10 Things Missionaries Won’t Tell You

I recently read a blog post introduced to me by one of our Kentucky missionaries that was written in July of 2014 by Adam Mosley. After working with missionaries for most of my ministry, I know that what Adam has written is so true. If you’ve not served as a missionary, you might not know these things. So, I’m going to share his blog posting with you right here. I pray it will open your eyes to more effective ways to minister to and support missionaries whom God has called to serve.    KBCL1091 - copy

Being a missionary is hard work. Everybody knows that. But the things we think of as the hard parts – lack of modern amenities, exposure to disease, and the like – only begin to scratch the surface of the difficulties of real missionary life. Often, it is the things left unsaid that really begin to erode the passion and soul of a missionary. Here are just a few of those things…

1. THEY DON’T HAVE THE TIME OR ENERGY TO WRITE…BUT THEY DO IT FOR YOU.
WHAT THEY SAY
• Have you read my latest newsletter?
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Newsletters, blog posts, website updates – all the “experts” tell me that I need to be sending you fresh content on a regular basis so you won’t forget about me. But here’s the thing…writing is hard, especially for those who aren’t natural writers. You know what else is hard? HTML, CSS, PHP, and a bunch of other tech-geek stuff that you have to learn about just to make a decent-looking website or email. I really want to tell you what’s going on, but it’s hard to turn out gripping narratives while I have a sick child asleep in my lap. And if I have to look up how to code a “mailto” link one more time, I’m going to scream!

2. FACEBOOK “LIKES” DON’T PAY THE BILLS.
WHAT THEY SAY
• Thank you so much for the encouragement!
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• I’m glad that you liked my Facebook status. I really am. The thing is, when I say we need $1,200 by the end of the week to pay the school fees for orphaned children, I’m talking about actual dollars and actual need. Contrary to the rumors, Bill Gates doesn’t donate a dollar for every Like. That part is up to you. So, the next time you Like my status, consider sending a few bucks my way too.

3. THEY ASK FOR MONEY BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO CHOICE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m trusting God to provide, and I’m so thankful for our donors.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Lest you think #2 sounded a little whiny and money-hungry, you should know that I truly despise asking for money. I always have. And now I have to ask for it almost all the time. Even when I’m not asking for it, I’m thinking about asking for it. There are never enough funds to do all the good I’m trying to do, and I live with a nagging feeling that the one person I don’t ask is the one who would have written the big check. So, when I ask for money, know that I do so with fear and trembling.

4. YOU’LL NEVER HEAR ABOUT THEIR WORST DAYS.
WHAT THEY SAY
• Please pray for me. It has been a challenging week.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Things are pretty bad here. If I told you what’s really going on, you would either come rescue me, or think I was exaggerating. If you heard some of the things I’ve said out loud, you might question my salvation. If you knew some of the thoughts I’ve had rattling around in my head, you might question my sanity. Sometimes good days are hard to come by, but I don’t dare tell you the worst. If I did, you would probably tell me to throw in the towel.

5. THEY NEED A VACATION…BUT WON’T TELL YOU IF THEY TAKE ONE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I just need a time of refreshing.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• After 2 or 3 years of hard work, most people feel like they deserve a little break. Take the family to the beach. Visit a theme park, a national park, or Park City. I would love a vacation, but honestly, I feel guilty “pampering” myself, rather than putting all my time and resources into the ministry. On top of that, I know some people will judge me if my vacation is “too nice.” If I scrape and save pennies for 5 years so I can spend a week on an exotic island, you’ll never hear about it, because I can’t handle the snarky, “It must be nice” comments (the ones you’ll say to my face), or, “My donations paid for your vacation” (which you’ll think, but not say out lout – at least not to me). So, I keep some great stuff to myself for fear of being judged.

6. HOSTING TEAMS IS A NIGHTMARE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m so excited about your team coming!
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Bless your heart. You think you’re doing me a favor. Thirty people show up at my door and expect me to provide transportation, food, lodging, sight-seeing, and a list of service projects a mile long. You’re here to “help.” The thing is, the other 51 weeks out of the year, we manage to do what needs to be done here just fine. That is, except for the time we spend working on the logistics for your team. You come over and want to help build a fence, when I can hire local workers to build a fence for a tiny fraction of what you spent to come here. I appreciate your desire to help, and I even love having visitors, but consider the size and expectations of your group before you plan your trip. A team of 3 or 4 highly skilled people is much more valuable to our ministry than a gaggle of mission tourists.

7. “GOING HOME” IS A LOT OF WORK.
WHAT THEY SAY
• It’s great to be back home.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• 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, my 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 is almost back to “normal.”

8. IT’S EASY FOR GOD TO TAKE A BACK SEAT IN THEIR LIFE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m not very good at self-care.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Let’s face it, I’m no saint. I’m not any more spiritual than you are. I don’t start my day with three hours of devotional reading and prayer. I typically just get up and get to work. And there is a lot of work to be done. In fact, there is so much need here that it’s really easy to become so focused on doing things for God that I lose sight of God himself. In pursuing my calling, I’ve somehow forgotten about the caller. My spiritual life is almost nonexistent, other than the occasional desperate cry of “Why God?”

9. IT’S HARD TO TRUST PEOPLE.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m just looking for some good strategic partners.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• There are good people here, there really are. But I have seen the worst of humanity in my work here – much of it from people I worked with and trusted. Other missionaries and pastors can be the worst. Just when you think you know someone, they stab you in the back, the front, and both sides. I’ve gotten to where I simply don’t trust anyone. My guard is up, and it’s not coming down. I refuse to get burned again. If that means I have to do everything myself, then so be it.

10. THEY ARE LONELY.
WHAT THEY SAY
• I’m OK – just really busy with the ministry.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY
• Having neglected my relationship with God, and given up on people entirely, I’m left with just me. I hate it. I want to quit. I have dreams about what my life would be like if I went back to my old home town, to my old church, and my old friends. I could get a normal job earning a salary – with healthcare and paid vacation. I could shop and eat at normal places. Most of all, I could have normal relationships. But here? I’m all alone. I don’t know if there’s anyone like me here, and I know no one back home understands. I want to feel wanted, invited, and loved. I want someone to pour into me the way I’m pouring into others.

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