A Message to Overseas Missionaries
My heart is connected to the hearts of missionaries everywhere. We embarked upon a journey that truly threw us for a loop. We learned a few things prior to our venture. We even interviewed others who went before us. We took vision trips to our far-a-way land. We fasted and we prayed. We educated ourselves of the basic laws of that land. We studied the scriptures and the lives of the missionary monarchs.
We packed our belongings and let go of the things we cherished. We "burned our bridges" so we thought and "packed our coffins" as we were told. We told our children that this would be an amazing adventure and left our homelands bright eyed and excited to share the gospel.
We moved with the momentum that fueled us. This was it. We made it!
All of that preparation. All of that asking. All of that praying. To get us here. We made it!
Our children who once had comfortable beds now sleep on floors and combat mosquitos throughout the night. Our children used to be happy, now they cry throughout the night because they miss their family and their friends back home. They miss the normalcy of life, like running water all the time.
There was a time when we could run to a fast food place when mom didn't feel like cooking.
That life is over!
And it hurts!
Little things hurt.
Like switching on the light switch to no avail. Like trying your best to tell your neighbor the truth of why you are here just to have them stare you blankly in the face because they can't understand your broken language!
Like disagreeing with your spouse. Oh, how the fights escalate on the field.
Like wondering why you ever came here in the first place.
Am I being too real for you missionary friend?
Just let yourself go there for a minute.
Most of us would agree that we weren't prepared for most of what we've faced here.
Sure, we know the bible. We've got evangelism techniques down packed. We have great book knowledge of cross cultural living, but only living it could actually give us the knowledge we need to thrive.
Lets face it. Its a hard life. So hard that so many end up going back home. Don't feel bad if you do. You've got to do what is best for you.
The sad truth is that the friends and family we left behind don't really get it. I mean, they can take our "whining" for a while, but give it some time and they are ready to withdraw their support and tell us to come back home.
That was my life. We lived that way for a long time. Behind the apparent successes in ministry were tears of agony, lack of funds, bickering and disillusion.
So to you, the new one on the field, or the veteran who just never wanted to be vulnerable. Stop for a second. Okay, for more than a second and take these steps.
Re-evaluate yourself. Do this before God. Allow Him to search your heart. Let Him deal with what really shouldn't be there. I've realized that opening myself up to Him first makes way for others to pour into my life. Take the time everyday to let Him uproot the roots of pain that leaving home caused. Most times, missionary work will bring out the worse in us. I believe that God allows this in order to get to the best in us. We cannot continue to serve with sinful, hurting and broken hearts. We must take the time to allow God to heal us. So stop each day and get on your healing journey with God.
Thank God for the small things. It's so important to thank Him everyday for everything. Your children need to see you do this. Thank Him for water and for electricity. Thank Him for meals, no matter how small they may be. Thank Him for blankets if you sleep on the floor. Thank Him for limbs if you have to walk because you don't have a car. Turn your griping into gratefulness. Many times our grateful hearts usher in God's provision. Don't do it just because you want Him to provide, but know that provision comes slower to those who complain. So learn to focus on what you do have and give Him thanks for it!
Sanctify your marriage. Sanctify simply means to set apart. Your marriage is important. It really should be your priority. I know that life changes on the field. Our lives become open books to strangers around us because we have to live with our doors open (its hot in my country)! Our homes soon become a place of refuge for so many others. Mission groups from the states swarm our abode and supporters consistently want to know what's going on. Our children get sick and many spend days at a time in the hospital. Plus, we spend most of our days together so we think that we had quality time. NOT! Go on dates. If you have no money, so what! Take a walk together while holding hands. Sit on the porch together and talk. Watch movies on youtube at home. Read a book together. Just do something of quality together with out distractions each week. I know its hard, but don't talk about ministry. Don't talk about the kids. Don't talk about family and friends back home. Encourage one another. Find little things about one another that's uplifting. Hey, in the worse situation you could possible face as a couple, know that keeping what you have as a couple is of utmost importance; so try hard to find something good to say about one another. Make yourselves remember why you became a couple in the first place and build upon that. Let everyone in your life know that this relationship is of utmost priority by separating a special time for this each week.
Get help when you need it. Let yourself be vulnerable. Its not easy to let people in on what's really going on in your life, but its necessary if you want to thrive on the field. Listen friends, if you need help, please ask for help! Stop thinking that you can do this alone because you can't. You will only turn into a bitter and unapproachable human being that on one will want to be around. So you embarked upon missionary life to be alone? Thats senseless. Accountability is of utmost importance, especially when you are out there on your own. Try counseling, your pastor from back home, other missionaries on the field, an old friend, something! Just don't fool yourself by thinking that you can do it alone because you can't. And this is coming from a controlling introvert who prefers to be alone and to handle life all by myself in my sweet little house on my mountain! So, if I can do it, I know you can.
Do whatever it takes to show your children they are loved and treasured by you. In the midst of reaching the lost, learning a new language, adjusting to a new life, trying to truly stretch a buck and all of the in between-our children oftentimes get lost. I've come to realize that they have their own struggles with this new life that we overlook because we're so caught up in our own. Our witness to the communities we serve would carry much more weight if they could see us truly loving our children. So you'll have to sanctify this relationship too. Each child will need time with you. For me, that's eight! It doesn't matter if you have one child or 21 like Mrs. Duggar, each will need you. They will always be your mission, even when they leave home! Do what you must for them. Start today!
Missionary friends, I've been there. I've been on that down side of fright and sadness. The neat thing about suffering is that our correct reaction only ushers in our Savior. He is a pro at grand entrances.
His grand entrance into my circumstances didn't always come the way I wanted or expected, but he always showed up! And He always will.
Even after making countless mistakes in each of the above areas, He was faithful to come through for me.
There is good news for you too. Yes, that same Good News for which you gave it all up to shake your life by moving overseas is yours. John 3:16, the simple scripture we teach our three year olds and pray they take hold of in life. The same verse that we memorized in our new foreign tongue to share with those around us. Yes, it belongs to you right now, right where you are. God so loved you that He gave you His only begotten Son, so if you believe in Him, that He is with you right now, you won't perish in this current situation, your eternal life begins today. That's my version. I'm no bible scholar, but I am a student of my Father. He overcomes in my life everyday. He shines His light in every dark place and brings HOPE even when I can't seem to grasp it. Take hold of Him today my friend. He hasn't forgotten you.