It’s not all bad, I promise.
I know social media has been telling Christians a lot of things about missionaries. Things like how we struggle with exhaustion and burnout; how difficult it is for us to have, in a very real sense, two homes; how long-term our work is and how we often don’t see the results of our life investment. You hear about our sacrifices and challenges, and lately you hear a lot about our persecution, but how often do you hear – I mean really hear – about how wonderful it is to be a missionary?
Don’t get me wrong; all those things up there are true. It IS hard. But so is everyone’s life. Comparing struggles always leads either to guilt and shame or to pride and superiority; neither of which are beneficial. As much as I dislike those “there is so much negativity on social media so I’m sharing this photo of a kitten” type posts, there’s definitely something to be said for celebrating life, even though sometimes life is hard.
Maybe because sometimes life is hard.
So anyways, on to why being a missionary is fabulous.
You hear about our struggles to learn the local language, but have you heard about our feeling of excitement when we try a new phrase and someone understands what we said? Can you imagine what a privilege it is to share the Gospel in a language that’s not your first? I’ve discovered new elements of the love of God through new languages, because every culture translates Him a little differently.
You’ve probably heard about how much we miss our families and home countries, but has anyone told you how great it is to have two – or three or four – home countries? To feel at home in more than one nation is such a gift. It’s like being a local in three or four different cities. We get the chance to see, taste and experience so many people and cultures, which does wonders for one’s perspective on life; let me tell you.
I’m sure you understand that it’s a challenge for us to live without a steady salary, but you may not realize what a blessing it is to literally be unable to rely on ourselves when it comes to finances. Full-time missionary work forces us to depend on God for our rent, our bus fare, or our groceries, and while there are probably few of us who don’t resent that at the beginning of our journey, eventually it gets exciting to see how God is going to provide for us. We also learn so much about generosity because we are always surrounded by people in need – either the people we are ministering to, or our fellow missionaries – and we have to figure out how to respond.
There’s the blessing of a tight-knit community for those of us who work on teams or at missions bases. There’s the wide-grin joy of that first moment of salvation. There’s the excitement of wondering what God will tell us to do next, and the thrill of watching Him work miracles – Book of Acts type miracles! – as we preach. There’s the challenge of being so obviously surrounded by the lost that we can’t ignore them.
And there’s also what we can all have as Christ-followers: the confidence and contentment that comes from spending our lives doing what we know God called us to do. Each of us as Christians has different callings. I believe, though, that we are each in our own way called to echo Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.
Most gladly. The message the Internet seems to be missing about missionaries: we’re doing what we’re doing most gladly.