Friday, August 18, 2006

What it's like: part 1

I am sometimes asked what it's like to be a missionary (mostly when I am in the US). There is nothing else on earth like it. I consider myself to be a "Servant of the Most High God". That is my calling.

To try to tell you what it is like is actually very difficult, because it is so multi-faceted. It's NOT like the Peace Corps (well, not all the time). It's NOT like the military (well, not all the time). It's NOT like Diplomatic Service (well, not all the time). It's NOT like ex-pat work (well, not all the time. It IS rewarding. It IS dangerous (at times). It IS hard. It IS easy. It IS lonely. It IS overwhelming. It IS challenging. It IS wonderful. It IS exciting. It IS frustrating. It IS stressful. It IS very stressful.

  • Rewarding: there is NOTHING in the whole world like seeing the faces of people, or an entire village receive the Gospel or a portion of the Bible in their own language for the very first time in their life.
  • Dangerous: you can take all the contingency training you like but NOTHING will prepare you to have REAL AK-47 shoved in your face. 3 days of pretending at MLC just isn't going to cut it.
  • Hard: when the kids pull out the "Grandma" card, or the grandma's pull out the "I'm missing their entire childhood" card. That is very, very hard.
  • Easy: seeing the best the world has to offer and making really great relationships and fun contacts all over the world.
  • Lonely: at times, no one seems to be able to really "connect" with you and you can feel isolated and alone, even in a city of millions.
  • Overwhelming: realizing that if you swerve the wrong way, you could send 2 or 3 dozen people screaming into eternity without the Lord. Realizing that even with a lifetime language learning, you'll ALWAYS be a foreigner, an outsider.
  • Challenging: trying to live and function in a culture that is hostile to your presence and looks at you as a threat to culture and religion. Trying to bridge that gap with the Gospel.
  • Wonderful: seeing people's lives and even whole villages change with the new knowledge of and life in the Living Word.
  • Exciting: being a part of the cutting edge of missions; knowing that what you are doing is actually making a difference for the Kingdom of God.
  • Frustrating: seeing people make bad decisions/choices which bring about a negative effect on your work, other's work, or the church in general.
  • Stressful: trying to learn yet ANOTHER language in order to make relationships, etc, knowing that the foundation that you lay in the beginning months make all the difference in years to come, but having to deal with all of the above, plus culture shock in those first few months.
  • Very Stressful: did I mention language study and culture shock? add in having a baby overseas. That'll put you right over the edge.

I love being a missionary. If I ever had to stop being a missionary, I really have no idea what I would want to do. I see it as "who I am".

I'll write more about this later.


A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


Your blog really resonates with me. We have made wonderful Christian friends, all over the world, have seen people's lives changed by the Gospel, had the "grandma" card playd too often, and have seen really Godly missionaries cry in frustration with the "revolving door" of regional and sub-regional leadership changes (I could write a fairly long epistle on this one).

I have seen miracles and have people I love and work beside who display some of the "forbidden" gifts. But, most of all, I have seen Jesus glorified and transformations that mere mortals could never acomplish on their own. Being a missionary is, for me, a privledge and honor.

Probably the biggest downside to it is how the church back in the USA could really not be bothered to learn what I do, or how I do it. Oh, they fawn over us, and tell us what a great calling we have answered, but have more excuses than one could number for why they just could not come and help us.

Before we were appointed, a very wise deacon told us that giving money was eashy, but actions were not very forthcoming in most churches. What has been your experience?

Nomad said...

10/40 M,

I have been extremely disappointed with the response from my own home church. Part of it is that they have a new pastor who simply "doesn't get" missions. Consequently, we haven't seen anything from the church as a whole in over 6 years now. In fact, at our last STAS, he didn't want me to even speak. He actually said something like, "Well, son, there ain't any Sunday nights where I'm not gonna be here". Of course, I made the effort to explain that I wasn't pulpit supply!

I am in a unique position where I get to see many, many volunteers coming to our region. Actually, I have seen this for the past several years, in several differnt positions/countries (that's why I'm "nomad"). Many of the volunteers have been from maga-churches. They come with a great attitude and willingness to "get to the task".

Now, speaking to the "fawning over us", yes, I have certainly experienced that too. Mostly at GICs. Those are a little overwhelming. I was at one three years ago where all of us "real live missionaries" got a 10 minute standing ovation from the 2000+ crowd. That was simply too much. I tried to get them to applaud for the Lord instead of us, and they clapped all the more. Another GIC, all of the "RLM's" were met by three stretch limo's to be taken to a restaurant on the other side of town. While it was "over the top", I felt like "Dr. Galackawitz" in that beer commericial being "first time in a limo, doctor?, No, just one this small!".

But, I digress. Overall, I have seen more a willingness to through money at something than to get involved personally. Unfortunately, I think this is a result of simply being too busy back in the US. (The AA at one of the regions I have been in had a plaque on his desk that defined BUSY as Being Under Satan's Yoke) I think that folks really do want to be involved, but are over-obligated with kids, work, etc. The obvious alternative is to give money.

Shannon said...

I couldn't agree with you more about this post.

Isabel said...

10-40 said, "Before we were appointed, a very wise deacon told us that giving money was
easy..." . . . and Nomad said, "Overall, I have seen more a willingness to throw money at something..."

We couldn't even get that. Before we left we'd be in people's houses who had lamps that cost more than what we needed and they'd sigh and say, "I wish we could help." $5 a month was more than they could do??? One month, our support was exactly 1/3 of what it was "supposed" to be. If the money hadn't been pooled into one big fund we'd have been a lot skinnier, fer sure...(Of course, in some countries that's a fortune, and it turned out it didn't affect us personally in our situation, but it did hurt the overall situation.)