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So, You Wanna be a Missionary?

We left for the mission field in 2002. Here's a picture of us with our packed truck ready for our Panamerican Adventure! My, our truck looks great and we look so young...and refreshed!
Sometimes I wonder if missionary life isn't some cruel version of Survivor. Every week we hear news of another faithful one that's bit the dust. Don't get me wrong, we're no "Super Missionaries." Although we've come along way, baby, we're still spring chickens and we continue to be humbled and refined every.single.day.

We're learning about what it takes to be a missionary; not just a quick-stint missionary, but a missionary for the long haul. Here's a few characteristics that we're working on:

1. Pioneer Spirit. If you're the type of person that likes everything neat and pretty and handed to you on a silver platter, do not try missions. In many cases, you will be starting projects from scratch, everything takes longer and requires a lot of sweat equity. It's getting your hands down and dirty with the nationals and learning to do things their way, not yours.

2. Age doesn't matter. I thought (naively) that younger missionaries are the best because of their energy and passion. I no longer judge a book by it's cover! Some of the most committed, wisest, loving folks we've seen serving cross-culturally are over the age of, well.... their hair color has evolved.

3. Infinite Flexibility. Can we tell you how important this is? We are both type "A" personalities. We like to be on time, we like things planned and we like to be in control. Well, let's just say that after seven years of serving in a "Don't worry, be happy" culture, we're not sure what our personality type is anymore! But, I would have acquired a stress-related illness had I not readily embraced very reluctantly changed my expectations and loosened up.

4. Dependent upon the Lord. You are not IT. The country you serve was doing fine before you came and they will continue on when you leave. You are not the Savior and you NEED Jesus-every day. Don't let the good you are doing, and the relationships you are building feed your ego. Nurture your intimate relationship with the Almighty. You are on a mission that's great than you are and you need Him.

5. Stick it out. When the going gets tough, don't bail out! Missionary work is the toughest job you'll ever love. You will have days where you think you've landed on Mars. You will feel lonely, discouraged, unappreciated and you will miss the food back home. Suck it up and stay with it. You'll find your groove and those days of culture shock and not understanding the culture will pass.

6. Find support. Where we live, there are no other missionaries (or English speakers) within a four hour drive of us. While we miss the idea of a "missionary community" we have an incredible support of friends, churches, family back in the States that write us encouraging emails, snail mail (we love letters!), and call us on skype. Thankfully, the modern technological age helps keep us connected. More than emotional support, spiritual support is a must. We have 2-4 prayer partners that we can write anytime and they are praying for us on a continual basis. This is crucial for our sustenance.

7. Be a Learner. Learn a little and use it a lot. Don't arrive into your host culture and act like a know-it-all. Be vulnerable and show your human side. While I really dislike looking like a fool in public, I realize how much closer it brought me to the people I serve. They just love it when they can teach me something and it keeps me good and humble, something that God wants in all of us.

Comments

  1. Great post. Its encouraging to see that you guys have stuck it out. Did you actually drive there?

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  2. The one about finding support is SO important. Its so helpful when we can talk to others who have been down the path before us. And to fellowship in our mother tongue.

    I would add one more, its not about me. Its about the Kingdom. So what ever I go through is not that important in the light of eternity.

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  3. Nice post! I especially agree with #3 and #7. With timing especially, I have found that different cultures have completely different viewpoints on when it's okay to be late/early, or on the importance/non-importance of keeping appointments. And with #7, sometimes it takes just a little bit of humility to ask one question that will save you a lot of embarrassment later on.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh my goodness...that picture brings back memories of our journey through Mexico to Belize with you guys! It's hard to believe it's been 6.5 years ago already!

    We love you guys!
    Shelley

    ReplyDelete

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