Lessons Learned as a Missionary Nanny

By Chelsea Novakowski


The INA Monthly theme of “mission” brought back my memories of volunteering as a missionary nanny. I had the fortune of spending a few months in Uganda and a few months in Afghanistan working with missionary families to educate and care for their children, while also getting to experience a culture and country different from my Canadian one. Given the theme of the month, I thought it could be helpful to share three lessons I learned from my time abroad.

My first lesson is that life is easier if you befriend flexibility. When living with a new family, in a new country, and a new culture, if you aren’t able to embrace the unknown and unpredictable, not only are you unable to fully appreciate the beauty and nuance of your new home, you can also get stuck being unhappy with things out of your hands. Learning to live and let live is imperative to a positive experience.

Frustration, impatience and surprise will inevitably be a part of your journey, but the sooner you understand what is and isn’t within your control, the quicker you’ll move from discomfort to growth. As you navigate and hone this skill of adaptability, you’ll also be able to teach and model it to the children in your care, which will serve them well in the future.

The second lesson is to embrace the unknown. Take time to experience new and exciting parts of the world around you. You never know where an adventure may lead! Going for an adventurous boat or motorcycle ride can help you make new friends or reveal beautiful places few ever visit. New experiences are the best ways to learn and to grow as a person and can help you uncover reserves and depths to your character that you never knew existed before.

The third lesson is to take the opportunity to develop discernment about what is truly necessary in your life. Once you are stripped of the familiar and your creature comforts, you begin to see what is truly imperative and valuable to having a fulfilling life of your dreams. When exposed to other ways of living, you may also learn new practices and priorities you want to incorporate into your life.

My experience as a missionary nanny helped to propel me further and to discover my mission, which is to provide excellent quality childcare through nurturing all parts of a child’s wellbeing. It also helped me further discover my interests and led me into further education to develop these interests into expertise.

New experiences are essential to learning and growth, and helping you develop your interests and passions as a nanny. These interests can help fuel your mission. I hope these three lessons will help you navigate any new opportunities you face and help you on your life’s journey wherever it may take you!


Chelsea Novakowski is a passionate, caring, curious nanny with 10+ years of experience and an adventurous streak! She is based in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Global Development Studies, a certificate in Child and Youth Mental Health, and is a certified early childhood educational assistant. She has been fortunate enough to care for children around the world, including the ski slopes of Montreal, sailboats in the Aegean Sea, summer camps in Ontario, the oceanside in Spain, and the suburbs of Australia, among other places. Most recently, she spent six months as a consultant at the United Nations in Laos, taught ice skating in Afghanistan, and is currently working as a researcher while completing her Master’s degree.


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