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20 Hurtful Misperceptions About Missionaries

4. “When we come back to the United States, we’re the same people who left.” Returning missionaries may look the same, but they’re different. Their experiences on the field change them. Temporary stuff that used to matter doesn’t matter so much any more. Big church buildings no longer impress them. Church conflicts seem foolish now. People matter.

5. “We stay on the field because we love our people group.” They do love their people group, but that’s not the primary reason they stay. They stay because God loves their people group, and they’re just the vessels through whom God gets His message to them.

6. “We can’t wait to speak energetically to your church when we return to the U.S.”  They really do want to tell you what God is doing through their work, but they’re usually returning after several years of hard work with few breaks. They’re tired. They’re facing their own culture shock. Some are also not naturally gifted to speak to large crowds.

7. “We don’t have time to hear your prayer concerns.” Sure, missionaries want us praying for them … but they equally want to pray for us. Some of my missionary friends are the best intercessors I know.

8. “We trust God, so we’re never lonely.” They’re never alone because the Spirit lives within them, but missionaries can still be lonely. Some serve in isolated places with no other believers within days of them. They long for their families, especially when they miss weddings and funerals; in fact, they’re often as close to their own families as others who’ve said to them, “I could never do what you do because I’m so close to my family.”

9. “We don’t know it if you don’t read our newsletters.” Many missionaries work hard to send well-crafted, concise accounts of God’s workings and their prayer concerns. Because of technological resources available today, they can know how many people actually open their newsletters and read them. Don’t discourage them by ignoring their news.

10. “Our greatest conflicts come with nationals.” Actually, the greatest struggles often come with teammates. Interpersonal conflicts are typically magnified in a cross-cultural setting.

I’m sure I have my own misperceptions about missionaries, but I don’t think I’m wrong about this conclusion: They are godly people who serve faithfully around the world. Let’s learn about them, listen to them, pray for them and walk beside them.

And maybe even become one of them.  

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Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.