Tag Archives: missionary

A Frank Talk about Finances

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Today I want to speak frankly to you about a missionary’s budget.  This is not a personal plea for help.  What I want you to see is what happens on our end when supporters “drop” us.  There is a ripple effect that builds as it moves like a tsunami wave.  For some supporters, giving to a missionary means that you sacrifice 2 or 3 Starbucks drinks per week to give $100 a month.  For those types of supporters, you may not see how that $100 a month makes much of a difference, so it’s not a big deal for you if you “shift” that money to another “need” every once and a while.  For the missionary, it’s a different story.  That $100 pledge is significant- it counts… EVERY MONTH.   Let me show you how.

Each sending agency is different, but in our agency each missionary raises his own budget which is set by the agency.  Our agency does not have any reserve funds for us. We are responsible for all our own support raising.  If the funds do not come in, we must come off the field before we are so low that we can’t buy a plane ticket home.  This has happened to several of our friends in the last few years.  Some of them never recover financially and can never return to the field.  This does not mean they lack faith.  This means their supporters stopped giving.  Let’s be practical.

In our system of fund raising we have many, many small supporters which we bring together over the course of a year or more of itineration.  For us it’s a lot of work, but it’s a blessing, because if one or two supporters drop off, we can survive with belt tightening.  That’s where we are right now.  At the moment, our ministry budget is at zero, and it has been there for months now.  That means that any money we spend on ministry comes right out of our personal account.  We are personally funding our own ministry.  For example, this Friday night we have a meeting for our leadership core at our house.  I am making dinner for all of them.  The cost of the food will come out of our own grocery budget.  The students coming from far off will stay over night in our house.  In the morning they will eat our cereal and drink our milk and coffee.  Somehow, God always takes care of us and our own children have never gone hungry as we give hospitality to others.  That’s where the faith happens.  That’s where the miracles occur.

In other missionary sending agencies, one or two large donors support one missionary. That means way less fund raising for the missionary.  But I have a friend here working under a system like this and last week they lost one of their two supporting churches.  In their bank account they currently have $2,000 will is supposed to last until December when they go home for a month of support raising.  They can’t live on that.  At this point they don’t even have the money to buy those plane tickets to come home and raise more support.  They are living on faith, and God is surprising them with little blessings that trickle in.

You might not think your $100 pledge is a big deal, but it has a big impact on the missionaries.  This week as my husband and I discussed our finances we had a little argument which seems humorous now, but it illustrates how your small pledge makes a big difference.  I was complaining that we only have one finger nail clipper in the house and I can never find it when I need it.  I told my husband I wanted to buy another finger nail clipper to keep upstairs.  He said, No, we already have a clipper.  I said, Yes, but I can never find it.  He said, but we HAVE one already.  I raised my voice, Yes, but I can’t FIND IT!  I wrote “finger nail clipper” on the grocery list.  When he ran to the store next time, he did not buy one.  I rebelled and made a special trip to the store to buy a finger nail clipper.

This is a stupid argument, I know, but this is what happens when money is very tight.  You might not feel like it’s a big deal to skip a month of your missions pledge.  But it’s a big deal on our end.  It means we bicker about small purchases, fret over having enough milk for guests, or worse, get stranded in our field and don’t have enough money for a plane ticket home.  Please be faithful to your promises to your missionaries.  You should never take money from your missionary pledge to “give” to another need.  Extra giving should come above and beyond your missions giving.

When you miss a month, we feel it.  Imagine if your employer went on vacation and forgot to pay you one month.  Or image if he said, “Well, we had another speaker in who presented another need and I felt compelled to give what I normally would pay to you to this guy with the pictures of needy children.  I’ll pay you your salary next month, maybe.”  That’s exactly what happens to missionaries when supporters skip a month- we don’t get paid.  There’s no back up fund to cover your missed payment.  Please be faithful in your promises and don’t leave your missionaries hanging.  It makes a difference to us when you are faithful in your giving.

Not my picture.  I don't know who owns this.

Not my picture. I don’t know who owns this.

To the beat of God’s drum

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“Do not be afraid to be different from other people.  The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you.  The more closely you follow My leading, the more fully I can develop your gifts.  To follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your desire to please other people.  However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world.” ~Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

In any random gathering of missionaries there will always be a large handful of them whose families back home are (or were) unhappy with their decision to be missionaries.  This lifestyle upsets the whole clan.  It tears the heart out of Grandmas and Grandpas.  It brings conviction on lukewarm, comfort loving Christians in the family.  It strains and pulls at relationships.

Jesus knew this would happen.  He said, “Unless your love for me is so much greater than your love for family and home, you can’t follow me.”  A missionary’s love for God often hurts the ones we love the most.  That is the nature of the Upside Down Kingdom of God where first is last, love is pain, and we go against our nature to do what God has commanded.  Relinquish your desire to please others and yet still be a blessing to others.

Walking to the beat of God’s drum is admirable, but it will cost you something eventually.  You can’t be listening for the approval and applause of mankind and still hear that beat in your heart.  When God’s opinion of you matters more than the opinion of friends and family, then you will be free to move, free to march, free to GO where God commands you to go.

God calls NONE of us to comfort, ease and luxury.  If you have been saying to yourself, “I’m glad that God never called ME to go overseas.  I’m called to be right here in my own home town.”  Then I suggest you haven’t been listening for that drum beat.  NEVER ONCE does God tell us to settle down and get cozy in our Christian life.  If you are tucked safely into your comfort zone, you can not step out and move to the beat of God’s drum.

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, famously said, “‘Not called!’ did you say? ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.”

Growing into her skin

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When we go through our school of missions in our sending agency, we have an amazing program for the kids as well.  The idea is to prepare the kids for some of the challenges that they might encounter on the mission field.  The leadership builds community and unity and identity in the kids by encouraging them to embrace “the MK way” by constantly referring to them as Missionary Kids (MKs).  Most kids bloom under this kind of encouragement and thrive in their identity as an MK.

But not everyone.  Sometimes kids get “dragged along” to the mission field- or so they perceive it that way.  Some kids come out of the MK training and feel displaced and angry.  Change is hard.  These kids are part of a family that is going to leave everything familiar to them, all creature comforts that they love, and travel to a new world to tell people about Jesus.  Some kids feel like, “If Jesus called my parents, then he forgot to talk to me about this decision!”  Some kids end up hating Jesus and his stupid Calling.  This is hard.

Six months ago I met an angry MK.  She was not comfortable in her own adolescent skin and not comfortable in her new school and not comfortable with being called an MK.  She had experienced the double whammy of being a teenager AND having too much change in her life all at once.  She was not happy.  She bristled when anyone tried to show her love.  We loved her anyways.

Six months later, our young friend has changed quite a bit.  I almost don’t recognize her!  Her hair is now her natural color and no longer hanging over her face.  She’s incorporating color into her wardrobe… under her black hoodie.  But most importantly for me- she smiles.  This girl has made close friends both at the missionary kid school and among the missionary families living in Costa Rica.  She is now at place where she is comfortable in her own MK skin.

Recently at a gathering of missionary families, our once angry and resentful kid-of-missionary-parents finally showed that she had embraced her identity as a Missionary Kid.  She showed a video that she had made of her and her friends laughing and doing silly teenage things.  She set it to bouncy, happy music and added cute titles.  And the very last screen was the sentence, “This is the MK way.”  I got tears in my eyes as we all wildly applauded her creative expression of who she finally decided to be.  She had finally grown into her skin and she is happy again.

Nacho

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Our dog Nacho

Our dog Nacho

We have a dog named Nacho.  Before we even left for the mission field, back in 2004 we promised our kids that once we got through itineration, language school and two international moves that we would get a dog.  So once we landed in Mexico, we made plans to fulfill our promise.  We sent a message home to my parents to go to a breeder and pick out a dog for us.  We wanted a Shih Tzu.

So my parents went out to the farm where the breeder lives and picked out the cutest, most cuddly puppy they had.  Some friends of ours from Mexico were in town for a wedding, so we made plans for Nacho to travel back to Mexico with them.  They brought us this adorable little fur ball.

Nacho has traveled to Mexico, back to Minnesota, and on to Costa Rica with us.  Missionary kids have to give up a lot of things as we move country to country.  So we make an effort to keep Nacho as one of the “constants” in their lives.  Some missionary families have to leave their pets on the field and get a new pet in each new place where they live.  That works for some families but I don’t think that would work for our kids.

The other thing that Nacho is good for is as a built in alarm system.  He barks whenever anyone comes to our door.  He guards our yard, although the most dangerous thing that enters our yard are those yellow birds that he hates and the gardener with his evil “weed wacker.”  But he lets those on the outside of our gate know that a dog lives here and so they better beware.  He’s got an important job to do.

Nacho loved the snow in Minnesota

Nacho loved the snow in Minnesota

But one major pitfall of having a pet when you live the life of a global nomad is that you must constantly be searching for someone to watch your dog for you when you leave town for a night or a week or a year.  It’s a head ache!  When we were home on furlough this last time there was a lovely lady in our home church who offered to take Nacho for us whenever we left town to go speak at a church.  She said, “I don’t have any money to support a missionary, but this is something I can do to bless you.”  And that was HUGE for us!!  Just huge!  To know that we never had to worry about finding a dog sitter when we had to travel and that Nacho was being well cared for was indeed a huge blessing for our family.

So I would like to encourage all of you who love missions but don’t have the financial means to support a missionary.  Look for practical ways that you can bless a missionary and make their life back home a little less stressful.  It might be offering to take in their mail, shovel their snowy driveway, mow their lawn, or water their plants while they are away.  Or offering to be the emergency contact person for the school where their children attend (a few times we found ourselves stuck in traffic and couldn’t pick up our kids after school.  It helped having friends who could run up to the school and pick them up for us.)  Ask a missionary if they have someone to fold and stuff their newsletters a few times a year.  That’s a practical blessing for sure!

Or maybe you know that the family will be arriving in your state in the middle of winter and they will have NO snow clothing for the first few weeks.  This would be a great opportunity to ask your friends if the family could borrow jackets and boots and mittens for a few weeks.  You have no idea how fast kids grow and how hard it is to find winter coats in December!  Anyhow, look for practical ways that you can bless others.  Listen to what they are talking about and ask yourself if there is a need you can meet here.  It’s a huge blessing for us missionaries!

Without Love this is all Worthless

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I had already been thinking of writing something about 1 Cor. 13 from a missionary point of view when a friend of mine posted this version that she had saved from her language school days. So I decided to save myself some time and just shamelessly share Cindy’s post.  

The point is that without love, missions is pointless.  I think some of us THINK  we have love, but when that emotion is twisted and broken by culture clash, then we realize that what we had was a sort of romanticization of missions.  We loved the IDEA of being missionaries rather than loving Jesus enough to love fallen humans.  

Love isn’t easy.  If you think it’s easy, you aren’t doing it right.  Jesus said even sinners love those who love them, so what’s the big deal if you do the same?  The really hard thing is to love those who don’t love you back, who hate you and your nationality and your skin color, who don’t want you in their country.  Now that’s real, gritty love.

love you

A GUIDE TO CULTURE (According to 1 Corinthians 13)

If I speak with the tongue of a national, without love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national, but have not love, I am nothing.

Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those who mock his accent; love does not envy those who stayed home; love does not exalt his home culture; is not proud of his national superiority; does not boast about the way we do it back home; does not seek his own ways; is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of his home country; does not think evil about this culture.

Love bears all criticisms about his home culture, believes all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, endures all inconveniences.

Love never fails, but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualization, it will lead to syncretism; where there is linguistics, it will change.

For we know only part of the culture, and we minister to only part.

But when Christ is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.

When I was in America, I spoke as an American, I understood as an American, I thought as an American, but when I left America, I put away American things.

Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly, but we will live in it intimately. Now I speak with a strange accent, but He will speak to the heart.

And now these three remain: cultural adaptation, language study, and love.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/brandoncwarren/4164759025/”>Brandon Christopher Warren</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com/Love/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>CC BY-NC</a>

It’s just not “Me”

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When we were at the World Missions Summit earlier this month, one of the speakers, Scott Martin, talked about Predisposition vs. Predestination.  One of his illustrations stuck in my mind and this is my version of his story.  Just giving credit where due.

My daughter went to Kindergarten this year.  As a parent, you’re always checking out the other kids at the Open House to see which ones are going to be problems.  Inevitably there is a girl who is already interested in boys.  She’s the girl that was cute and flirty as a baby.  Now she’s the girl who sneaks her mother’s lipgloss before leaving the house in the morning.  She may only be 5, but she’s got boys all around her.  By the time she’s in late elementary school, she’s already had a string of boy friends and a waiting list far into junior high.  That girl was PREDISPOSED to be flirt.  She’s going to be trouble once she get’s into high school and you can see that on the first day of Kindergarten.

Then there’s the boy in the ninja costume at the Kindergarten Open House.  In the nursery as a baby, he was “the biter”.  As a toddler, he would constantly grab toys from other babies and whack them over the head with it.  He is the one who will spend recess time practicing his karate kicks on the weaker children.  If you build a block tower, he will be the one to knock it over.  By elementary school, he is familiar with the Principal’s office, and by junior high, he’s a thug.  That’s the kid that you’re sure is headed for “Juvie” sometime in his 3 year high school career.  You can tell on the first day of Kindergarten that this boy is PREDISPOSED to be a bully.

Each one of us has character traits predisposed, deposited in our DNA.  If you are the parent of the flirty girl or the bully boy, you might try to counter-weigh those in-born traits with some environmental conditioning.  You might succeed to a degree.  But far too often parents are in denial and young people just default to their natural tendencies without trying to do anything different or to fight against their genetics.  It’s far easier, that’s for sure.

I can not tell you how many times I have heard someone excuse the bad behavior of another person by saying, ”Oh, that’s just how they are.  You just have to understand them.”  DNA is powerful, but there has to be an override switch thrown every once and a while.  I have also heard people say, “I could never be a missionary.  I’m just not wired like that.  It’s just not ME.”

What I want to say is, “GOOD!  Cause it’s not supposed to be about YOU!  It’s supposed to be about JESUS.”  Both my husband and I have, in our own ways, kicked against the restraints of our personal make up to become missionaries.  My husband lived in the same house all his life, so moving to a foreign country was not something he was automatically attracted to.  He is a home body.  Plus, he hates public speaking, yet God called him to preach.  It’s taken lots of practice and he’s good at it now, but he doesn’t enjoy it.  He is not PREDISPOSED to being a preacher or missionary.

And I have a quiet, thoughtful personality.  I am stressed out by talking to people.  I need big chunks of alone-time.  So anything related to ministering to people drains me.  Put me behind the scenes and I’m happiest.  I am not PREDISPOSED to being conversational or “putting myself out there” so to speak.  It looks like we were both unlikely candidates to do this job.  So why do we do it?  Because we feel that God asked us to go and do something.

And he’s asking you too.  He’s asking you to do something that is uncomfortable.  He’s asking you to push against your natural tendencies.  He’s asking you to lay aside your disposition, your excuses that “it’s just not ME”.  He’s asking you to make it about HIM.  When you get your eyes off yourself and onto HIM, then your ears will also tune to his voice.  Then you will hear him calling you.  Do you hear him yet?

“The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God.”

~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

 

Life on a Paper Plate

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As I carried multiple piles of folded laundry to the various corners of the house, I passed by 3 small pictures propped up against the wall in the hallway.  We have lived in this house for 2 ½ years and I have still not hung those pictures.  As missionaries we live our lives in 4-year segments: on the field 4 years, home 1 year raising funds.  Since we only have 18 months left in this cycle, those pictures will likely stay leaning against the wall instead of being hung.

I sigh when I think about how temporary our life feels.  As a mom, nothing I do stays done permanently.  I make food; the children are hungry again 4 hours later.  All week long I clean the house; then I start over again on Monday.  I wash and fold laundry; by bedtime there is another load to wash (I’ve thought about ordering everyone to be nude for a day or two just to give me a break, but only my youngest would comply.)  Nothing stays done.

As a teacher, I can teach a whole year only to start over in the same book next year and reteach the same material.  As a missionary, we can raise funds only to have the account empty to zero each month.  We teach the basics of leadership and discipleship over and over and over again because kids keep graduating and a new batch comes along.  Nothing stays done.

One time I asked my dental hygienist what attracted her to this job (because frankly you couldn’t pay me enough to clean someone’s teeth!)  She said, “Nothing in my life stays done.  But when I clean someone’s teeth, I can look at that and say, ‘there, it’s done.’”  In my mind I was thinking, it’s only done until the guy eats his next meal, but I guess she doesn’t see that.

My point is, this feeling of life being temporary seems to be universal.  Don’t go reading Ecclesiastes when you’re in this mood.  Solomon was in a dark mood when he penned the words, “Meaningless!!  Everything under the sun is a meaningless chasing after the wind.”  And it’s true, sometimes.

Life can feel temporary and meaningless.  My dad grew up in a dysfunctional home with an alcoholic and often suicidal mother.  She served dinner on paper plates.  To this day, my dad hates eating on paper plates because it reminds him of how temporary life felt as a child.  I guess his paper plates are my unhung pictures.

And this is the very reason that I can’t imagine doing anything with my life except serving the Lord.  Only what is done for the Kingdom of God has eternal significance.  Why build another kingdom here on this temporary earth when you could be investing your energies in something that will last forever?  The Bible says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

World Missions Summit

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World Missions Summit

World Missions Summit

We have had an amazing opportunity this past week.  Every couple of years we attend a World Missions Summit for University students.  Students are given the chance to rub shoulders with missionaries from all around the world and to be inspired to consider serving overseas themselves.  The theme is “Give a year, pray about a lifetime.”  For me, it’s a real highlight of our job to be able to inspire and encourage Christian students to seek God’s will for their lives.

I love those “light bulb moments” when students catch the vision of missions when “I could never do that” turns into “I could do that”.  Even just being more open to the possibility of being called by God is a huge step for some of these kids.  Many of them have an idea of what they want to do with their lives, and laying down their dreams to be available to God is a scary thing.

I remember being in college and just having the end in my sights.  I just wanted to be done, to finally be a grown-up and let real life begin.  Of course, we did not have the kinds of opportunities that these kids had.  Missions was something that youth groups did once in a while or professional missionaries did for their whole lives, but the idea of taking a year out of your life and serving overseas was not on my radar any more than joining the Peace Corps was an option for me.  I just wanted to graduate and start life.

So for me, this is amazing that students would even be open to the idea of taking a year out of their lives and investing in something bigger than their career.  For many of these kids, this decision could change the trajectory of their lives forever.  Some of these kids will go out for a year, fully expecting the commitment to only consume one year, and find that God has another plan for their lives.  Some of them will abandon their career plans and give themselves to becoming God’s hands and feet and voice of love to a hurting and broken world.  This week could change kids’ lives.

Yes, this week also has the benefits of being like a family reunion for us missionaries (we have reconnected with so many beloved friends from all around the world!), but it’s really about the students.  We have a window of opportunity in which to expose them to a bigger world and to inspire them to think less about themselves and more about the lost.  We have this great chance to change the future.  Dang, I love my job!

All those university students committing to give a year and pray about a lifetime.

All those university students committing to give a year and pray about a lifetime.

Time Travel Jet Lag

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We are coming up on “summer vacation” here in Costa Rica.  As a family we are looking forward to returning to the States for a few weeks of R&R for Christmas and to attend a World Missions Summit.  We are totally blessed to be able to travel with relative ease between our mission field and our home state.  But in many ways, making short trips back home sort of has the same effect as traveling through time might have.  I feel like I get Time Travel Shock and the space-time continuum is interrupted.

When I am in Latin America, the third world is my “normal”.  It’s like I exist in a completely different period of time now.  There are so many aspects of life that I just take for granted at this point.  The things that used to shock me or catch my attention have become part of my background white noise and I hardly notice them any more.  But when I am dropped like a paratrooper back into my original setting, everything that used to be “normal” before I was a missionary seems stunning or note-worthy.  Not only do I change locations physically, I seem to travel into the future to a time that has not yet existed in Costa Rica.  The bouncing back and forth can be quite a shock to me both mentally and emotionally.

Let me expound on just one feature of my time travel shock.  When I return to Minnesota the first thing I notice is the SPACE around me.  There is just so much SPACE!  Even in a crowded airport, I have ample elbow room.  When we get in the car and drive from the airport to the house, the cars all keep a reasonable distance from each other. The highway is buffered on both flanks by wide hills of grass or dunes of snow depending on the season.  So much unused SPACE!  In the grocery store, I have lost all sense of what is an appropriate distance to maintain between myself and the other shoppers.  Either I fall into my Latin American patterns of driving my cart right up to the behind of the person in line in front of me, or I over compensate and leave a confusing gap between us.  My sense of space is all out of wack.

When I return again to Latin America, the first thing I notice when I step outside of the airport is the closeness of everything and everyone.  The humidity wraps around my head and presses against my face, making me feel like I am breathing through a wet blanket.  The people press in all around me asking to carry my bags or find a taxi for me.  I have to resist the urge to start pushing people out of my way.  I want to shove everyone and shout, “Back off!  I have been folded into an airplane seat for hours and I really need some space.”  The smells of wet pavement, rotting sewer, and over perfumed humanity all press in against my senses leaving me no where to turn.  Then we get in the car and start driving home.  The traffic zooms up to us and stops suddenly, no buffer, no fear of hitting us.  They are just taking up space as fast as they can lest another car come along and claim that inch of pavement.  We zoom, they zoom.  The buildings on both sides of the highway hug the road, dangerously close.  When we stop, people swarm the car trying to sell us things through the car windows.  We keep the windows rolled up.  That 3/4 of an inch of glass between us and the street vendors feels like enough space.  Personal space has become relative.

In addition to our awkward use of space and the gawking our family of 5 will do in every public space, going back for Christmas time is a surreal experience in and of itself.  My parents want my kids to make a Christmas list.  My kids don’t know what toys are “out there” now.  They ask me, “What do I need, Mom?”  I just shake my head.  I am stuck back in time from when we first left America 6 years ago.  I think about what will fit in a suitcase- again, I have space issues.  Before we leave, I will search the internet for what clothes are in fashion now.  I will try to pack things that are neutral enough so that I blend into the background and don’t make me stick out like someone who just arrived from the year 2006.  Not only to we change spaces, we change times as well.  I am already anticipating the Time Travel Jet Lag.

Moochinaries, Manure Piles, and Bad Missionary Jokes

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I’m not sure why the occupation of “missionary” is so funny to some people.  Maybe there are jokesters out there who equate missionaries with the famed “Rabbi, Priest and an Irishman who walked into the bar.”  But maybe it’s more Freudian than that.  I have a friend who told me that once a pastor announced, “here come the moochinaries” in an attempt to humorously (or not) imply that missionaries just ask for money and mooch off of the rest of the hard-working church people.  Apparently he thought he was clever enough to repeat his joke every single time our friends visited his church.  I think I’d rather hear a joke about a missionary walking into a bar.

Then there is the joke we heard at Language School.  I don’t remember the details of the punch to the funny bone, but it went something like this:  Why are missionaries like manure?  If you spread them around they make good things grow, but if you pile them up they just stink.  At the time we were in school  “piled up” with a bunch of missionaries.  We had a lot of strong personalities at the school.  And once the intensity of school and cultural adjustment kicked it, we had some Jerry Springer action on the campus.  I thought that joke was cheeky and more than half-true, but I still did my best to avoid the drama piling up around me.

I have often wondered about the chicken-and-the-egg relationship between the occupation of missionary and people with strong personalities.  I have seen a few cases where a “tough cookie” personality went to a very hard mission field and worked diligently to bust up the dry spiritual ground.  Preparing the soil to receive the seed can take years of dry, dusty toil and it’s not a job for the faint at heart.  But put that tough guy in a regular society and they just become a bulldozer of a person, hard to deal with and damaging to the image of missions.

But my wonderings cause me to ask, is it because they are tough personalities that they CHOOSE hard fields or are they more of a product of their tough environment?  Must you be tough to survive as a missionary?  and does that mean you are unfit for “civilized” life, like a bull in a china shop?

The way I see it, and the way I try to live my life, is that missionaries should be people oriented.  Paul taught us to “be all things to all people that we might win some”, meaning that we must die to our personalities and our personal preferences in order to accommodate and get along with as many different types of people as possible.  And in the process of being flexible and adaptable, we might win some to Jesus.  I don’t have much use for the old battle ax of a missionary who blusters and bullies his way through life either on or off the mission field.  I think there are better ways of getting things done and more important things than finishing a project… relationships are premiere in my taxonomy.  And if anybody is going to be relational, it should be the missionaries.