There's a blog post going around describing some of the hardships of life as a missionary that most keep hidden. Some of the points are spot on, others don't really apply to our situation, and some I just completely disagree with. Granted, our role is quite different than the traditional missionary as we are doing our work stateside. And we're newbies - only been at it for a year. But in case some of our supporters happened to have read that blog post, I felt it was important to clarify that the post does not necessarily speak for all missionaries.
Please understand that this in no way an attack on a fellow missionary! I don't know him at all, but I do know that he uprooted his family and gave up all the comforts of his life to follow the call God has placed on his life. That's enough for me. He's a hero in my book. You can find the original post (with more explanation) here. For what it's worth, here's my take on the list:
1. THEY DON’T HAVE THE TIME OR ENERGY TO WRITE…BUT THEY DO IT FOR YOU.
I actually love putting together newsletters, blog posts, and website updates. It's definitely not always easy to find the time, but I love to write and I love to use social media to get prayer requests out and keep people in the loop. Besides, if people are committed to praying for your ministry or sacrificing financially to make it happen, they absolutely deserve to be kept in the loop. How else are they going to know what to pray for or that their investment in your ministry is worthwhile? This is not an obligation, but a tool.
2. FACEBOOK “LIKES” DON’T PAY THE BILLS.
I think I get what this guy is saying here. When you throw out a very real financial need over social media (to feed starving children in another country, for instance), it's frustrating to get a bunch of "likes," but not have anyone actually help. You may not have much money, but if everyone who liked the post actually chipped in just a little bit, it's likely to translate into more people hearing about Christ and/or lives being physically saved . But I personally feel encouraged when people like the things I post. And the more likes I get, the more people see it.
3. THEY ASK FOR MONEY BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO CHOICE.
This is true. We ask because we can't do our ministry without money. It's just a reality of life. We can't feed our families or pay bills without money. The author goes so far as to say he despises asking for money. I definitely get why. It's no fun and too many people have been burned and put up walls before you even ask! It's frustrating and tiring. BUT...I also truly believe that we're created to give. When a missionary asks for financial support, they're offering an opportunity for someone to invest their money in the Kingdom! That's nothing to be ashamed of. It's my job to simply ask. Some people can't and some people won't, and some may assume things that aren't true. But I'm not really worried about that - not anymore, at least. If they say "no," God must have another plan. No need to stress!
4. YOU’LL NEVER HEAR ABOUT THEIR WORST DAYS.
I'm pretty sure I'm too new into this adventure to comment much on this one. And we're based in America, so we're not dealing with many of the hardships that come with life overseas. But I can tell you that even for us, there are hardships that we don't share with others. I guess it's because we don't want to come across as whiny or ungrateful. And honestly, it would likely result in a lot of well-intentioned advice we already know.
5. THEY NEED A VACATION…BUT WON’T TELL YOU IF THEY TAKE ONE.
I agree with this one so much that I'll just quote some of what this guy wrote: 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.” 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 loud – at least not to me).
6. HOSTING TEAMS IS A NIGHTMARE.
This one totally doesn't apply to us. But man, he makes a great point that we should all consider: 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.”
7. “GOING HOME” IS A LOT OF WORK.
We're stateside, and even we deal with this to some degree. I can only imagine what it's like for overseas missionaries: "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.
This one, I take issue with. If you read the original post, you might understand why. Of course it's easy to push God into the background! Listen, I have dry periods in my spiritual life like anyone else that I blame on busyness. It is easy for God to take a back seat. For anyone. But this is precisely why it is so absolutely essential that I start every day with significant time in Scripture and prayer. It grounds me. I can't imagine doing it any other way. I simply couldn't survive. I couldn't think. I couldn't breathe. And frankly, I'd have to reevaluate my role as a missionary or as a minister of any sort if I've allowed God to fade into the background or for my to-do list to dominate my life for a long period of time. How can I feed people spiritually if I'm starving? No, there is too much at stake here. If I'm not taking the time to stop and listen to the Creator, then I'm not being led by Him either. And if He's not leading, I am...which is a scary thought since I can't actually save anyone.
9. IT’S HARD TO TRUST PEOPLE.
I'm actually overly trusting. So I do get burned some. I definitely wouldn't go so far as the author of the blog, but I can understand how he's become so jaded. People, even really good people, can surprise you with what they'll do. But I just can't help but see the good in people (perhaps to a fault), and give them chance after chance after chance. Sometimes that does mean I get hurt, and that does NOT feel good. But I don't intend on stopping. I pray that I will never get to the point where I just don't trust anybody.
10. THEY ARE LONELY.
The blogger says: 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. This is not how I feel! If we had actually packed up and moved to Rwanda, living there for several years, we might feel the same. Think about how hard and lonely that would be! But that is not our situation. We have not neglected our relationship with God. We have not given up on people. And we have the most incredible team of supporters around us who are constantly cheering us on and praying for us. Even if we feel lonely at times, we most certainly are not alone.
Again, these are just the rambling thoughts of 1-year-old missionary who lives in a nice Atlanta apartment. What do I really know?! Thank you for your incredibly love and generosity. We are truly grateful.