell. The blood of Jesus is the only way of salvation and the “unreached” must hear the gospel. Over 1.6 Billion people are still waiting to hear of the cross. According to UNICEF, there’s a minimum of 143,000,000 orphans in the world and many of these children are in desperate need. Unsaved people. Unborn babies. And so many real-life needs.

How can we balance this two-sided pull?


“Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.”

―Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China


The “healthy” motherhood & missions tug-of-war

If you’re a mission-minded mother (a Christian mom with a heart for others), I’m sure you’ve felt this tug-of-war between motherhood and ministry. Our children need to know that we love them; but they also need to know that we have a heart for others. Our kids need to know that we care about their needs, but they also need to know that they’re not the center of the universe, and that others have needs too. Finding the balance can be a struggle; but I believe the process of finding God’s daily divine balance is a healthy evaluation process, both for ourselves and for our family.

We all face this struggle . . .

Perhaps the phone rings, and your friend begins pouring our her heart about a desperate situation. Maybe a fragile marriage is falling apart, or someone at church was just rushed to the hospital. These needs are real, and often urgent. How do we find the right “combo” for each day, and each season of our lives? How do we balance these pressing needs with the ongoing “everyday” needs of our own family?

This personal testimony of “The Praying Mommas and the Screaming Babies” is from one of our Africa mission trips years ago. The story has continually reminded me to seek the Lord’s divine calling for each day. I have found that the key to finding God’s balance is to stay in communication with God through prayer; however, He sees the full picture of both motherhood and ministry.

God sees the world’s needs, and He also sees the needs of our children. He can help us to see both in His divine daily balance, and God can speak to us . . . as a mom.

The Praying Mommas and the Screaming Babies

About five thousand women gathered for a week of ministry, teaching, and worship. The accommodations for our East African village conference were humble. Bamboo awnings covered with tarps provided shade from the hot sun, and most of the women simply brought straw mats for sleeping. Many women also brought little children and nursing babies, whom they cared for as they listened to the sessions.

One morning, I got up and took an early morning prayer-walk, and I was blessed (and challenged) to see hundreds of women gathered for a time of fervent prayer.

As I walked quietly behind the group, I noticed a few women who were praying very hard and loud, but then I noticed that these women were totally oblivious to the needs of their little babies–sitting with bare bottoms in wet little puddles in the dirt, screaming at the top of their lungs. As I watched for a few moments, I wondered what God thought about their fervent prayers. One by one I picked up the babies and tried to help them stop crying, handing each one to his or her momma.

Later that day I shared with the women about the importance of balancing our ministry with our family priorities. Yet I was also challenge on a personal level.

How many times does God see my own out-of-balance efforts, like when I’m at work on the computer or busy with a mission project–and my little kids are plopped down in front of one-too-many videos?

I want God to hear my prayers, and I want my efforts to be actions of obedience. I need to keep balanced; but it’s not a one-time solution. Every day, we need to come to God to allow Him to tune each string of our instrument. Each heart-string needs to be stretched to just the perfect sound . . . that will be pleasing to the heart of God.

Let’s pick up our babies and love them.

And together with our kids-in-tow, let’s get a family-vision for world missions!!!

“Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.”

–Proverbs 4:26

About ADunagan

Ann Dunagan is a longtime homeschooling mother of 7 (ages 11 to 25, with 4 graduates), an international speaker with Harvest Ministry, co-founder of orphan ministries in East Africa and India (caring for over 700 children), and author of several books including The Mission-Minded Family. With a passion for the Lord and the lost, Ann motivates families for world missions.

41 Responses to Screaming Babies & Praying Mommas

  1. Rose March 7, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    *sigh* i feel so crazy about ministry. I have 2 children under 4 and I feel like all I can do is tend to them but I AM distracted a lot esp. lately I feel like I’ve run out of GO for playing with/teaching my kids. I was just chatting with someone today about my desire to serve God but at church I feel like there is nothing that fits except nursery duty (which is very important and I’ve been doing it) and yet I don’t like it. Nothing seems to fit because I feel overwhelmed with just being mom, how can I be faithful or prepare rightly for any other ministry? Outside of church I am attempting to just help Christian ladies in their homes occasionally, and again I don’t feel like it’s quite what I want to do – it’s just what I can think of to do that will mean something at least temporarily (yet I know it’s eternal). I know I have to do things I don’t want to sometimes, but I just feel at a loss with how to juggle ministry and home and finding where do I fit… I have no idea why I wrote all of that lol…it’s not like you can give me any insight into my life. I guess I just wanted to feel like someone knows my heart and could do something. anyway, thanks for posting and reading all of that if you did.

  2. Katelyn February 10, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve just read Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and have had many questions about ministering to the people around me and abroad, and at the same time caring for my family (I’m about to have my third son), and submitting to my husband. I wished someone would write something specifically for wives/mommies on the same topic–and my friend emailed me this post. I’m just so encouraged. The line saying “…it’s not a one-time solution. Every day, we need to come to God….” seems to be the answer God continues to bring to my mind. In response to my frantic pleas for help, I feel I am impressed with things like, Pray, press into Jesus, be lead by the Spirit. Reading what you wrote helps me so much to remember that God is faithful to lead me each day, and just spurs me on to meet with Him.
    Thanks again,

    • Ann Dunagan February 13, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      Wow, Katelyn!

      What an encouraging report. I recently read Erasing Hell by Francis Chan (which is also a very good, yet challenging book about the need to share the Gospel of Jesus with people who don’t know Him). It really blesses me that someone forwarded you this post, and that the Lord is using these thoughts to gently guide and you lead you . . . to have more of a heart for world missions . . . as loving and caring mothers. Yes, God is faithful. He will guide us and lead us.

      Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Blessings to you and your whole family (and congratulations on your precious new baby coming soon!!!).


  3. Ann Dunagan February 9, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    A note to our Passionate Homemaking readers —

    Today, Lindsay and I received a long letter from a woman who felt my attitude in this article (specifically in regards to the Praying Mommas & Screaming Babies story) conveyed a western superiority toward African women, with an unthoughtful and harsh tone. This reader was well-traveled, and was writing from her personal experience of being raised in another country and seeing western or American missionaries who were condescending toward nationals.

    I appreciated her perspective and wanted to share a bit of my response . . .

    Hello — !

    Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking forwarded your letter and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to express your concern.

    Please know that in no way do I see myself as “superior” to other women of different nationalities. In the Praying Mommas and the Screaming Babies story, I simply convey the situation by relating how I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit for the times I had put ministry (and my desire to please God) before the responsibilities of motherhood.

    In this particular African situation, I could relate to these mommas (as a mom who is easily distracted by doing “good stuff for God”) and the Lord ministered to ME through the situation. This event took place many years ago (it’s actually a quote from my book, The Mission-Minded Family); and over the years, I have received positive feedback from the story.

    Many mothers can visualize the situation. Culturally it’s so totally different than what an American mom does — but because of the unique angle, many moms have been brought to conviction (like I was!!!) about her own lack of balance. We can relate to these praying mommas . . . and we love them, because even though their lifestyle is different, their hearts are just like ours. As Christian women and mothers, we so want to please God, yet we are not always taking care of our home responsibilities . . .

    I highly respect my African sisters and in no way would want to offend them or put them down. As I share this story in the future, I will be sure to emphasize a bit more about how I could “relate” to their hearts.

    Blessings to you!

  4. Jordan Carlson February 2, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    THANK YOU! I feel the constant tug-of-war of these two parts of life — this is a good word and encouragement from the Lord. I love the Hudson Taylor quote too.

    • Ann Dunagan February 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm #


      It has been such an encouragement to me to realize the constant tug-of-war can also be seen as a daily tuning of each string of the instrument of our life. And God is our standard for tuning. Thanks for joining the discussion!!! Glad you were encouraged.

  5. TrinaHolden February 2, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    So, it’s ok to have ministry beyond my kids, and the struggle to find balance is normal? That is balm to my heart today. The struggle for balance has at times made me doubt the validity of my other passions. But you have spoken affirmation to my heart and encouraged me to press on. Thank you, Ann.

    • Ann Dunagan February 2, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      God bless you, Trina, and may He continue to bring “balm” to your heart.

      Your comment really blessed me today. Just because it’s a struggle for us to keep in tune doesn’t mean that we need to discard all the other strings outside of our family.

      The needs of the world are huge and they are real. If Christian mothers won’t care for needs like the plight of unborn babies and the crisis of orphan children, who will? It’s not enough to leave these world needs to secular organizations. These little ones, and the lost don’t just need food and clothing . . . they need Jesus!!! And our kids need to be raised with a heart for others.

      May God show you the way to balance both pulls — so your life can be a beautiful melody that pleases His heart!!!

  6. Tiffany G. February 1, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    So blessed by this, thank you for sharing!! For me, the mundane aspects of mothering can seem pale in comparison to being “used” in the lives of other women. This has been a struggle and yet God has been so kind to keep reminding me that there is honor in the mundane and purpose. I am a homeschooling mama too and my husband and I have a heart for missions. It’s so easy to place that above what’s right in front of me. Yet, when I am giving proper priority to our kiddos and balancing the needs of others, there is so much joy and peace. Thank you for your gentle reminder! Many blessings.

    • Ann Dunagan February 2, 2012 at 10:32 am #

      You’re welcome, Tiffany!

      Something that’s also helped me is realizing that “all” areas of work have mundane aspects. Even “glamorous” and adventurous jobs have down-time and daily nitty-gritty stuff that needs to be done.

      I love your comment about “so much joy and peace” as we give proper priority to our kiddos and the needs of others. AMEN!!!

  7. Jesse February 1, 2012 at 4:41 am #

    i was so excited to read this this morning! My kids are still so young (3 and 1) and already I struggle to find this balance. With a future in homeschooling known, people are already questioning our motives. It makes one so discouraged to be badgered about why we feel the need to “shelter” our children and how we’ll be able to be effective believers and witnesses if we’re so “caught” up in our children’s lives. Thanks for the encouragement that there is a balance. I know it’s up to us to live out our lives so that others see our Light comes from Him.
    Keep up the wonderful blogging and writing. You are blessing many a woman and I thank my Lord for you (and Lindsay)!

    • Ann Dunagan February 2, 2012 at 10:36 am #

      You’re welcome, Jesse, Thanks so much for your comment, and for sharing your heart for homeschooling and for being a LIGHT for Him!!!

  8. Monica Elith February 1, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    Wow, I really needed to read this! Talk about perfect timing! I have been struggling with the limitations marriage and motherhood come with quite a bit lately…and really wanting to ‘be out there’ on the front lines. Thank you!

    • Ann Dunagan February 2, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      Monica — I went through years of really struggling with wanting to be “out on the front lines” (especially since that’s what my husband does as a missionary evangelist). But I can tell you, the balance pays off. As our kids are growing up and now establishing families of their own, they’re stepping out into the front lines both WITH US and ON THEIR OWN — and realizing that there is a balance of family and ministry that is healthy and exciting!!!

  9. Daniele @ Domestic Serenity January 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    As a homeschooling Mama, also pastor’s wife…this post spoke to my spirit. Yes, I am called to my home and children — I love my role! And yes, I am called to ministry beyond our walls as well, God’s people and those who don’t yet know Him are in need.

    I’m often asked how to balance it all. There is no answer I offer really but listening closely to Jesus as how to organize our time and days. When I’ve listened to my own voice, I’ve failed miserably in one area or the other, or both.

    When I’ve embrace both callings, listened to Him carefully and walked His way…well, it’s been a delight! Thank you for these words of reminder!

    • Ann Dunagan February 2, 2012 at 10:38 am #


      May God continue to bless you, both as a pastor’s wife, and as a momma!!!

      I love your comment about “listening closely to Jesus as how to organize our time and days” and how, “When I’ve embrace both callings, listened to Him carefully and walked His way…well, it’s been a delight!”

      What an encouraging word!!!

  10. Gretchen January 31, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Thank you, Ann. This was something I needed to read this week!

    (And by the way…hello again… We met at an American Legion speech competition many years ago–my brother and your son were competing. :) I was delighted to discover you were writing for Passionate Homemaking! I still remember your sweet, positive spirit.)

    • Ann Dunagan January 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm #


      Yes, I remember you and your brother (and your sweet family)!!! :) Here’s a little glimpse of what our son Josh is up to these days: he and his lovely wife are doing missions work with a new outreach called Gospel Projects International (they just started a children’s home for orphans in India). And thanks for the sweet words…

      So glad you found me here!!!

  11. Sarah January 31, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    I just prayed over this very subject this morning! In the middle of reading this I realized my LO hadn’t gone to sleep yet and I had been ignoring her. :/ I got up and attended to her, got some giggles and smiles and put her back down. :D Thank you for writing this! I’ve been struggling since this is my first child and before her I was very involved in different church activities and ministries. I’ve felt led to abandon most of them for the calling to be full involved in my child’s life. However, I just this past week told a ministry leader I wouldn’t be going to the women’s bible study. I felt some pressure to attend anyways & I feel so confused & guilty. I definitely to remember to tune my instrument first. I love that quote and am putting it up on my fridge! Bless you & yours!

    • Ann Dunagan January 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm #


      There are different seasons in life. As you seek the Lord and He shows you what He wants you to do (and not to do) — just rest in that and be at peace.

      At the same time, as moms, we need to be sensitive to realize this “answer” for balance was God’s tuning for a particular time; and this “solution” may change in the future.

      Sometimes, what works for me (both in mission outreach and in church involvement) is God’s answer for a season . . . but then it changes. As a mom with 7 kids, there have been different seasons in my life (needs for me to reach out to the lost, needs for me to be taught and to receive spiritual input, and even needs for interaction and godly friends in my life).

      Blessing to you and your little one…

  12. Natalie B January 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Wow. As a momma in missions myself, that was such good and helpful advice! It can be so difficult to decide how much to pour into what and whom with three precious kids in tow. I have been coming across many women with desperate needs and immediate life-decisions to be made and knowing how much to give to them without sacrificing family needs to be a moment-by-moment prayer. There are times it is an uncertain journey but as moms, the least we can do is plant a seed or water it a little and be willing to let the next person tend to it, without feelings of condemnation or guilt. The important thing is, to be fine-tuned and obey the word of the Lord. Thanks for such a meaty post!

    • Ann Dunagan January 30, 2012 at 6:59 pm #


      I really REALLY appreciate your beautiful response as a mom-in-missions who is currently on the front-lines of this spiritual and physical battle, and yet who is also realizing the high-calling of motherhood.

      Can you share where you are serving, so I (and other moms reading this post) can keep you and your family uplifted in prayer?

      Blessings to you!!!

  13. [email protected] January 30, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I have to admit the title made me laugh. I can relate :) . I enjoyed your encouraging words.

    • Ann Dunagan January 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

      Yay!!! How fun that this story brought a laugh!!!
      WooHoo!!! :)

  14. Anna @ Feminine Adventures January 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Such a beautiful post! I love what you said about needing to find the balance BUT the balance not being some set rule. The needs change daily.. and God gives grace daily.

    • Ann Dunagan January 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm #


      Yes, there is not a set formula. There’s not one-size-fits-all approach for finding God’s balance for every Christian woman; and even just in our own lives, there is not one-answer-forever that will please God. It’s a continual process of taking up our cross, and obeying what He wants us to do (but keeping it simply by also surrendering our own desires and wishes to be “significant” in the eyes of others.

      It’s simply pleasing and obeying Him that counts.

      “The will of God — nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.” — F. E. Marsh

  15. Jenney January 30, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Thanks for this reminder. I have a screaming baby, plus three bigger ones who need constant care. It gets overwhelming. This IS where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing!

    • ADunagan January 30, 2012 at 11:33 am #

      Jenny, may God give you grace . . . and peaceful little ones!!!

      But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!

      2 Corinthians 12:9 Amplified Bible (AMP)

  16. Jayne January 30, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    I just found your blog. I like it! Balance is such a hard thing and something we need to ask God everyday to give us. And we need to ask for creative ways to combined our motherhood and missions. It’s not as hard as we sometimes make it out to be. Still there are those days…

    • ADunagan January 30, 2012 at 11:36 am #


      I’m just a contributor here on Passionate Homemaking. Lindsay does such a fabulous job encouraging young moms about “Loving Simple, Natural, and Intentional Living.”

      Your comment about “creative ways” to combine motherhood and missions is awesome. And that it doesn’t have to be hard. YES!!!

  17. Daniella January 30, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    This post has blessed me so much! Even these recent weeks these exact struggles and questions have been on my mind, wondering how in the world do I care for myself (and the growing baby inside), my 2 year old daughter, my husband, my home, and for friends and family God puts in my life… do I daily balance it all to bring glory to him?? But you are right, that EACH DAY we must ‘tune our strings’ (I love that quote) to what He wants us to be doing, and pray throughout the day and be Spirit-lead on where we can best serve Him. Thanks for this post, I’m bookmarking it to refer back to over and over!

    • ADunagan January 30, 2012 at 7:56 am #


      Thanks for sharing your heart and for such encouraging words about how this little post blessed you!!! If you’re interested, there are some other articles I’ve written about BALANCE on our Harvest Ministry website.

  18. Lanai January 30, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    I needed this! Thank you Lord for being faithful to guide our paths as ministry minded mommas.

    • Ann Dunagan January 30, 2012 at 6:52 am #

      Amen, Lanai!

      God is so faithful to direct our steps and to guide us, as we seek Him.

      “Ponder the path of your feet,
      And let all your ways be established.”
      –Proverbs 4:26

  19. sarah January 30, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    This is exactly what I have been struggling with as a homeschooling mom of two lately. Thank you for sharing your thoughts… it was a great encouragement to me today! Many blessings!

    • ADunagan January 30, 2012 at 6:26 am #

      Bless you Sarah. . . and your family!!!

      As a mom (and as a homeschooling mom), keeping the right “balance” IS a continual daily process. It’s not like we ever “get in balance” — and just stay there, because life with kiddos (and needs of others and work that needs to be done) is also continually changing.

      I love the analogy of tuning an instrument. Before a concert, all the instruments take a bit of time to get in tune (either using one instrument, or using a tuning machine). It doesn’t mean the flutes or trumpets have been “bad”; it’s just that need to get tuned up. As we begin each day with the Lord, He will help us to get every area of our lives in His balance — for that day!!!

  20. Tiffany January 30, 2012 at 5:48 am #

    This is such a challenging thing to live out on a daily basis. So often I end up off balance – back and forth between the two. “Every day, we need to come to God to allow Him to tune each string of our instrument. Each heart-string needs to be stretched to just the perfect sound . . . that will be pleasing to the heart of God.” Such a good reminder to bring ourselves daily to God and allow Him
    to show me balance!

    Thank you for the encouragement!

    • ADunagan January 30, 2012 at 6:31 am #


      I agree that keeping this balance is such a challenging thing — not just to “know” but to “live out on a daily basis.” But God will give us His grace and help!!!

      I just added one of my favorite quotes into the post. It’s by Hudson Taylor, a famous missionary to China from years ago:

      “Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.”
      ― J. Hudson Taylor

      Hudson Taylor and his wife, Mary, had a powerful ministry family balance. They had a strong impact on China and also kept their family life in order. Their home was full of joy and life . . . and founded in prayer (they’re two of my favorite missionary heroes!!!).

      • Tiffany February 2, 2012 at 3:29 am #

        Super quote – I’m going to print that and put it where I can see it right after getting up! I’ve read lots of biographies – and they don’t always show this balance with family. One of my favorite writers is Isobel Khun – however, she didn’t write all that much about kiddos – since she sent hers to boarding school (actually, I haven’t finished all of her books yet – but this observation is from the ones I’ve read so far). Would love to know other biographies you’d recommend – including a Hudson Taylor biography.

        • Ann Dunagan February 2, 2012 at 10:21 am #


          Our family’s favorite missionary biography series is Christian Heroes Then & Now, by YWAM publishing.

          As for a recommended book about Hudson Taylor, I like this old classic, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (here’s a link to a FREE eBook copy).

          Also, if you’re interested, a complete section of my book, The MIssion-Minded Family, discusses this theme of balancing our call to world missions with our call to our family. I spent quite a few years reading and studying about many missionary families, and “pulling out” details that I felt addressed this particular challenge — both good examples and bad.

          My favorite mission-minded family heroes are:
          Hudson & Maria Taylor (Missionaries to China)
          William & Catherine Booth (who founded the Salvation Army — and who also had 8 kids who all grew up to serve the Lord in ministry)
          George Mueller & his family (who supported over 120,000 orphans in Bristol, England during the 1800s — AND who had a happy loving family). He and his first wife, Mary, primarily focused on the ministry to orphans; and after a very happy 40-year marriage (with 2 children of their own), Mueller married a second time to a lady named Susannah, and the two of them primarily focused on international missions — traveling over 200,000 miles, by ship, to 42 countries all across the globe.
          Robert & Mary Moffat (Missionaries to Africa, and the in-laws of David LIvingstone. They had a large family (10 kids) and a fervent heart for unreached villages. Their home was described as a “homey atmosphere with children always at play” and five of their children became actively involved in missionary work in Africa.

          The more I read about missionary families who also had God-glorifying homes, the more I found a common thread. The key was that these families who “got it right” were known as men and women of PRAYER!!!

          • Tiffany February 3, 2012 at 7:08 am #

            Excellent! Thank you so much for the list!! I just bought your book for my kindle and am looking forward to reading it!

            Thanks again!