Before we ever moved here, we were asked the question, “Are you going to hire a house worker?”
Boy oh boy. Seems like a simple question… until you are actually faced with making the decision! It was actually something we had to take time praying and thinking about for quite some time. There were a few details that made it a tough decision. And it is a tough decision for many families on the field.
While we were in the States, a travelling friend who works in South America told us about their decision to hire a worker. When they first went to their new country, they decided to keep their privacy. They did not hire a house worker. After several months ministering in this poor country, they realized no one was talking to them. They were being snubbed.
When they asked some neighbors what was wrong, the neighbor explained. They had come to this poor country and were not even “considerate” enough to hire one house worker to help the people of the community financially. The people of the country were offended at this family invading their country without investing in it. This sweet family was devastated to discover how the people saw them. They quickly hired a worker and their ministry blossomed.
The decision to hire a house worker boils down to 1) What meets the needs of your family, and 2) What matters to the culture where you are working. So what factors did our family have to weigh out?
- We are a family who loves our privacy. We share so much of ourselves with everyone that we love being able to have a small part that is “off limits.”
- I am very picky about how I want things done in my home. I like things cleaned and organized a certain way. I like things taken care of a certain way… like my nonstick pans and my Pampered Chef knives.
- There is something about being able to take care of one’s own home that gives a sense of accomplishment. I mean, it just feels good to say, “I did that.” I have always prided myself in keeping my house in order… maybe the key word there is pride.
- I don’t like having to worry about security or theft from house workers.
- In the country where we live, gossip is a problem, often even among Christians. I prefer the details of what goes on in my house to stay in my house.
But as we looked at how living in this country differs from living in America, we had to consider other factors.
- It gets so dusty, that everyday the house must be dusted and swept.
- There is so much trash in the city (and trash removal is not very dependable) that disposable plates and cups are not a good option… that means more dishes to wash… and no dishwasher.
- Almost everything is cooked from scratch here. That means it takes much longer to cook. Much, much longer. Dicing, sanitizing the fruits and veggies, seasoning… blah, blah, blah. I am not a very good cook even with boxed meals and canned goods, so cooking from scratch??? UGH!
- Shopping would take much longer. I don’t know the language well and I don’t know where to find everything. Not to mention, I can’t go on the scooter all over the city and leave my children at home unattended.
In the culture where we are serving, not having a house worker is not offensive… and having a house worker does not get us viewed as “the rich Americans.” House workers are common here, but the decision to have one was really up to personal preference or need. Cost was not a big issue because labor here is so cheap. Literally, it costs around $1 an hour for a house worker… and that is a pretty high paid house worker, too.
The opportunity came up for us to hire one of the Christians here. We knew her testimony and her reputation. We decided to give hiring a house worker a try. It is a decision we have never regretted! Though we have had to give up some of our privacy, we found the benefits to be overwhelming. Our house worker only works four days a week, but she helps with cleaning, cooking, shopping, and translating. And because she is a well-trained faithful Christian, we can also go to her for counsel on culture and prayer. We are helping her and she is helping us. I am able to devote more of my time to homeschooling the kids, studying the language, and talking to neighbors.
After several months, we also hired our neighbor to do the outside work, including planting and maintaining a garden. This worker is not a Christian, but because she has spent so much time around us and around our Christian house worker, she has been able to witness first hand the work of Christ in our lives. It has been a great testimony to her. Her labor is only $2.50 a day, but she greatly needed the money. Again, it helps her and saves us time so that we can focus on ministry.
Having these two workers has taken a great load off of us, but it has also opened many doors to talk to people here in the community. For us, hiring a worker (or two) not only helps keep us from being overwhelmed with work, but it also has helped us with reaching out in our neighborhood. The pros outweighed the cons.
To hire or not to hire… that was the question. For us… we hired.