Every year on March 8th, we celebrate International Women’s Day. Mrs. Huang Mengai (pseudonym), the wife of a pastor from the south of China, shares her thoughts with the Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper.
Mrs. Huang, a mother of two, has been doing missionary work for 28 years. During her 18-year marriage, she diligently assists her husband’s daily work.
Christian Times Madam Huang, how do you define the role of a pastor’s wife?
Mrs. Huang: First of all, we think that the wife of a pastor is the pastor’s “supporter” and church members’ “prompter and comforter”, and often plays the roles of “giving” and “providing” in families and churches. The role of pastors' wives is not for the faint of heart. Some people even expect the wives to be proficient in everything, playing the piano, singing, visiting, entertaining, coaching and even preaching. However, God’s gift to everyone is different. Not every wife is an all-around substitute. I, as a pastor’s wife, am a little special; I know a little about everything.
Pastors' wives are a special group in the Christian community. Their specialness comes mostly from the fact that they don't know exactly who they are. Pastors' wives are usually the wives of priests or preachers, but they can also be the wife of a pastor who is filling in. In the church, it's clear who the pastor is, but pastors' wives don't really have a formal identity. However, the congregation can't see pastors' wives as regular Christians. This particularity brings great challenges to the wives.
Many people admire the honor of being a pastor’s wife, but what they do not know is that it means lots of grief and tears. When you say "a pastor's wife," a title brings to mind both respect and responsibility. Some people say that a church is healthy when its pastor’s wife is healthy, and vice versa.
Christian Times How much weight do you bear when you wear the honorable title of a pastor’s wife?
Mrs. Huang: Most churches and believers have high expectations for pastors’ wives. The wives should not only focus on taking care of the family but also teach their children to be respectful and obedient, and they should take part in some church services. They need to have a great sacrificial spirit, especially when they have to give up their stable careers for their husbands’ ministries.
A pastor’s job is busy, and he might rarely take care of the family. Yet, the congregation has high expectations of the pastor’s family. Many pastors’ wives are just ordinary sisters before marrying a pastor. But once they get married, they have to deal with a lot of responsibilities and different expectations from the congregation. On top of that, many pastors' wives don't have enough theological and spiritual training.
As a pastor’s wife, I think that they are also the object that needs to be herded and cared for because the pressure and challenge we bear are relatively greater. We may think that pastors’ wives are the closest person to the pastor, and they can get more pastoral care. In fact, this is not the case. The pastor is often so busy and tired in the church that he does not even want to talk when he gets home. Not only could pastors’ wives not get the pastor’s care, but even normal communication between husband and wife is hard.
Christian Times: If you chose a negative word to describe the situation of the pastors’ wives as a group, what word would it be?
Mrs. Huang: I would choose the word “loneliness”. I think pastors’ wives are one of the loneliest people. Before I was married, I heard a jingle saying, “A good girl doesn’t marry a pastor or she will stay in her empty room day and night, and one day when her husband returns home, she has to wash a pile of dirty clothes of his.” Unexpectedly, I became a minister myself and married a pastor, so I naturally became a pastor’s wife. The need for sisters to talk is often much greater than that of brothers. Brothers and sisters may talk to pastors’ wives when they are weak, but it is difficult for the wives to find someone to talk to when they are weak, and some words cannot be told to believers.
Christian Times: What types of pastors’ wives do you think there are?
Mrs. Huang: I think it can be roughly divided into several types: first, the white-collar type in the workplace: the husband is a pastor, but the wife has a secular career; the second is the full-time wife type, taking care of children and doing housework; the third is the all-obedient type; fourth, the husband is a pastor, but the wife may attend or serve in other churches without interfering with each other; fifth, the missionary type: the wives are also equipped with theology and can work side by side with their husbands.
Christian Times: Do you have anything special to say to the pastors’ wives of Chinese churches?
Mrs. Huang: I have been serving in the church full-time for nearly 28 years. I have been busy working for the church and for my parents, husband, and children, and I often have disputes with pastors due to different opinions. Here, I would like to advise those who are the same as me: “Even though we are weak, we are not weak. We should do our best to take care of our family and God’s big family. May the warm sunshine in March shine on your heart and put a smile on your face, blooming like a rose! I hope every sister can feel my sincere greetings and blessings! May all your family members and friends understand your hard work and dedication! I wish you a happy family and happy life in all your days in the future!” May my sharing be an encouragement to all the wives.
- Translated by Charlie Li