‘God doesn’t need us to be perfect’
As a shy, unassuming freshman at Oklahoma Christian University, Amber Foster never saw herself serving Christ on a foreign field.
Fifteen years later, she has served as “Mama Amber” to countless souls in the Central American nation of Honduras. Her ministry, Breaking Chains, serves the marginalized, street population in the capital, Tegucigalpa.
By meeting basic needs and developing relationships, she and her team act as a gateway toward a relationship with Christ.
Amber Foster (PHOTO BY KELCY NASH)
The oldest of 11 siblings in a blended family, she learned from her mother, who gave equal amounts of love to biological and foster children. Amber Foster earned a degree in family studies and child development and served in Honduras through the Helpers In Missions (HIM) program of the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. After a two-year apprenticeship, she remained in Honduras, assisting in church plants and children’s ministry before founding Breaking Chains in 2009.
“I have watched my single life grow into a family of hundreds,” she said. “I have five kids that I consider mine, who I have had a hand in raising and know their hearts intimately. Watching them grow — and growing with them — is one of my greatest challenges and is definitely my greatest joy.”
How did you decide to do mission work?
I didn’t so much choose to do mission work as much as mission work chose me.
Leaving home to go to college was the hardest thing I had ever done, and I had no intention of ever being more than that three-hour drive from my family again.
But as a horribly shy freshman in my church’s college class, I put my name on a list to go to Honduras. I can only attribute that decision to the Holy Spirit working in my life — and I regretted it almost immediately. I told all of my friends that I would never go on another mission trip.
Once in Honduras, despite the virus that ran through all of us, I felt at home. I fell in love with the kind, shy church members we worked with — who would fight tooth and nail for anything they thought would help their families but rarely realized what treasures they were themselves.
I had never encountered such great physical or emotional need before. Their extreme need seemed to create in them a hunger for God that we in the U.S. were trying desperately to cover with our things and accomplishments.
I wanted to feel that hunger, and I wanted to help fill those needs. I continue to be blessed to be a part of God’s work filling those needs.
Amber Foster and a few of the youths she serves through the Broken Chains ministry. (PHOTO BY KELCY NASH)
Describe how you share the Gospel.
I pray that my life shares the Gospel in myriad ways. My ultimate goal is to share the Gospel with love.
Our ministry shares the Gospel through church services, Bible studies, a homeless shelter, a feeding program, childhood education and inviting mission teams and interns to share in the work here throughout the year.
It is our goal to empower those that we work with — both Honduran and North American — to seek a relationship with Christ that goes beyond good works and transforms their lives into a daily, deepening relationship with him and everyone around them.
How do things work as a single woman who oversees young boys?
Our ministry works with teens and families striving to leave the street behind and better their lives. Many of the people living on the street are older teen boys who have suffered in such a way that they believe theft and drugs are their only way out. Much of the pain and abuse in their lives has been at the hand of men.
Being a woman has given me the ability to reach out to these young men without the inherent distrust they have toward men. They are willing to slowly open up their hearts to me once they realize I have no desire to hurt them and no intention of leaving.
I work hard to maintain the mother/child relationship and establish appropriate boundaries so that their trust can grow in a safe and healthy environment.
What is the value of short-term mission work?
Amber Foster and one of the children she serves in Tegucigalpa in 2011. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)
Short-term mission work is dear to my heart. It is the reason I ended up in Honduras. I have had the blessing of watching countless team members develop a deeper relationship with God because of time spent on the mission field.
That being said, I think the manner in which short-term mission teams are prepared is vital. Effective short-term missions are based on relationship building. Completing tasks often provides a catalyst through which relationships can grow naturally, but a trip with only tasks as a goal is sure to feel empty for both sides of the mission.
What would you say to those considering mission work?
If you wait until conditions are perfect and you are completely “ready,” you will never go. God doesn’t need us to be perfect. In fact, the less perfect we realize we are, the more he can use us. Don’t let being single be Satan’s excuse to stop you.
Do put a hedge of support around yourself. You need to be purposeful about developing a support group that you trust. Be completely honest with those people. The people might change, but you need to know who you can turn to when Satan tries to convince you that you are in this alone.
God will provide all that you need, but that is very often a Christian family member speaking God’s love into your life.
Don’t minimize the importance of fellowship in your Christian walk — regardless of where you end up.
What are your greatest challenges as a single woman on the mission field?
My greatest challenge as a single woman on the mission field is just that — being single.
Just because my path has led me to a foreign country does not exclude me from the insecurities of womanhood or the loneliness of singledom. The fact that I’m single is one of Satan’s favorite tools to try out on me, and he is often successful in getting me down.
I yearn for someone to share my life with — daily decisions and triumphs, intimacies and small moments — but I also know that God is bigger than my insecurities and he has been faithful to hold me up when I need a special moment of his peace. I don’t believe that mission work is harder for me as a single woman, I just think it’s a different way of going through life than I would have as a married woman.
What have you learned about cultural adjustment and adaptation?
I have learned that cultural adjustment is a daily, ongoing process.
The initial process of adjustment is helped by building a group of people around you that you trust — and being honest with them and yourself about how the process is going. Trying to “push through” alone will only end in burnout and loneliness.
I also found it necessary to carve out time to study and worship in my own language, giving me a space to sit with God instead of fighting through the challenges of language and cultural learning. There are still moments after 10 years on the field that I feel I will never truly be able to understand certain things.
Going “home” to the U.S. is always a practice in self-control. For me, the most important thing is to be aware of how much our culture affects who we are and how we make decisions and to be understanding and forgiving of that fact, both in others and in myself.
Describe one of your greatest joys from being in Honduras.
My greatest joy is most definitely my family. I have watched my single life grow into a family of hundreds.
I have five kids that I consider “mine,” that I have had a hand in raising and know their hearts intimately. Watching them grow, and growing with them, is one of my greatest challenges and is definitely my greatest joy. I have also grown an extended family of hundreds.
Being “Mommy Amber” to more than 200 people who have not known the love of a family and watching their hardened hearts slowly soften with God’s love is a blessing that only God can make possible.