Not everything is peaches and cream for this family with six kids in southern Mali near the border with Côte d’Ivoire. BUT, they are faithful. “The dream I have is to raise my family where they will gain a big view of God. Being daily confronted with languages, cultures and poverty pushes us to know God better and to depend on Him.” Read on for more inspiring words that will challenge you.
Tell us about your family. How long have you been married? How many kids do you have? How long have you lived in Mali?
Jeff: Heidi and I met on our first day of college. We were married in 1999 a couple weeks after we graduated, and we spent that first year of marriage on a short-term trip to Mali, West Africa. After that year was up, we did another short-term trip of almost two years in Côte d’Ivoire, and that is where our first boy was born. After our first couple years overseas we were in California for eight years. I got a degree in visual journalism. We had three more kids. We worked several different jobs, and we waited, always wondering when God would fulfill that desire to tell people about Jesus in Mali. We were appointed as missionaries with WorldVenture in 2007, and we studied French in France for the year of 2010. Baby number five was born in France, and at the end of 2011 baby number six was born in Mali.
To summarize: We have been married 13 years. We have six kids, and we have lived in Mali for two years.
What did you do before you moved to Mali?
Jeff: God planted a seed of desire to live and work in Mali while we were still dating. So that was always what we were looking to do, but it was 12ish years before that actually happened. I got a degree in Bible/Education. Heidi got a degree in Bible/counseling. I worked as: a door man, a chauffeur, a newspaper deliveryman, a wedding photographer, a freelance newspaper photographer, a childrens’/family portrait photographer. Heidi cleaned houses, ran an exercise club, sold scrapbooking supplies, ran our household, and we were always in ministry, mostly through our churches.
What fears and real concerns did you have before you moved?
Jeff: Every once-in-a-while it struck me that we had nothing invested in this world: no home, no savings, no insurance, no retirement plan… but after a little reflection that seemed like a good place to be.
There was also the real threat of health issues. There are many diseases in Mali that don’t exist in the United States, including malaria, and we are 155 miles from the nearest doctor that we really trust. Several of our kids have asthma, and we didn’t have a car for the first two years we were in Mali. It is easy to pose the ‘what if’ question.
We have also been in two countries that had military coups.
Heidi: For me it was also medical emergencies, and then the need to manage our families health and dental wellness because we don’t have a local pediatrician or dentist. It just seems like a big responsibility to me. Also, our kids’ education was a big concern. I was worried that our kids would not get an adequate education with just me as their teacher.
How did you overcome those fears and take the plunge?
Jeff: Fear doesn’t live in the heart of a child of God. It comes, we fix our eyes on Christ, and it goes. It seems to be easier for me than most people.
When we lived in Côte d’Ivoire several of our friends were robbed, beaten, or car-jacked. I remember lying awake in bed and going over and over my escape plan and different scenarios for our little family. You can’t plan for that kind of thing, but what I took away from that experience was a deeper understanding of the fact that God is not glorified in our fears, and I so want to glorify His name. So when a fear arises in my heart, I acknowledge that I am believing lies. Then I think about Jesus promises and forget my fears.
It is very important to never make decisions based on fear! Go forward in grace and truth.
Heidi: I don’t think I totally overcame them, but that verse in Psalms about ‘settling on the far side of the sea’ and ‘even there Your hand will guide me’ always comforted me.
What are some positive aspects of raising your family in Mali? What are the negatives?
Jeff: Raising our children was one of the main reasons we wanted to live in Mali. You can even see that in the first video we made after we were appointed as missionaries. Heidi said, “The dream I have is to raise my family where they will gain a big view of God. Being daily confronted with languages, cultures and poverty pushes us to know God better and to depend on Him.” And that is exactly what we have found.
Our oldest likes raising animals to sell, and he is 100% free to do that here. Our kids are learning in three languages.
One of the negative things is our kids distorted perspective of the world. Of course, every kid in the world suffers from that. When we lived in San Jose, California the closest library had resources in 50 languages. In our town there is very little diversity.
Our kids don’t really have any close friends. They don’t know their cousins, and neither do we.
You know what… I don’t really like talking about the negatives. How can I make a list of negative things when everything I have received is from the hand of God? I can’t imagine being happier than we are, and I wouldn’t trade anything.
Heidi: The positives would be: a life free from the busyness that many children live in, having the freedom in our town to go and do as they please, knowing and understanding multiple languages, knowing and understanding other cultures, learning about how basic things are made that ‘in America’ you would just buy at a store. The negatives are: lack of experience in extracurricular activities with peers, not being able to be close to family, and the constant confusion about where their home is.
Any final words of wisdom or encouragement to families who might want to leave their home culture and live/work somewhere else?
Jeff: God has given you a good desire. Live with joy in all circumstances, and never underestimate the power of waiting on the Lord.
Heidi: Don’t be held back by your fear. God WILL take care of you. …Come join us!
What’s your favorite restaurant in the town where you live?
Jeff: We don’t have a restaurant per se, in as much as a restaurant is a building with a kitchen where you can buy prepared food, but every market day we get atcheké (kind of like sour rice made from manioc <what they make tapioca out of>) and fish from a friend. (You can see where we buy atcheké in one of our videos.)You can also find fries and fried plantain if you know where to look and what time of day to be there. Mali isn’t known for it’s culinary delights.
Heidi: There are many days when I wish there was a local Taco Bell or burger joint when I don’t feel like preparing meals. Cooking from scratch takes a lot of work and a lot of forethought. I’m glad we have a bakery that bakes french bread style loaves almost every day.
Follow the Frazee Family at their WordPress blog. They also have several videos posted on youtube. Want to see what it’s like to cross an international border and drive on African roads? Check this one out.
If you missed the introduction to this series of interviews, read it here.