I often want to say, “We have baptized 35 adults and shared Christ with over 2,000 people…what have you done?” or, “That is a great idea on evangelism, help me put some flesh on it. How did you guys implement this in your church?’ or, “What do you do for follow up after your community evangelistic event?” I can’t, but I really want to. It is honestly difficult to listen to armchair quarterbacks who have never suited up critique the game that I am participating in.
Another example of this is how people who are doing nothing to help the poor criticize us for how we help the poor. They tell us what we should do, what we should not do, how and when and to whom we should do it. They tell us of the latest book that they have read and/or the latest sermon that they heard. They do nothing themselves, but they know exactly what we should do, and if we don’t do it their way, then the threat of cutting support is dangling over our head.
If someone who is actually doing the ministry has advice, input or corrections then it is infinitely easier to accept. It is when we are told what to do by someone not doing anything that we have to constantly check our hearts and put a guard on our lips.
Ask a Missionary #8. Saying good-bye stinks…and it is not the same in the States.
This happens to missionaries our age. Our lives become one of a constant good-bye. We are saying good-bye to fellow missionaries leaving for the States. We have to say good-bye to our children. Denise and I now have four kids living in the USA while we remain in Bolivia. When we visit for furlough and see grandpa and grandma, we have to say good-bye again to go back to the field. It stinks.
I was invited to speak at a mission conference in the States. The church was a little over an hour from where my 24-year-old son lives, so he drove down to see me. After I preached, I went to my mission table in the hall and was chatting with people, passing out prayer cards, shaking hands, etc. My son and his girlfriend came to say hi, and after a few minutes my son hugged me and said, “Love you Dad, see you in…what…two years or three?”
I started crying and people graciously walked away from my table. I realized that I was not going to see him again for at least two years. This week, three days ago, my wife took my 19-year-old to start college in the States. She called me from her hotel room weeping and said, “It doesn’t get easier. I hate this! I hate this!”
Now here is where the second part of my point comes in to play. Friends will say, with totally good intentions, “I understand, my son left for college this week also.”
It is not the same thing! Your son/daughter can come home for the holidays and on school breaks. They may be able to snag a $100 ticket and bop in for a three-day weekend. At the most they are a quick flight or short drive away. We live on another stinking continent. When we say goodbye, it isn’t “See you on break.” It is “See you for a few days in three years.” My son Jacob moved to the States and was living on his own. He had not been there long and called us, and after talking I let him know that he needed to go to the hospital because I thought that he had appendicitis. At the hospital he let us know that it was, and they were doing an emergency surgery.
It took my wife three days to get there. She could not hop on a plane and be there before he left the hospital. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I knew that when the phone call came telling his children to come say their good-byes, that I would not be able to be there. I knew that I would miss his last words, not be able to minister to my family and probably not be able to attend the funeral. It is not the same thing as living in the States. It isn’t.
I would say that out of all the negatives to living on the mission field, this is the worse one. Saying good-bye.
Ask a Missionary #9. Going to the States is hard.
You would think that returning home on furlough is wonderful. Every missionary looks forward to it. It is the focus of the year that it is going to happen.
That is partly true. However there are two things that your missionary will not tell you. One you probably already know. Logistically it is difficult. Most missionaries don’t have a place to live, a car to drive or a plate to eat off of. All those things that we need in everyday life, from pillow cases to car seats, we do not have. We have to find short term solutions and we HATE borrowing stuff. We also do not want to live in your basement. We want to be a family with our own privacy and family time.