We also want to visit and spend time with our donors and churches, but making that happen is so hard when we have donors in 12 different states. It isn’t cost feasible to spend $1,200 to visit a church in Arkansas that gives you $25/month. But you want to and think that you should. The logistics make home assignment difficult.
The second thing that you probably do not know is that it is hard emotionally. Why? Because we discover that we have changed and that you no longer really want to be around us. I wrote about this one time. Let me summarize that blog here. A man from the land of Blue became a missionary to the people of Yellow. He struggled because he was a Blue man among Yellow people. However, after a while he began to truly understand their culture and become partly assimilated. One day he looked in the mirror and saw that he was no longer Blue, he was now Green. It made being in the land of Yellow easier. Then, after many years, he returns to the land of Blue. To his dismay, no one there in his homeland of Blue wants to be with him because, well because he was a Green person in the land of Blue.
After being on the mission field you are a different person. People perceive you differently. Even people who were friends are no longer friends. They have grown without you. They have had different experiences without you. You are no longer ‘one of them.’ When you return, people want to shake your hand and say that they missed you, but they don’t want to be with you. They are also worried that you are going to ask them for money. We actually asked a person out for dinner, a person who had been a friend before going to the mission field. Their response was, ‘We don’t have any money to give you.” They REALLY said that!
After being in my home church, where I had been a pastor, and was now feeling ostracized, I shared my feelings with a staff member of the church. He told me that he knew why people avoided us. I asked him what it was. He said, “You intimidate people. Not by what you say, or what you do, but by who you are. We look at you and your choice and we feel guilty for being materialist. It is easier to avoid you than it is to repent of our love of money.”
I don’t know if that is the reason or not, but missionaries feel unwanted. We may think that you appreciate us, and we really are grateful for your financial support, but we feel like you don’t want to be our friend.
Ask a Missionary #10. I constantly feel like I have to prove myself to you.
You, whether an individual or a church, give us money. You support our ministry. Like it or not, I now feel like I have to justify to you that giving us money is good. I have to prove myself and my ministry over and over again. My newsletters are not to let you know what we are doing…they are far more than that. They are items that I am entering into evidence as proof that you are making a good investment. And…if a period of time goes by where we don’t really have anything BIG to report…we feel like a failure and live in the fear of you giving your money to someone who deserves it.
Often we don’t feel like we are on the same team as you. We feel like you are our boss and it is time for the annual performance evaluation…and this year someone has to be let go. We are tempted to pad our resume and make it look better than it is. Instead of saying that we go to church, we say, “We are actively engaged in a local congregation.” We don’t say that we buy our fruit from the same seller every week, no, “we are building intentional relationships with those in the marketplace.” We may lead a Bible study, but we call it, “engaging in a mentoring relationship with young married couples.” Look at what I just told you. I buy fruit each week, go to church and lead a Bible study. That does not sound worth supporting does it? I mean, you do that. But if I am building intentional relationships while mentoring young married couples as I am actively engaged in a local congregation…then maybe you will think better of me.
So, we say things that make us sound better, holier, busier than we are. We can’t say that we are living in the culture and doing what we can to promote Christ, but it is difficult and we really don’t have much fruit to show you this year. That is because of numbers 4 and 7 above. We need money and you are judging our worth…and your evaluation will determine our money. This may not be true, but it is how we feel. We feel like we have to constantly show you that giving to our ministry is a great idea and you should keep it up. It produces a lot of pressure and emotional stress.
So, there you have it. Ten things that your missionary will not tell you. They may not be pretty, but maybe hearing them can help you relate better to your missionary. Comments are welcome, especially from fellow missionaries.
This article about what to ask a missionary originally appeared here.