Profiles of moms who are making a difference

The Moms on a Mission series is one of my favorites. I love getting to share the stories of real moms who are making a difference in the lives of their families and the world!

This month’s mom is someone I’ve known for more than 20 years. Erin Mayes and I met in college where we were both studying magazine journalism. She was a young woman with a sweet smile. I didn’t have to talk to her long to see her heart for God.

Our lives have certainly changed since those days as young college students, but Erin’s heart for God remains the same. And now she lives out her mission as a wife to her husband, Josh, and mama to two kiddos, who are 8 and 5. She spends her days as a homemaker and stay-at-home mom while also advocating for children who live thousands of miles away from her Midwestern home.

Families with Grace: What is your God-given mission or passion?

Erin Mayes: If you want to talk about passion, my first passion is Jesus. After that, one of our biggest mission’s is our home. Our biggest testimony is our marriage and, for my husband and me, raising our children in a home that is living out the gospel. The over-arching vision of our family is to love God and love others.

FWG: How do you work to live out that mission right now?

EM: Like all of life, as soon as you figure something out, it changes. I used to say that I hate change, but over time I’ve grown to learn that life is always changing. I think that’s a blessing. God uses change to remind us to rely on Him. God knows we need Him and wants us to recognize that we need Him.

So, my mission has morphed over time. I feel like I’ve lived several entities of myself. When I was 19, my brother, who was only 16, passed away from cancer. That will always be a giant marker in my life. Then I graduated college and was single and working full time and that was a different mission.

For this moment, where I am right now, we do it real messy and we just keep trying. When we got married, we agreed that I’d stay home when we had kids. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I was offered a job that would have been a great career opportunity, but I said no so I could be fully in our home. I’m thankful that I get to invest so much time in our children.

This pandemic — while it’s been so difficult in the world as a whole — has been a blessing for me personally in having enough time to slow down and listen to my kids. I hope that as my children are young I’m able to plant seeds and give them attention. I’m not perfect and have to apologize and ask for forgiveness from them sometimes.

Along with our family, my husband and I are also involved in our church. For us, it’s asking God for the wisdom to give our best “yes,” because we recognize that when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to others. And if you’re saying yes to everything, you’re stretched too thin.

FWG: Tell us about your involvement with Team World Vision.

EM: Back around 2012, Team World Vision, which is an arm of World Vision, came to our city and spoke at our church. A woman gave her testimony about how she walked to get to clean water when she was young. It was powerful. Our church had a huge response, and we had a big team that year. Both my husband, Josh, and I ran with Team World Vision that year.

Through training for a half or full marathon, someone who runs or walks with Team World Vision will ask their family and friends to join them on the journey by donating. The dollars donated to their fundraising page go directly to help provide clean water to those who don’t have access to it.

Team World Vision makes an individual sport a team sport. Running long distances is as much mental as physical. It’s easy to quit and hard to keep going. With Team World Vision, you get a schedule of the running plan for each day, whether it’s time or distance. Then your long run is on the weekend.

Most Team World Vision teams get together on Saturday mornings and will have music, water, snacks and so forth. You get to see other people doing the same thing as you. And that’s encouraging.

The first few years, Josh and I would trade off Saturdays running while the other one took care of the baby and eventually babies. Four years ago when we moved to a different area of town and went to a new church, we decided to start our own Team World Vision team.

Josh, Erin and their two kiddos in their Team World Vision orange gear.

The statistics are staggering on how much of the world does not have access to clean water. In 2018, my husband and I got to go to Africa to see some of the places where World Vision is working. We heard the founder of Team World Vision speak. He shared that we can only go without breath for a matter of minutes to survive. We can only go without water for a matter of days and without food for weeks for our bodies to survive.

So after air, water is the second most important thing a body needs to survive. If you’re spending all your time searching for water that isn’t even clean, you’re just surviving and not thriving. Sadly, 50% of children under age 5 die in areas where they don’t have access to clean water due to water contamination illnesses. It’s hard to wrap our minds around not having access to clean water.

You’re either doing Team World Vision because you need something to help you accomplish a half or full marathon or because you want to help with the clean water crisis, but ultimately, it ends up being both.

(For even more, check out this Facebook video of Erin’s husband interviewing a team member.)

FWG: What are some of your biggest challenges in living out your mission?

EM: I believe in the Bible that God calls us to boldness — a boldness in our faith. And if we do not have it, the Bible says to ask for it in the same way He tells us to ask for wisdom if we don’t have it. Through Team World Vision, asking people to run or give money can be hard. It’s all about a mindset, but it helps to understand that Jesus says to cast out your net. He doesn’t say to pick and choose.

The first three years we ran with Team World Vision, we raised a small amount. We didn’t have a vision and goal that gripped our hearts. In our fourth year, Josh said if we were going to continue doing this, we needed to be all in. We decided that we would make a full effort and put our whole effort and whole heart into the fundraising equally. We matched the donations people gave us throughout the year and ended up being in the top third of fund raisers that year.

The next year, God called us to do more and we had to step through fear. On the other side of fear is where you find God working. In 2018, we doubled our goal and raised $10,000. We led our team by example. Our team began to see it happen and they began to embrace it themselves and recognize what they could do to help.

Even just getting invited to go to Africa with Team World Vision in 2018 involved me stepping through fear. I don’t like to fly. We had 12 flights in 14 days. It was a spiritual war inside of me just to put down the deposit and say yes, we’re going to Africa and leaving our small children, who were only 3 and 5 at the time.

But, we got to see the work being done there. And God continues to work in our hearts on this. I was training for the 2020 New York City Marathon, but it was recently canceled. That was kind of expected, but also a surprise that they did it so early. So, we’re shifting gears and leading our team. It’s a matter of trusting God each day.

Team World Vision does offer a virtual option now that will allow me to run the 26 miles over five days instead. I can train with others locally but also still complete the marathon virtually.

A couple of years ago, Team World Vision added in child sponsorships. At the beginning of the year, I felt like God was telling me this New York City run should use the money for child sponsorships instead of waterworks like we’ve always done. So, I will do that now with the virtual run.

Child sponsorship is a bigger ask and commitment. It takes $39 a month. But it’s also a bigger impact. It’s continual money going into the community. It helps World Vision. They have a long-term relationship with the community and government. They help the community set goals, reach goals and then they pull out. So the community has ownership.

It’s such a beautiful thing. You’re really making an impact and when you do a child sponsorship, you can set up an auto payment to come out of your account every month. Most Americans don’t end up missing that money that is making an impact somewhere else.

FWG: What have been some of your biggest blessing in living out your mission?

EM: God’s still working on my heart, thank goodness. I’ve been blessed by the friendships and opportunities that have come out of this. I never dreamed I would go to Africa and get to meet real faces and real people that are impacted. They impacted me.

You can’t out-give God, whether it be money or time or listening to someone else. And we are blessed by the impact we see it slowly making on our family — our children, parents, extended family, church family and community. Each year it grows.

God’s dreams are bigger and better than our own if we’d just let go and say yes.

FWG: How do you balance motherhood responsibilities with your mission?

EM: Trying to get in the runs can be challenging. Josh and I have made it our goal to complete them in the morning, so it’s not hanging over the rest of our day. Plus we feel better throughout the day.

Leading a team and having a large fundraising goal requires a lot of time. During running season, Wednesday night after the kids go to bed is our Team World Vision night. We want our kids to feel like they’re a part of it and not like it’s taking away from family time. We try to make sure Team World Vision is getting attention but also not taking attention away from our kids.

FWG: What’s the best advice you have for other moms who are following their passions?

EM: You can’t do everything. If it’s a mother of really young children, I’d remind her that those seasons feel so long in the time, but it truly is just a short season. Embrace it for the time you’re in it.

Pray and ask God to open doors. I think we kind of get hung up on perfect, and that really can be the enemy of good. Just help someone else. Do the next right thing. Make the next best choice.

Especially when your kids are small, you have to be willing to accept help, and you don’t have to be the hero. It’s a blessing to let other people help you. The season will come when you can help others again.

Read more from the series

Moms on a Mission: Dr. Karen Dowling

Moms on a Mission: Mari Hernandez-Tuten

Moms on a Mission: Kathleen Brooker

Moms on a Mission: Sarah R. Moore

Moms on a Mission: Stacey Pardoe

Moms on a Mission: Kristin Billerbeck

Moms on a Mission: Crystal (aka InnieMom)

Moms on a Mission: Pastor Stefanie Hendrickson

Moms on a Mission: Amy Cutler

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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Moms on a Mission: Erin MayesMoms on a Mission: Erin Mayes