There is perhaps no word that conjures up more emotion than the word “mother.”

No matter what our backgrounds or beginnings, mothers shape our destiny and forge who we will become. In a very real sense, they are our first home. We are all knitted together in our mother’s womb and pushed into this world by a force she alone can channel.

For most of us, “mother” or some baby-babble equivalent is the first word we say. For good or for bad, we are tied to our mothers, even when that connection is just a distant dream.

Here at the GSAM, “Mother” means many things. For orphaned children, a mother’s love is often a construct, a gift from a collective group who steps in to fill the void. Just as “Family” is a fluid concept for us, the word “Mother” is equally as pliable.

And so, this Mother’s Day, we are dedicating this post to the powerful nurturing mothers on the Mission. Collectively, they act as a single force, working day in and day out to bring a mother’s love to life.

We must begin with our longest serving member and the oldest member of our staff: Auntie Violet. Though she never had children of her own, no one has had a longer or a wider mother’s impact than her. Over her 67 years of service, hundreds of boys have passed through her doors. Today at age 83, she continues to care for more than a dozen young boys in the Small Boys Hostel.

 Crazy boy energy is the stuff Auntie Violet’s life has been made of.

Auntie Violet and her latest batch of boys.

But not all mothers care for children. Auntie Josie has worked in the dairy for more than 50 years, nurturing the ever-changing herd of cows that give us milk every day. An animal lover with a mother’s heart, Josie cries when her cows pass away and worries about them when they’re sick, proving to all of us that a mother’s love is just as strong, whether your child has two legs or four.

 Spending sunset with a few of her younger children.

 The herd definitely knows who is in charge.

Mothers shape us into the people we will become, and for this we are grateful. Saru has been Eugene’s mother for the past 40 years, helping him to be the man we depend on for so much here on the mission. In this way, mothers are the foundation that help to lift us up, the strong support we can lean on when life on the mission gets challenging.

 Saru with her big boy, Eugene.

Since the very early GSAM days, Auntie Sonia has been a part of Mission life. Today, her daughter Joanne lives a few doors down, and Joanne’s daughter Kushi lives in Sonia’s house. Together, these powerful women raise their family, combining their motherly love to help raise the next generation.

 Sonia and Joanne.

 Kushi and Sonia.

 Joanne deserves a metal for putting up with her son William.

Auntie Lucy has become our kitchen in-charge after growing up here on the mission. Lucy arrived at the farm when she was just three years old, and eventually married Benny, another child of the mission. Today, Lucy not only raises her son Amos and daughter Annette, but acts as a motherly force for the many older girls who learn from her cooking experience.

 Amos and Lucy.

 Lucy with some of her older girls.

For one more month, Katie will be the in-charge of our Nursery, and for the last ten years has been the mother at the center of a diverse collection of love that has helped raise our youngest children. On top of this, she has three children with her husband Anish, and one soon-to-be adopted daughter to care for. Luckily, there are dozens of satellite mothers always eager to carry, play with or nurture her kids, should she need a bit of a break…as all mothers do.

 Katie with her youngest daughter Nessa.

 With her collection of monkeys on the monkey bars.

 Sohalia hit her head stepping into this shot. A mother’s job is never done.

Auntie Esther is the other consistent force in the Nursery, helping to guide and shape the next generation of mission kids. A child of the mission herself, Esther is married to Suresh and together they raise a family of five, focusing her boundless mother’s love on her youngest son, Micah, who is the last child living at home.

 Esther with the nursery girls. They all call her “Mumma.”

 When you give love you get love.

 Esther and her son Micah who works at our school.

Being a mother takes patience and no mother’s job requires more patience than Priscilla. Blessed with three energetic, imaginative, rough and active boys, there is never a dull or a quiet moment in the Shipway house. And yet, in spite of also being in charge of most all mission kid-related decisions, mothering women much older than her and thanklessly, yet lovingly, disciplining children of all ages, she manages to be the steady rock at the center of her son’s and the mission’s daily hurricane. A truly powerful mother.

 Dylan wanted to hang from the tree. Then he didn’t.

 Surrounded by loving sons in a rare still moment.

One of Maxine and Rick Shipway’s original adopted children, Phyllis George, or Filly as we call her, is now a powerful mothering force on the Mission in so many ways. Not only is she the mother to her three grown girls, she mothers to many in the local community through her role as Head Teacher of our Kindergarten. Quick to smile with a laugh that is infectious, Filly is married to Eugene and is more than a match for his big personality.

 Ellie and Angel with their mom. Eddu is off at university.

 These girls love their mamma.

Many of our mothers grew up here on the mission and Auntie Peggy is one of our long-term staff members. She married Anil, another farm boy, and together they are raising their grandchildren, Jenny and Dennis. In addition to her mission duties, Peggy has the duel mother/grandmother role to manage.

 Jenny, Peggy and Dennis.

 Peggy and Jenny reaching out through the generations.

 Mothers are especially good at tight hugs.

Auntie Paula is another child of the mission who works in our school as an Assistant Teacher. She’s also a member of our Mission Board. Together with her husband Simeon, they are raising their two children Roufika and Ebiyon, while helping out in the Nursery and Kitchen when needed. Mothers certainly wear many hats.

 Roufika, Paula and Ebiyon.

 Roufika offering her mother a few flowers for Mother’s Day.

 Heading home together.

Elsie Mark was brought to the mission at 8 years old along with her sister and she now lives with her husband Sunil and her daughter Rochelle. She helps Auntie Violet, lending her mother’s heart to the endless mothering tasks needed around the Small Boy’s Hostel.

 Auntie Elsie and Rochelle. Her other daughter Rohini lives in America.

 Mending and teaching at the same time.

 Elsie and her daughter Rochelle, a teacher at our school.

There is no better dressed girl on the mission than Atalia, and this is no doubt thanks to her mother Rhoda. Rhoda is married to Amos and lives with her in-laws Lucy and Benny off the end of our eastern field. In addition to raising the tiny fashionista, Rhoda also works in our school as a Kindergarten Teacher.

 Jump if you love your mother.

Safe in her mother’s loving arms.

 Like mother, like daughter.

We know more than most that being a mother doesn’t have anything to do with blood. Many of our older girls “mother” the younger girls from the time they arrive. Cathy is particularly nurturing in this regard, spending countless hours listening to the challenges and fears, the hopes and joys of her younger mission sisters. You can not raise a large group of children without multiple mothers getting involved. We single Cathy out here, but she shares this role with many of our older girls.

 Listening in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree.

 Malika, Santoshi, Cathy and Jyotika.

Mother is such a flexible term here too, it even applies to our newest staff member, Jack Johnson. Jack is currently playing the role as both mother and father to his son Jared. And of course, with a boy as cute as Jared, there are surrogate mothers eager and waiting to step in when “mama Jack” is simply too tired for another game of “Throw The Boy Into The Air.”

Mama Jack and his boy Jared.

And of course, mother can also mean biological mother. This week, after 6 years of loving and raising Pryanshi and Sheetal, their real mother returned and asked to take them back; her physical and financial situations have improved and she misses her daughters terribly…so it’s time to go home. While it’s a sad day for all of us in her farm family, it’s a happy day too, as our girls will be getting more concentrated mother’s love in the years ahead.  For the girls this is an emotional time, torn between two families. Thankfully they will be continuing on in our school and we will still be able to see them every single day.

 Sheetal and her mother, together again.

 Sheetal and Priyanshi’s family portrait. A new beginning.

Raising children is a big job, and mothers often carry most of the weight of this work. It can be exhausting when done alone, as any stay-at-home mom or single parent knows, but when done with love by a collection of mothers, the monumental task is made just a little bit easier.

And so we thank each and every mother on our farm this week, and we pray for their continued commitment, strength and passion for our kids. The children in our collective care are worth all of the love we can give them, and we honor all of our mums for the love they show each and every day.

Happy Mothers Day to you all, and to all mother’s reading this message. The world needs all the mother’s love it can get. Thanks for adding to it.