I came across a response to the post “10 Things That This Missionary is Telling You” that I found to be refreshing a humbling. In other words, I wish I had done the same thing Ashley had done and re-write the original post to better reflect my own heart. Appreciating her take on the subject, and adding comments of my own, I’ve re-posted her entire posting below. If you wish to view her blog site, the link is here. Enjoy!
So I have seen this article floating around entitled “10 things missionaries won’t tell you” . And after reading this list, I can say that I understand where each point is stemming from but they were a little too passive aggressive for my taste so I couldn’t re-post as something that reflected my own views. Instead, I decided to take the challenge and make it a little more personal and specific to my own situation. You can read the original article here if you would like, but here is my version for your consideration.
10 THINGS MISSIONARIES WON’T TELL YOU
(but I’m a bit more open so here you go)
1. THEY DON’T HAVE TIME OR ENERGY TO WRITE…BUT THEY DO IT FOR YOU
– Taking time to write a succinct newsletter updating you on the strange ins and outs of missionary life, cataloging the, often daily, way that what we “do” changes, and keeping our friends/family/supporters abreast on our day to day ministry is taxing. But we do it. We do it because we love and appreciate you, but also (and maybe even more so) because we don’t want you to forget us. If you want to truly honor or respect your missionary friends/family/etc please take the time to read the updates they send you. Since we are not able to meet with you face to face (which is my preferred method of human interaction, hands down) try taking our newsletters/updates with you out to lunch and read them as if we were talking to you in person. If what you read generates questions or elicits a response, write it down and tell us when you have a chance. And trust me, we know it is very difficult to understand what we do just by reading words, so I will speak for every missionary I know and say this; If you have questions, PLEASE ask us! If you miss us, let us know!
2. FACEBOOK “LIKES” DON’T PAY THE BILLS
– When we use social media to let our friends and family know about a financial need (whether it be personal or ministry related) please realize that these things are actual and immediate. We are using social media as a tool to get the word out and invite you to join us in being part of the miracle of provision. It is discouraging and sometimes hurtful to see those things liked/retweeted/reposted/shared etc with no other return. If you take the time to like something, please take some time to consider joining in with what we are putting out there.
3. THEY ASK FOR MONEY BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO CHOICE FINANCES = LESSONS IN HUMILITY AND BEING BOLD
– The truth is, none of us enjoy asking for money. But for most missionaries, myself included, fundraising is a necessary thing. It’s never an easy or comfortable topic to approach but it’s still something we must do. It’s humbling having to admit that you cannot rely on yourself to provide the means you need to live on, and even more so when you are challenged to approach others in asking for their hard earned financial support. But I believe that this is just part of the life that God has called us to. To be humble in approaching and bold in asking. We DO NOT ask because we have no other choice (as the other article states) we ask because it’s part of what God has called us to. We choose to live this life of radically trusting for God’s provision because we believe that he provides. But he also asks us to partner with him in making the need known. He wants us to actively engage those around us so that they can be a part of our story and his bigger picture. By asking others to support us, we are asking them to help us carry out the work God has moved us to, all the while, honoring the way that they have chosen to carry out the Great Commission at home or in the workforce.
4. YOU’LL NEVER HEAR ABOUT THEIR WORST DAYS (…unless you ask)
– I read something once about a combat veteran that met every question of “what is it like over there?” with a simple “There’s lots of sand.” He did it because it was easier than getting into the gritty details of a complicated and specialized life. Where rules are different and things just don’t equate. I can identify with that need for a simple answer to such a complex question. Because honestly, the worst days are the days where I loose sight of myself and I question everything. The worst days are the days where I encounter things that are way too big for me to understand. The days where the situation I am in is so unreal that if I told you the truth you’d still think I was lying. We endure scary days, hard days, and days that bring us great sorrow but, for me, at the end of those days I make the choice to trust that God has a plan and that I’m going to be ok.
*We may be hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and carrying in our body the death of Jesus. Yet, we know (though it is sometimes hard to see it) we are not crushed, despairing, abandoned, or destroyed. The hard days do not mean we lack faith. However, when you ask (and we want you to), don’t be alarmed if we are going through a crisis of faith in the moment. God is stretching and strengthening us. Sometimes we just need community to walk with us for awhile.
5. THEY NEED A VACATION…BUT WON’T TELL YOU IF THEY TAKE ONE
1. A common misconception is that our work allows us to vacation in the places we visit. Sometimes, this is true. And for those of us that do this long term, we are really grateful when we get the chance to work in seeing an attraction or world wonder. But the reality is that for us “going to Thailand” doesn’t mean beaches and getting tan, it means sitting in an old woman’s hut in the slums or sitting with a lady-boy at a karaoke bar as they tell us their life story. We are grateful to go, see and experience the world in the ways that we do but these times are anything but a vacation.
2. A common struggle that we face is the desperate need to get away. When you are a missionary, your job doesn’t have a punch in/punch out time, your personal life IS your work life. Weekdays, weekends, middle of the night… you name it. Unfortunately, when those rare opportunities arise where we can get away, we are often met with unkind remarks from the outside world and even those that support us. To avoid those remarks and save ourselves the hours of asking God, “Why did you let me take this vacation,” instead of thanking him for the beautiful time he blessed us with, we sometimes just refrain from sharing.
6. HOSTING TEAMS IS A NIGHTMARE (sometimes)
– Please be kind when planning a short-term trip to visit people doing long term work. Recognize that whatever impact you leave is what they will have to work with when you are gone. When you go to visit a longtermer plan on serving them instead of demanding that they cater to you. Ask them what size team would be best for their needs and the needs of the people they serve. We recognize that there is value in short term mission trips and are so happy for non-missionaries to get a taste of what our lives are like on a daily basis but PLEASE come with a desire to serve and listen to the requests, needs and capacities of your contacts because we know the field the best. And PLEASE, be mindful and aware of “voluntourists”, across the globe we are in need of people to go and share Jesus without being motivated by things like the amount of selfies they are going to take with the cute village kids. Attitudes and postures like these can really damage or even cut off relationships that have taken us weeks/months/years to grow.
7. “GOING HOME” IS A LOT OF WORK
– I really couldn’t change anything about this because the original writer hit the nail on the head:
“ Please understand, I now have two homes. When I’m at one, I’m away from the other, and there is a lot of emotion involved in that. On top of that, my life is absolutely crazy when I go “home”. I have to see relatives and friends, visit with partner churches, and take care of any number of issues that have arisen with my health, electronic devices, and my government paperwork. Whether it’s a few weeks or a few months, I spend my time living out of suitcases and hustling from one appointment to the next. Is it good to be home? Sure. But when I get on that plane to go to my other home, I breathe a sigh of relief that life may soon be back to “normal”.
8. IT’S EASY FOR GOD TO TAKE BACK SEAT IN THEIR LIFE
– We are 100% human and 100% flawed… and that definitely includes our spirituality. We fall into the same routines that you do; get up, go to work, come home, do it again. Especially when the work is often undefined and seemingly endless… there are days that we do what needs to be done in order to get through to the next day. And sometimes there are stretches of time where this pattern arises and we look back and realize we forgot to bring God along with us. If you look at my journals, you will find some months with multiple pages filled for every day because I’m voraciously processing what God is saying and then the next page is dated 3 months later. It’s usually those times that I have floundered and struggled the most.
This is what Jeanni and I have said for years: It’s simply too easy for Christian leaders to get caught up in their work for God that they sometimes lose sight of their life in God.
It’s a weird truth but at least it’s honest.
9. IT’S HARD TO TRUST LOVE PEOPLE
– 9 times out of 10 a missionaries “job” consists of loving people first and foremost. It’s the biggest thing that God calls us to do. To love one another as ourselves… but sometimes that love is hard to muster. Because even as missionaries we are still prone to being human, and humans hurt other humans. Some of our deepest hurts in ministry don’t come from the people who persecute us but the people that walk alongside us in ministry. This thing we do is a constant revolving door and sometimes it’s easier to remain unattached than to be hurt when the people you invest in leave. I think we’ve all entertained at least the idea of just not pursuing a friendship/relationship with so-and-so because it’s going to hurt when they leave or let us down BUT from where I sit, this is the challenge that we have to accept: Are we still willing to love them anyways? Inevitable broken heart and all, are we willing to adopt Jesus eyes and ears to see and hear them like he does. To love unconditionally- meaning without guarantee of return or reciprocation.
10. THEY ARE LONELY
– Save the very few, most of us deal with bouts of feeling forgotten. We spend hours updating and trying to connect with friends/families/supporters/churches and sometimes the only return we see is the message in our inbox telling us that person_x’s mail was undeliverable. We sometimes long for the comfort of a “normal” life because that means “normal” interactions with other humans. We are under a constant attacking stream of thought that nobody understands/remembers/cares about us etc. Our biggest dreams sometimes are as simple as having someone from home come and visit you where you are so that they can relate to the life you live.
To close, I would like to add that being a missionary is awesome. I would gladly choose being here over any other place I could choose to be. Despite all of these things that we don’t tell you, most of us will gladly tell you for days the10 fold list of things that we love about what we do and the hilarious/amazing/weird things that come along with it. We sometimes choose to omit some of the great things too, purely based on social propriety or saving face so you don’t think we are insane. For the sake of disclosure though I’ll share a few that would make my list:
– TRADING STORIES ABOUT BATHROOM EXPERIENCES IN THE FIELD ARE A FAVORITE PASTIME
– LEGALITY IS SOMETIMES NOT PART OF THEIR VOCABULARY
– CARE PACKAGES AND HANDWRITTEN LETTERS SOMETIMES CAUSE TEARS OF JOY
– LANGUAGE BLUNDERS LAND THEM IN WEIRD SITUATIONS
– PROFICIENCY AT ADAPTING RECIPES IS A TREASURED SKILL TO HONE
– SEEING A NATION THROUGH THE EYES OF A LOCAL IS BETTER THAN ANY GUIDED NAVIGATION
– THEY’VE EATEN THINGS THEY’D RATHER NOT REMEMBER BUT THEY LAUGH WHEN THEY DO
Ok… now go and catch up with your missionary friends.