Shy Missionary: An Oxymoron?


It always kind of surprises people when I confess that I really am an introvert.  For years and years I have worked hard at learning how to talk to people, so I think I have everyone pretty much snowed.  But at my core, I am a shy girl.  People wear me out.  Conversations are work for me.  And I recharge my batteries by being alone and quiet for a few hours every night.

But it never occurred to me that this personality trait might be viewed as a liability in my profession until about a year before we left for our first term overseas.  Someone who knows me well and was sad to see me leaving expressed her hurt feelings with a harsh remark.  She said, “Why would God call YOU to be a missionary?  You don’t even LIKE people!”  I knew where she was coming from, so it didn’t hurt me.  But it  made me think.

Up until that point, I don’t think I had ever thought about what qualities might make a good missionary.  And it never occurred to me that I might struggle with what the Lord had called me to do.  I just assumed that I would be totally equipped with whatever skills would be required to be a successful missionary.  In my mind, this job didn’t really depend on what I was bringing to the table.  I just believed that God would fill in my gaps some how some way.

After all, I knew the Gospel.  I had experience leading people to the Lord and discipling them.  I was willing to go and was excited to go.  What more did I need… besides the language?  So we went to language school and that is where my shy personality experienced the worst trial by fire imaginable.  Interaction class.  Each week we met individually with a teacher and she helped us write a “texto”, a paragraph about any topic we were interested in.  Then during the week, we took our texto out onto the streets and used it to start a conversation with a total stranger, actually 10 strangers.  Then we were graded on how many minutes we conversed.  I cried every week.

Talking to strangers never got any easier for me.  As a matter of fact, once you added Spanish to the mix, it just got that much harder.  It became something I absolutely dreaded.  But I reasoned, this is what missionaries do, this is how we meet people and make friends.  So I forced myself to do it.

In the back of my mind the question still rings, “Why would God call a shy person like me to be a missionary?”  It’s like Moses in the book of Exodus telling the Lord, “I’m not so good with the putting-words-together-thingy.  Maybe you should send someone else to talk to Pharaoh.”  

In the conversation between Moses and God, through the burning bush, God promised Moses that he would go with him.  God said he would use whatever little thing Moses had in his hand.  God promised to teach Moses what to say and put the right words in his mouth.  And finally, God sent Aaron to help Moses.

What missionary could want more?  God will go with me, will use my ordinary for the extraordinary, will teach me, will put words in my mouth, and will send someone to help me with the work.  These are all promises that a Shy Missionary can cling to.  I don’t know why God chooses people like me or like Moses, but he does.  And when he gives them success, he gets all the glory.

About amamiot

My family and I are missionaries in Costa Rica. Before that we lived in Mexico and before that we came from Minnesota. I am a teacher, an artist, a "journaler", a quilter, a cooker, a baker, a hostess, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I like reading and watching movies (ehem, and quoting movie lines). I would love to be in a Jane Austin movie but I don't know how to ballroom dance or play Whist.

2 responses »

  1. Oh. my. goodness. If only you knew how much ur blogs have helped me and spoke straight to me for about a month now. Every time I read it– it’s like God’s speaking straight to me! Reminding me of small things or big things or just something I need to hear… and so with that being said, it’s a big thank you… and I know how you feel too.

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