I hope nobody takes this blog post wrongly. I am not trying to brag about myself or to put anyone down. I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just expressing a frustration that most of my co-workers in the foreign mission field also feel. These are my true feelings and thoughts. I’m being honest.
It’s a really popular thing in churches now days to throw around the word “missionary” and to apply it to many different contexts. For example, some people say “my office is my mission field” or “I am a missionary in my school.” This kind of rubs me the wrong way. I don’t deny that these places are full of people who need to hear about Jesus. And I don’t deny that Jesus gave the Great Commission to all Christians (Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”). And I don’t deny that it can be hard to be a light in the darkness. But these uses of the word “missionary” kind of bother me because, you see, I AM a missionary. A real missionary. I have taken the “go” in that verse to literally mean “go to the nations.” It’s more than my occupation, it’s my entire life.
As a real missionary I have made decisions for my own life that have ripped through my family. I chose to go, so my kids have come with me. And that decision tore the heart out of my parents who had to say good-bye to their grand kids. That decision impacted the aunties and uncles and cousins and sisters and brothers that we left behind too. You see, I’ve made the hard choices that a missionary makes when she loves God more than she loves her family.
As a real missionary, I have spent YEARS learning the language. I have put in the hours of hard study. I have laid down my own desires and submitted myself to another culture, another way of thinking, and another way of communicating. I have been stripped bare of my own identity. The “missionary” who just walks across the street to be a witness to his neighbor will never be required to make the same kind of investment. I have done the hard work to become a missionary.
As a real missionary, I have sold all my possessions (except a few boxes of treasures and memories) and made an international move MORE THAN ONCE. I sold the rocking chair that I rocked my babies in. I watched my dishes walk out the door. I put my electronics in the hands of a garage sale shopper on a Saturday morning. I spread all my possessions across my lawn for my neighbors to pick through. I looked at the pitiful wad of dollar bills and quarters that I accumulated in exchange for all my worldly possessions and I knew, despairingly, that this pittance would not cover the cost to repurchase these things overseas. It was going to cost me something more to reestablish a home in a foreign country.
As a real missionary, I have swallowed my pride over and over again to ask churches for money. We need support to do what we do. To an American, this feels like begging. I didn’t like it. It can be humiliating, but this is the way our organization is run. So week after week we would “shlep” our presentation table around the state like a traveling salesman. We have done the leg work to earn our support as missionaries.
We have made the sacrifices to earn the title “missionary”, so to hear others appropriate the title for themselves when they haven’t made those same hard sacrifices kind of bothers me. It’s like me giving my kids Tylenol and then calling myself a Doctor. I didn’t work for that title. I didn’t pay for that title. I didn’t invest my life in becoming a doctor, so when I rob the Doctor of his title I also rob him of his earned respect. I am not a Doctor. I am a mother with an eye dropper full of over-the-counter pain-killer.
In the same way that I am not a Doctor, I’m also not a super hero. I don’t expect great honor. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I don’t want to hear the praise of men. I’m not fishing for compliments or pats on the back. The only thing I am dying to hear from my heavenly Father is, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Here’s your eternal home… and you never have to move again.”
Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”