BANGLADESH (BP) — Geri Hennerman* stands in her living room balancing 19-month-old Chloe* on her hip, talking with her national partner and flipping through her blue day planner as she tries to set up their next prayer meeting.
You’d be hard-pressed to find Geri without her day planner — it’s basically her lifeline. The thick notebook is littered with colorful tabs across its pages, each one covered in notes.
Her other four children are scattered about — two boys at elementary school, one boy just returned home from school and her eldest girl at preschool. Her husband, Mickey,* is in the office working on expense reports and emails before he leaves to start the “marathon” of picking up kids.
Between five children under the age of 8 and sharing God’s love with the people of Bangladesh, things are busy at the Hennerman household — very busy — but they’re not chaotic. Geri and Mickey make sure of that.
“It’s a commitment that we both have made — that we’ll make sure both of us are able to do ministry and be with the kids,” Mickey says.
Mickey and Geri, who claim Texas as their home state, have served in Bangladesh for nearly 10 years. The way they balance family life and ministry is a bit different from the norm.
For many Christian workers overseas, family is structured a certain way. A husband usually spends most of his day outside the home working in his specific ministry. A wife’s main ministry is often focused on their family and home — she homeschools their children, reaches out to her neighbors, entertains guests, supports her husband and keeps the house in order.
Mickey and Geri have a schedule that allows each spouse to spend time outside the home while the other stays with the children.
Their own ministries
“My wife’s makeup is that she needs to be very active, and I knew that when I married her,” Mickey says with a smile.
The couple’s personalities complement each other — Geri is a constantly-on-the-go, never-sit-still type of person; Mickey is more laid-back.
Maggie Caley,* a Christian worker who serves with the Hennermans, says the best description for Geri is “Wonder Woman.”
“She literally does everything,” Caley says. “I don’t know how she does it, and does it with the most grace…. I feel really honored to sit under her and watch her and learn from her — the way that she works as a mom and then also as a wife and as a teacher to her kids.”
Mickey’s more relaxed attitude blends well with his work. He disciples four Bangladeshi men about how to share their faith. In a little over four years, the group has seen close to 2,000 people become followers of Christ.
“My end vision is being old and retired … and a Bangladeshi knocks on our door to share the Gospel in America,” Mickey says.
Geri shares Mickey’s vision, but her passion is for women and children, who are often treated as second-class citizens.
“Women here are very difficult to get to … they’re hard to build relationships with,” she says. “Sometimes they’re hidden by their families or their husbands. So, [I’m] just trying, always praying for creativity for reaching women.”
It was this calling that led her and another Christian worker to start the Light of Hope Learning Center, a day shelter and school for impoverished girls, more than six years ago. She and Mickey are now directors of the center, managing the funds and helping support the Bangladeshi women who work there.
Geri also works to reach women and children in her community. She teaches breast cancer awareness and English classes, has helped start an after-school library program, hosts Bible studies, helps coordinate volunteer teams and disciples two national women.
“As a man, I have no access to women [in this culture], so it’s very important that my wife is reaching children and women because I wouldn’t have that opportunity,” Mickey explains. “… I see it’s very important for me to give my time … to my wife so she can reach a people group that I can’t get near.”
Balance and sacrifice
That means Mickey has responsibilities typically associated with mothers — he stays home during the day to take care of the kids and helps with household chores.
Each spouse makes sacrifices in order to make their complex schedule work, he says. Keeping organized is key — Geri meticulously writes down their schedules and activities in her blue planner, and they sit together and plan out their week.
“I’ve had people ask me, ‘Well, what does your wife do?’ and I start naming off this long list — ‘Well, how does she do that?'” Mickey says with a laugh. “Well, I’ve stepped back and she has days that we know that are her days; she does ministry on those days.”
Geri is thankful for Mickey’s support and servant’s heart.
“Knowing what a great daddy he is and how much he loves our children and cares for them … I mean, I couldn’t do all that I do, or what I do, without that,” Geri says. “… I couldn’t do anything. I can’t even imagine, really, what that would look like.”
Mickey is aware how important his role is in accomplishing what he and Geri have been called to do. “Realize that you are a father and you are not defined by what you do, but who you produce,” he says.
“If I’m Mr. Mom, I’m Mr. Mom. If I’m a church planter that day, I’m a church planter. Whatever hat I need to wear, that’s the hat I’ll wear that day — and if that means I need to step back at times, that’s what I’ll do,” Mickey adds. “It’s not about me. It’s about getting people to hear about Christ.”
To get in touch with the Light of Hope Learning Center directors about how you or your church can get involved, email [email protected].
Southern Baptist projects supporting Light of Hope include One Life’s “One Girl’s Shelter” project (onelifematters.org/projects), Global Hunger Relief (World Hunger Fund, worldhungerfund.com) and Baptist Global Response’s Child and Youth Education Fund (baptistglobalresponse.com/projects/view/the_light_of_hope_center).
View “More precious than jewels — begging for a better life,” which features more Light of Hope photos, related video and audio, prayer requests and additional ways to get involved in this and related ministries, at commissionstories.com.
*Name changed. Laura Fielding is an IMB writer.