what no one tells you about marrying overseas

people often think that single missionaries stay single forever.  not always true.

there are many stories i’ve heard of single missionaries getting married with a local (from their field of service), or when they’ve met someone while on furlough, or later on in their life as well.  so yeah, it can happen.

i’m writing today because as i was preparing for my wedding (me, of the aforementioned marrying-a-local type), i literally google searched “single missionary marry overseas” to see if i can get some advice about preparing myself for a wedding NOT in my own country (on a personal level, not regarding wedding culture).

guess what?  there was zilch.  could not find anything.

i found lots of articles about singleness, lots of articles about single missionaries adjusting to married life, single missionaries’ feelings regarding leaving the field, even marrying someone from a different culture, etc.  but none about those of us who are about to marry someone FROM the field, while ON the field..  so i’m here to open that door for you:

it is lonely as heck.

lonely

<i should pause here first, and mention that even though i’m writing about this, it in no way overshadows the joy and thankfulness of being able to celebrate marriage with friends and family from afar.  it’s just that most people write about the happy part, but no one ever writes about the hard part.  and well, if you’ve read my blog before, you know i love tackling the hard-to-talk-about  parts! >

so you’re probably wondering what there is to be lonely or sad about, right?  well, whether you’re single or married, most ladies imagine being surrounded by their moms (M) or sisters (S) or good friends who are you’re likely bridesmaids (B).  i’ve been to plenty of weddings, and even if i hadn’t, you can always find those annoying wedding prep posts from your facebook friends – going to pick wedding dresses with their MSBs, trying on bridesmaid dresses, getting together to help with invitation stuffing, decoration prep, etc.  because let’s face it – most ladies (when they are getting ready to wed) assume that’s what it will look like because…well, why wouldn’t it?  it’s supposed to be all rainbows and unicorns and prancing and spinning through the field!

woot

the joy of having the MSBs around with you doing wedding-y stuff.

’tis not likely true for the single missionary marrying on the field.

for starters, you have to do all your wedding prep in between ministry.  that’s right, missionaries don’t get to take it easy on “work” just because you’re getting married.  in my case, i was handing over my role to another, i worked straight up until 2 weeks before my wedding day, and had short-termers living at my house with me.

secondly (and the most difficult & lonely part), your MSBs aren’t actually in the country months ahead of time to go shopping with you, or you with them, which means you have to do all your wedding shopping alone.   that’s the fun (since they’re coming!), but also sad part of a soon-to-wed missionary, is that your MSBs are likely to be outside your country of service, who have jobs, families, ministry, and other responsibilities, so they can’t just pop over to your country just for a food-tasting, or shoe shopping or whatever else MSBs usually spend time with the bride doing.  we did everything through emails and LINE chats, sending each other photos (which i must admit is quite efficient as well haha) and trusting each others’ opinions.  but it was hard to to not physically have them around.

STORY TIME!  i still remember the one day i actually wanted to take a break from all the emails and ministry prep (preparing to hand over my role) and thought i might as well head out and look for a 2nd-hand veil and cheap shoes to go with the wedding dress.  the mini-excitement of doing that quickly faded as i boarded the local bus to get to the bus stop near that shop.  as i stepped off the bus and looked around, trying frantically to find my bearings (plus, it was stinkin’ hot & humid outside), tears began to well in my eyes as i felt so alone all of a sudden.  wishing that i had anyone from my group of MSBs – or just anyone – with me to go look for the veil, i just walked and allowed the tears to come down my face.  the thought just would not leave my mind – “i am supposed to be doing something happy in preparation for a joyous event, but yet i am here alone.”  that moment remains with me, and when i think of it, i can still recall the exact setting and emotions i was feeling, which makes me well up again.

i know you may be thinking, “it can’t be that serious, lady, stop being so dramatic.”  and if you know me, you know that i don’t usually sweat being a lone wolf.  i had thought that i’d be okay to do it alone (since, well, being single all these years, i got used to doing things alone, and facing difficulties alone), but here’s the thing i realised – most girls, no matter how independent they are, still long to share those wedding moments with someone from the MSB group, or any female friend you feel close to.  it is so jarring to feel that way, especially for the single women who have taken the step to follow God to the other side of the world and serve there.  come on, if you can navigate THAT alone, surely shopping for a dress, veil, or shoes would be way more easy??

nope. sorry.

nope. sorry.

thirdly, as much as people say they can help if you need it, it never formally happens, as you all realise there really is no time to do it.  for example, the other missionary ladies all kindly offered to help with anything (and i know they genuinely wanted to help), but let’s face it – we were all so busy with ministry and families and other random things, that when i, myself, finally did have a moment to actually do wedding-related stuff, it was so spur-of-the-moment that i could not have just rang up another missionary and said, “hey, wanna come over and help me fold a million paper flowers?”  and well, if i’m being honest – maybe we’re just not close enough with one another where i would feel i could do that and not be asking too much of them (and maybe that’s a whole other post for another day).

i prefer to t-rexzilla with love.

i prefer to t-rexzilla with love.

hence, that’s usually what MSBs are for (also b/c they are the ones who won’t take offense if those bridezilla moments come out, i hope!).  so i did much of the little bits and pieces of prep all on my own, when i had spare time (sometimes had the occasional helper, and the short-termer girls living with me kindly helped me with some stuff during the last week; that was their way to do some mindless, relaxing work).

so there you have it.  i want to be clear again that this sad part does not overshadow the fact that i loved being able to celebrate with my fellow missionaries (who all kindly were there to help play roles in the wedding/reception), friends, and family on the field, and that my MSB were all there a week or two ahead of time to help (and boy, did they help those last two weeks when we knew there would be details left and right that i’d forgotten about)!!  i am so thankful for how many various people from various parts of my life were there not just to celebrate with us, but also help out.

but again – not many articles or blogs write about this special situation (particularly the ability to do typical wedding-y stuff with your closest females due to geography) to begin with, because, well, maybe the single missionary marrying someone FROM the field, ON the field just doesn’t happen all that often.  most of them have the opportunity of going back to their home country for the wedding (according to all the blogs i had come across during my google search)…oooor maybe the whole single missionary marrying on the field just doesn’t happen often enough for someone to actually write about it.  who knows.

in the end, i look back on that time as a very special moment, unique to my life and most peoples’ wedding experiences.  i think it also speaks volumes about missionary communities and how close we feel (or don’t feel) with one another when it actually comes down to it.  aaaaaaaaanyway, i want to end this on a positive note, though, because the whole experience itself was not only a great lesson in the missionary life, but also simply because God is good…the ending to that story i shared earlier:

as i  made my way to the shop, who would message me but that dude-i-would-soon-be-marrying.  he asked what i was up to, and i told him i was out shopping for a veil and shoes on my own, which i then sadly explained that most brides would be doing with their closest female friends.  then the dude immediately replied that he would come find me and he would go with me.

but as i sat there waiting, i remembered all the ways that God is good in my life – my whole journey from where i started (coming to this country), to how i ended up where i was that very day…all this time God was and is good.  He was good through the good, and good through the hardships.

and this time, the tears that fell were tears of thankfulness.

yay. i really mean it.

yay. i really mean it.

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when you leave a ministry…

earlier today, i wrote a final email to the community that my ministry is in, reflecting briefly on the past almost-five years, thanking them for serving alongside me (albeit virtually, since we’re all in different fields), and saying goodbye.  it was a bittersweet email to write, but i did it.

and then i went into our office bathroom, sat on the toilet, and shed quiet tears for about a full minute.

sniffle.

sniffle.

nobody ever tells you there would be grief in leaving a ministry.

if you had asked me last year how i felt about handing over this role (as the short-term missions coordinator for our field), i would have said, “great.  i seriously cannot wait.  SRSLY.”  but that’s because after these few years, i was burnt out, exhausted, and just not doing well.  all i could think about was all the sleep i lost in the past few years.  all the frustrations that could never really be shared about.  all the hurt from people putting down support work (what my role was considered).  all the advice people kept giving me but who could never fully understand the extent of how complicated the role was.  not to mention, all my body functions that started shutting down – mentally, physically, emotionally, and yes, even spiritually, the longer i was in this role.

i secretly (and selfishly) used to hope that Jesus would return because heaven felt like my only safe place.

i thought i was so ready to finish my involvement in this ministry.

and yet here i am today, remembering the bitter, but also remembering the sweet.  i would not have thought about the fact that i would be putting behind me, four and a half years of my life, spent learning, living, (literally) bleeding, and breathing this ministry that God allowed me to serve in.  it became a part of me that was inseparable from who i am as a person, as a christian, as a missionary.  He taught me how to be content & at peace with being a nobody in ministry, in missions. to be faithful in what He has given me to work with, no matter how big or how small.   in many ways, God used it to further shape my outlook on missions, mobilisation, church partnerships, frontline vs. support ministry, and missions discipleship…among other things as well.  God also allowed me to be a part of various peoples’ lives, walking with them in their own missions journey, praying with them, and encouraging them.  all of those things are what made this ministry a joy to be a part of.

it was also a testament to God’s saving grace in my life – He showed me not only who i am, but even more so on days that were not good, in frustrating moments in ministry – who i would be without Him.  and that wasn’t a pretty sight.  haha.  i can’t even begin to tell you how many nights i went to bed so frustrated that i cried myself to sleep.

me when i'm being real.

me when i’m being real.

but now my time with this ministry on a formal level is over.  i am relieved, i am thankful, i am at peace, and i am content.

relieved that i can finally hand this ministry over.
thankful that God let me be a part of it the past few years, and for the many things He taught me.
at peace with how He will continue to use and move this ministry – His ministry –  forward.
content with how God led me, and continues to lead me towards the future.

as a missionary, i’ve learned to say hellos and goodbyes to people, places, and things.  but ministry has always felt like it’s just there, waiting for you when you get back from your hellos and goodbyes.  it seems silly, but i never thought that i’d be farewelling ministry – not ministry in general, but this particular ministry that i likely will not return to again in the future.  ministry often has it’s highs and lows, but to actually leave that ministry feels so jarring.  so in that sense, even ministry is not constant.  only God remains constant through all of life’s goodbyes.

God is good.  there is grief, but there is joy.  everything is going to be alright.  maybe not today…but eventually.

 

 

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the single missionary & her many, many mothers

the feeling when mother's day is getting closer

when mother’s day is getting closer

mother’s day.  i only realised as i grew older, how much i used to dread this day.  not just for myself, but for those around me who feel like they are missing out on something.

for the single who longs to be a mother, but hasn’t been married; for the married women who long for children but is unable to have them, for mothers who have lost their children; for those who have lost their mothers – a special day to celebrate mothers (who have actually given birth) just makes it harder than it already is to face those facts.  (please understand i’m not saying i’m against mother’s day, but let’s face it – mothers, in the traditional sense, have every day to remind them that they are mothers; the rest of the women have one big special day to remind them that they aren’t and maybe never will be).

i still remember growing up, we would give out flowers to the mothers at  church, or they’d ask the mothers to stand up, and i distinctly remember wondering – even at that age – how do they know who’s a mother and who is not?  well, tons of blogs & articles have been written about how the church celebrates mothers day, often in ways that are hurtful to those who are not the obvious “mothers.”  i won’t go into detail about that, as i’m sure you can find that anywhere online.

having been out on the mission field for almost 10 years as a single woman, and being surrounded by plenty of missionary families/wives, it hasn’t always been easier.  but i also don’t want to go into that today (though i’m sure i could fill an entire entry about things that have been said/done that are hurtful to the singles, haha).

appreciate my cookie monster shirt, please.

appreciate my cookie monster shirt, please.

no, today i want to talk about the wonderful way i’ve experienced motherhood on the field.

my own mother is back in my home country, and for the past ten years, i have only had the chance to celebrate mother’s day with her by skyping and saying “happy mother’s day!” or mailing a present to her from overseas.  but i slowly began to realise that, while my own mother will always be my beloved mother, who has shaped who i am today – i now have other “mothers” that i also look up to, and have also influenced who i have become at the present.

when i think through the past 10 years here in taiwan and australia, there were plenty of ladies who poured into my life the way my own mother would, not just on a spiritual level, but also on an emotional and physical level – taking care of me, cooking for me, giving me advice, listening to me share, teaching me how to cook and answering my dumb questions about cooking, etc….there is no shortage of things that these ladies have done to help me mature on all different areas (if that is at all possible, hehe).  if i were back in texas, it would be my own mother helping to teach those things to me.  and yet here i am, on the other side of the world, learning from ladies – who are from various cultures, various age groups, both single & married…and it makes me so thankful.

i love my mother.  and i love all the women who have poured into my life in the past 10 years the way my own mother would.

so i am thankful for my mother.  and i am thankful for my pseudo-mothers as well, particularly the single women who have taught me much about being a single missionary.  i am reminded of Titus 2, where Paul advises the older women to disciple and teach the younger – this is what i have had the blessing of being a recipient of, and what wonderful examples i have to look to.

i don’t know if God will ever give me my own children, but even if He doesn’t, i still hope that in small ways, i can be a “mother” to ladies; giving to, and investing in the lives of other women around me.  i’ve learned that mothers day isn’t just a day for ladies who have birthed children to be appreciated, but a day to appreciate all the ladies around you who have been like a mother to you.  i hope that eventually mother’s day will be about celebrating that.

so happy mothers day to my mother, and all the women around me who have been a part of my life, loving and caring for me.

i am truly thankful for you.

i really mean it

i really mean it❤


母親節。我漸漸長大後才發現我是如何畏懼這一天。不只是因為自己的感受,也是為我周圍感到生命裡少了點什麼的朋友們感到畏懼。

無論是很想當母親的單身女生,但是還沒有結婚;或是結了婚的太太但懷孕有困難的,或是孩子過世的母親,或是自己母親已過世的朋友們 – 我們大家慶祝一個專門只為懷胎生孩子的女人,只會讓以上的女士們感到更心痛受傷。(在這裡要先澄清一下,我不是反對母親節,而是說 – 我們一般想到的母親 – 生過孩子的 – 每天都有機會提醒自己是一位母親;剩下的女士們有特別的一天提醒她們自己並不是,也很可能以後也不會是)。

我還記得小時候,我們在教會會發花給母親們,或者會特別請母親們站起來,我那時候小小的年紀就很好奇說,他們怎麼知道誰是母親誰不是呢?許多教會的做法常常在這一天會說/做一些無意傷害人的事。知道也有許多網路文章或者部落格都有寫過教會是如何在這一天無意中傷害到那些不是明顯的 “媽媽“們。我在這裡也不會特別講再多,因為網路上已經可以找到很多關於這些的。

已單身女生來到台灣已經10年了,周圍也有很多的宣教士家庭/太太們,在這個環境裡生活也並沒有特別容易。但是我今天也不想要來談這個 (但是相信我有足夠的傷害單身人的話/行動 可以寫出一整篇啊!哈哈哈)

不是,今天因為是母親節,我想要特別講到我在宣教中是如何體驗到母親這個角色。

我自己的母親在美國,而這過去10年,我唯一能夠跟她一起過母親節就是在當天與她skype說 “母親節快樂!”或者就是寄個小禮物給她。但是我慢慢開始發現,雖然媽媽永遠都是我媽媽,也是讓我成為今天的我的人 – 我現在也有別的 “媽媽” 在我生命中付出,影響我的生命與走的路。

想想過去10年在台灣與澳洲,有多數的女士在我生命中付出,就像我自己媽媽會做的那樣。不只是在屬靈上付出,也是在情感上與生活上 – 照顧我,幫我做飯,給意見,聽我分享,教我怎麼做飯,也回答我問關於做飯的笨笨的問題…還不只這些呢!但是都是讓我學習成長的地方。如果我人還在美國,應該就是我自己的媽媽在教導我這些吧?但如今我在地球的另一邊,既然可以從不同的女士們學到許多 – 而且還是不同文化,不同年齡,單身/已婚的都有…讓我心裡很感恩。

我愛我的母親,我也愛這過去10年像媽媽一樣的在我生命裡付出的不同女士們。

我也為她們感恩,也為那些”乾媽嗎”們感恩,特別是那些單身的”媽媽”們教導我如何在工場上學習單身宣教士的生活。想起聖經裡提多書2張,保羅請年齡大一點的女士們要教導,照顧,訓練比他們小的 – 我既然收到這樣的祝福,她們也是我仰望的榜樣。

我不知道上帝以後會不會賜給我自己的孩子,但就算祂沒有,我也希望以後能夠對別的女生像一個”媽媽”一樣的照顧;給予,深深的在她們的生命裡付出。我這過去幾年學到,母親節不是只是感謝懷孕生子過的女士,而是一個特別的一天,可以感謝你周圍的女士,特別是那些就像媽媽一樣照顧著/付出給你的人。希望有一天母親節會是來慶祝這個的,讓無論有沒有/能不能生孩子的女士們都可以感受到被愛,被感謝。

所以,母親節快樂to 我自己的媽媽,還有我生命中許多許多為我付出,照顧我,愛護我的女士們。

我真心的感謝有妳。<3

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stress, sabbath, and the single missionary

meet my frenemy sisters, stress & the sabbath.  you might be thinking, *gasp* how could you call the sabbath a frenemy!  God meant it to be good for you!

on the mission field, missionaries are always encouraged to keep their sabbath.  it’s biblical, it’s beneficial, it’s restful and yada yada yada.  yeah, i’ve heard it all.  So let’s start from stress, because that is directly related to how we keep (or, don’t keep) the sabbath.

Stress – i get it, everyone faces stress.  whether you’re married, single, young, old, male, female, there is stress, so there’s nothing to complain about there.  oftentimes, when we say “stressed” – we might just mean “i-need-to-be-able-to-share-with-someone-the-things-on-my-mind-and-then-i’ll-be-okay-and-can-move-on.”  what i want to address is the fact that when singles face stress about something, we don’t have a way to share about that stress without hearing (from married people) “You need to trust God, He will take care of it for you” or “You need to relax.  Take care of yourself.”

hey, you know what?  a lot of times, it’s not really the stress that comes from ministry that is overwhelming (because we know that God is in control) – often it might be all the other things we have to deal with (as a single) added on top of that tiny thing, that – in that slight moment in time – can end up being all quite stressful.  what things, you might ask?  well, things that take time and effort to do like: having to write a newsletter, meeting deadlines with home offices or field offices, paying bills, dealing with everyday household things breaking down, doing laundry, grocery shopping, etc.  you know…life.

just trying to survive life.

just trying to survive it.

and as a single, we don’t have another “half” who can share those responsibilities with us.  so even though it might seem like our ministry stress is not that big, it might possibly be lots of other things piling up.  with not enough time to really share verbally with people (because let’s face it, everyone on the field is too busy and you know it!), the last thing we want you to “encourage” us with is that you think we don’t “trust God enough.”  that is when i go cray-cray.

i’m sorry, but is God going to physically do my laundry for me?  or wash my dishes for me?  or clean the house for me?  in a sense, you don’t have to “trust God” in those things, you can “relax and take care of yourself” and do the things you like,  because you do have a spouse there who can handle those little things for you when you take time off.  i don’t have anything against that, i really am glad for you that you can do that because i know how important it is.  what i need you to understand is that i have similar responsibilities, too, except without a spouse to help me.

who is going to write my newsletter for me when i don’t have time to?  who is going to take time to cook for me so that i can clean up after having people over?  who is going to sit and wait for laundry to finish while i go out to buy groceries?  things would get done a lot faster if there were two of us…i know that and you know that.  and i’m not saying that i need a spouse to share my workload, but telling me that i’m not “trusting God” enough is the opposite of helpful or encouraging – it just adds to my stress.  YES, i trust God.  YES, i am trying to take care of myself.  but realistically, in my everyday life, things still need to get done.  and well, just sitting around to take care of myself and trusting in God is not going to make my dishes clean or my whites white.

that's the truth.

that’s the truth.

the Bible tells us to bring our burdens and Him and He will be our rest.  He also reminds us to believe in Him and to not let our hearts be troubled.  to not be anxious in anything but in everything, prayer and going to God.  These are all true, and all things we should always strive to do each time we feel a stressor coming on.  however, i’ve also looked into ways to handle stress, and all of them involve finding someone you can share with and listen, encourage, and vice versa.  we’re meant to share our burdens with one another.

so, you wanna help the single?  offer to do something practical.  when you see that i am getting overwhelmed, don’t just tell me you’ll pray for me.  actually offer to help me with something, just like i would offer to watch your kids or cook for you if you just had another kid.  invite me over for tea and give me some time to share something that’s been on my heart (without trying to give me a solution).  don’t add to my stress by doing or saying unhelpful things (hoooo boy, i could write a whole other post about the insensitive things said to singles on the field!)

Sabbath – so you can imagine, when it comes to enjoying the Sabbath, our one day of rest, how much we look forward to it.  except…”Wait, what?! why is my mind wandering to the long list of things that need to be done?  I’m supposed to be enjoying my prayer walk in the park, and instead, everything i’m praying for/about is related to ministry and the things i need to do.  Lord help me!”

That’s what our day of rest is often like.  trust me, i’ve asked quite a few single missionaries, and they agree.  our day of rest is spent not really “resting” because we’re just still thinking about the rest of the week!  we can’t hang out with our local friends because they’re all working, and we don’t want to bother other missionaries/families because they need that day to rest as well.  so our Sabbath ends up not really being a day of rest – just a day of not “doing” anything, yet still thinking about stressful stuff.  sometimes some of us just give up and end up trying to “do” the things we need to do to help take some of the pressure off.  no day to enjoy.  just a day to try and not think about stuff.

trying to get things out of my mind

me trying to get things out of my mind

I had another single missionary share with me how she shared something similar with her team (about not being able to really rest on her sabbath), and everyone just said they would pray that God would help her not to think about those things on her day off – but nobody offered to have her over for board games or anything else to help her take her mind off of things for a few hours.  seriously sad, people.

so if you’re a single missionary who is facing this problem, perhaps this might be helpful for you:

1) get out of the house and to another place – i only started this year to figure out a solution for myself, actively seek out things to do.  i started taking taiko drumming classes (something i’ve wanted to do since a long time ago) and for 3 hours of my Sabbath, my mind is not on anything ministry/life related.  it is free and just running with rhythms and beats through it – it’s a wonderful feeling!

2) do something active – I also joined the gym last month as well, and for at least one hour of each day (i go 5x/week), my mind is at rest because i’m drowning in my own sweat and keeping pace with the one-direction-ish dance beats they have playing in the background.

3) do something that requires no brain work – sometimes i put on my music (sometimes country, sometimes hip hop, whatever helps my mind relax) and start colouring (i bought some colouring books that are just awesomely funny – one called Unicorns are Jerks).

4) end each day with 3 things that you are thankful to God for – they don’t have to be overly spiritual; just simple things during the day that you can say thank you to Him about.

these are just some of the things i’ve done within the past 8 months and so far they have been quite helpful.

not finding an outlet

you, when you don’t find an stress outlet

so there you go.  if you wanna know how you can help a single missioary, there are some ways.  if you are single and spend your Sabbath not really enjoying your Sabbath, there are some ways, too.  the point is, stressors are a part of life, and even though we are Christians, believe and trust in our Father above, know that He is good, and know that only He can bring peace in our hearts – we still need very practical ways to help.  so next time, when a single missionary says they are “stressed,” ask if they need a lending ear, or if they need help with something – don’t take the initial no for an answer because they may just be polite and not want to take up your time.

and most of all, don’t don’t don’t tell them that they are stressed because they don’t trust God enough, or that they need to take care of themselves without helping them with a solution.

this is what i will look like.

this is what i will look like.

 

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the 30-second reply. (why replying to your missionary’s newsletter matters)

it’s a tiny, less-than-30-second thing to do, and yet, it makes a world of difference.

have you ever put a lot of time into giving a gift to someone?  imagine putting time and effort into a gift for someone who has been supportive and encouraging to you for many years.  imagine that this person opens your present, takes a look, and then puts it away, without ever letting you know that they’ve received it, or even that they opened it.  even worse, imagine if this person didn’t even bother to open it and just put it in the garbage.  how would you feel?

destroyed dreams

probably like this.

while newsletters from missionaries are hardly wrapped presents, they are things that we put a lot of time into, carefully thinking about what we want to share with you, as our partners in missions.  we know we can only be out here by the grace of God, and because of your support.  Other than pray for you, faithfully putting time into writing our newsletters is one of the other things we’re able to do, to let you know how ministry (which you are thankfully a part of) and our lives (which you are thankfully a part of) are going.

one of the most consistent things i hear from fellow missionary friends regarding sending out newsletters (because yes, we talk about these things) is how much we long to receive just a simple reply from our partners, saying that they’ve read it and prayed, and let us know how we can pray for them, too.  but even more missionaries have simply told me, “maybe not even that, if they don’t have time.  maybe just an ‘i’ve read it’ reply is enough.  i would be happy just to know that they’ve read it.”  to be honest, it was quite disheartening to hear the sadness in their voices…probably because i am likely to say the same thing.

Paul (of the Bible, not of the Beatles variety) is a great example of a missionary who faithfully wrote to his supporters: of the work that they were partnering in, of doctrine and spirituality, of the struggles of his own spiritual life and faith, of what an active disciple of Christ looks like, of mobilising people and churches to support others (and his co-workers) in their work, etc…okay, and he was also a faithful rebuker.  but we’ll leave that fact aside for now, since my point isn’t so much the content of what he wrote, as it is that he wrote to share about his life and the truths he was more and more convinced of regarding Christ Jesus and all those other things.  he needed to share.  he wanted to share.  and he should share with the people who partnered with him.

i know you’re probably thinking, “well, i’d be more excited to read my missionary’s newsletters if they actually wrote like Paul” – and you know what – you’re right.  i’ve read some missionaries’ newsletters before, and wow…even more boring than watching my nails grow.

whitney - wtf

…but okay, fine, it’s not like my newsletter is a freakin’ NYT bestseller either.

that part, i think we missionaries should take responsibility for.  we need to make our newsletters interesting enough so that people will want to read it, not just to share about the ministry (which some people only do), or just to share about their personal life on the mission field (which some people only do).  there should be a good balance and a way to connect with the readers.  we missionaries need to learn to do that.

but the truth is, even when it is done well, the response is still often lacking.  i get it, though.  in this day and age, with so many emails coming through our inboxes, it’s easy to just let one slip by, or read it and delete it.  (one time when i was back at home in the states, i had a long-time supporter come up and ask me how “thailand” was.  they clearly never read my newsletters, but i learned to be gracious in my reply).   but as is often said in the mission world: for those of you at home, keeping in touch is an encouragement, but for those on the mission field, it is a lifeline.  sometimes we just need to hear a simple reply from you about something in your everyday life.  or a prayer request.  or something random that happened to you today.  or that you bought a new kind of toilet paper.  or that something funny happened, even though we won’t get it.

something.

anything, really.  (one time, an older partner who is about my parents’ age, wrote a reply to me saying that he had a meal with my mom, and then wrote down all the things they ate.  i don’t know why, but that was such a fun and interesting email for me to read!)

it’s easy to forget to do that usually, but what better time to send a simple reply, than when the newsletter comes in?  read it, then send off a 30-second reply.  or bookmark and come back to it later (and really come back to it).  here’s some help on what to say:

1. “hi _____, thanks for sending your newsletter.  i’ve taken the time to read it.”
2. “hi _____, thanks for sending your newsletter.  i’ve read it, and have prayed for the things you wrote about.”
3. “hi _____, thanks for sending your newsletter.  will be praying for you.  i would appreciate your prayers for me regarding _______.”

boom.  30 seconds max. (that actually only took me 30 seconds to type all of that out).  a 30-second reply would likely result in a very encouraged missionary – perhaps just the encouragement they needed for that day!

lastly, i will just say that it’s understandable…it’s easy to forget about the missionaries you partner with.  out of sight, out of mind.  but as missionaries, we can never forget our partners because we depend on your partnership – not just financial (b/c yes, reality is, we do need that to survive out here), but more importantly, your prayers and encouragement.  each day i am out here, i am keenly aware of (and thankful for!) the prayers that happen so that i can get through the day.  Lord knows i wouldn’t be able to survive without them (and Him, of course).  but what really kicks up my day into happiness, is when i hear from a partner at home after i’ve sent out a newsletter:

when my fav song comes on

i kid you not, i get this excited.

so there you have it.  the next time your missionary/-ies send you their newsletter, do a 30-second reply and let them know you care.  you won’t see it, but it will definitely bring a smile to their face.

or a jig to their legs.

flying monkeys and jerry maguire

i need elves.  or flying monkeys.

as i’ve mentioned before, my role here on the mission field is to coordinate short-term teams and individuals who come to our field.  i’ve spent the past couple days preparing some things that i’ll be using during orientation for our summer short-term teams, but after a conversation with a friend today, i realised that flying monkeys probably won’t be of much help to me with some of the more tedious things i do – cutting/pasting/laminating/taping…because their fur is going to get stuck on everything and then it will just be even more trouble than it was before.

tumblr_lspznofs711qgvur0o1_500

i reckon gizmo would just be fun to have around but he’d pose the same problems.

i’ve been thinking a lot about this role and the short-term missions ministry that i am in, and wondering what other people think about it.  do they think i just sit behind a computer all day answering emails from around the world?  or spend my time coordinating schedules for short-termers and setting up accommodations and budgets?  or spend time discipling the individual short-termers that come through?  it’s all of these (and much more!), though on busy days/weeks/months, it’s more of the admin stuff – which i don’t necessarily like, but have to do in order to get to the discipling part.  i guess there are always ups and downs to different responsibilities, hey?

one of my favourite things about my role is exactly that discipleship part.  if we want to see our short-termers make the most of their time here, we have to do our part as the field.  the rest, well, that’s up to God.  and that is why this is my favourite part – b/c there is really something amazing about seeing God work in someone’s life, and seeing them find out wondrous things about the mission field and mission work…and seeing them have their eyes opened about where they could possibly fit in in this picture.

yes, that is indeed my favourite part!

however, if i’m too busy doing all the admin stuff that my role requires, i might easily miss out on taking the time to sit down and chat with these short-termers and hearing what they’re learning and also challenging them to take little steps.

last year when i started this role, i began thinking about how not to bog down our own missionaries and myself with a load of short-termers all the time.  as well, i wanted to see more of our short-termers return as long-termers.  as for me, if i’m spending all my time doing paperwork and behind my computer answering emails all day, then i’ll never get to the discipleship part.  lo and behold, as i was watching Jerry Maguire one day, it jumped out at me.  if you’ve seen Jerry Maguire, you’ll know the “mission statement – or memo” i’m talking about.

in the movie, jerry is a sports agent, and he is so busy handling all his many clients, when he suddenly realises how far he had wandered from why he originally started the job:

“…i was remembering the simple pleasures of this job.  how i ended up here after law school, the way a stadium sounds when one of my players performs well on the field.  the way we are meant to protect them in health and in injury.  with so many clients, we had forgotten what was important…i was remembering even the words of the original sports agent, my mentor, the late great Dicky Fox, who said, ‘ The key to this business is personal relationships.’  Suddenly it was all pretty clear.  the answer was fewer clients.  less money.  more attention; caring for them.  caring for ourselves, and the games, too…”

this is what i wanted.  so i pretty much took jerry’s idea and made it my own, which i eventually called my Jerry Maguire Motto:  Fewer Short-termers.  More discipleship.

yes jerry, i helped you help me.

yes jerry, i helped you help me.  thanks.

Fewer short-termers.  More discipleship.

that’s what i wanted to see – our missionaries and myself putting more time into short-termers and spending time journeying with them during their time here – but this can’t happen if we’re always bombarded with heaps and heaps of people.  so we’re going to have to cut back.  it’s harder to do this when it’s a whole team of people, but at least with individuals who come, i could be more picky about who i cleared to come.  mature, ready-to-understand-God’s-place-for-me-in-missions short-termers (hopefully.  but i can only tell so much from a paper application).

so far, with the exception of a couple people (who unfortunately came at a time when i was going bezerk with admin and simply didn’t have time for anything else), i’ve had the wonderful privilege of consistently meeting with most of the individual short-termers who have come through.  just this past month, i spent about 3 hours talking to one of our short-termers in person and one over skype and i’ve realised howwwwww much i enjoy being able to witness God working in them.

i gotta admit, i sometimes almost feel…and evil cackle coming on (?) when God is really challenging them in their direction in life and are at a crossroad about what to do next.  i think partly it’s b/c they are willing to see the actual crossroad that God has put there for them (whereas others may just deny seeing it) and partly it’s b/c i love that they are considering it!   for example, one of our short-termers who already has plans to go back to get her masters is now considering switching to seminary instead.  when we talk, i can hear her really questioning whether getting a masters would be beneficial if God is leading her to be a long-term missionary.  and i found myself…gleeful.  or maybe excited.  it’s all very mixed up.

(i know, evil, right?! i seriously felt that way).

(i know, evil, right?!)

but here’s the thing.  more discipleship doesn’t guarantee a return short-termer for the long-term.  that’s not the point, though we’d love to see that happen more.  more discipleship is so that we can walk with people as they follow Jesus, but not just follow Him to be a more mature Christian, but to follow His leading in living a mission-focused, mission-driven life.  even if they don’t return to our field (or any foreign field) for the long-term, i still want to see people moved into action by God’s heart for the lost.  that means when they go home – they intentionally change how they live, how they spend their money, how they make their decisions, what they spend their time doing.  of course, more discipleship doesn’t guarantee a change like that.  neither does time spent on the field.  however, i trust in God and i trust that He will work in peoples’ hearts when they come out here, and assuming they are mature Christians already, will be open to the things God is beginning to do in them.

so how’d i get from flying monkeys to jerry maguire?

well, getting back to my role (and many people who play similar roles in their respective fields/countries),  if we spend all our time doing the admin stuff and processing a million people to come, we will never get to the discipleship part.  so how do we make sure we’re not always doing the admin part?  well, i guess it depends on why you’re doing it.  how nice would it be if we had those flying monkeys elves/sprites to do all that stuff for us?  but we don’t, so in order to balance it out, make sure you put in the time to meet up with your short-termers.  perhaps it’s time to cut back and focus.

i can honestly say that during those hours when i’m sitting there talking to one of them, i’m not thinking about the stuff i need to do (which oddly enough, i do think about even when i’m on vacation).  sure, will there be situations where i won’t always get to meet up with someone – of course.  but that’s why some also have their own disciplers assigned to them (a fellow missionary on your field).  in those situations (usually when the short-termer is part of a ministry team that is not in my city), i’m just here as a separate option and i make the effort to go visit them once every month, if possible.  if that’s not an option, phone/skype calls can do the trick, too.  either way, the point is that you are taking the time to keep up with them.  (i find that they’ll also be much more responsive when they get back home!)

all this to say – this is a hard role to play, and others may not realise it, but i understand the frustration and disappointment that is part of it.  oftentimes the issues on the admin side of things weighs everything down and may ruin your day when you least expect it.  however, it’s those moments when you get to sit with a short-termer and talk, encourage and pray with them that makes you feel that all the frustrating and possibly horrific (yes, that’s how i really feel sometimes) admin you get put through is worth it.  because despite all those emails, application forms, “let’s-skype-to-resolve this” calls – God is faithful and wants to see us all awakened to what He is doing around the world so that we can be a part of it.

as for the short-termers, God will shake them awake.

our job?  help them out of bed once they’re up (figuratively speaking, of course).  don’t get so bogged down with admin that you don’t have time to walk alongside your short-termers.  walk with them.  teach.  pray.  encourage.

then let Him show them which door to go through – and be on the other side to greet them when they do.

here’s proof that discipleship is important: Spaghetti, Weird People & Please-God-Not-Africa

also for ref:
(click here to see the jerry maguire clip: http://youtu.be/zDbV2-tZgbg )
(click here to see This is Discipleship clip: http://youtu.be/rk8ERxqCZqQ)

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mission discipleship & why it matters: spaghetti, weird people & please-God-not-Africa

i’ll just cut right to it today.  in an effort to help people see just teeny bit of why there is a need for mission discipleship, i got my hands on these excerpts from a short-termer’s journal entries about their time on the field.  i present to you…

JOURNAL THOUGHTS FROM A SHORT-TERMER
(unoriginal title, i know.  but gimme a break, what else am i supposed to name it?)

“this first night, i stayed with a missionary lady who cooked me a spaghetti dinner. it was my first night in this country, and having just looked like a crazy person and cried my eyes out on the plane ride here, i was happy to be enjoying a meal with someone, even if i didn’t know her or understand her oddly accented English.  i asked her, “How long have you been in this country?”  She smiled and asked in return, “How old are you?”  i was 26.  she said, “i’ve been here longer than you’ve been alive and breathing!”  i was shocked.  26 years?  at least???  i couldn’t even imagine spending one year away from my family and friends!  man, i felt like such a wuss.”

{fast forward a few months}

“i’m now living on my own here and the reality that i am actually out here on the “mission field” has finally hit me.  i feel alone and i miss home.  but strangely enough, the thing i actually enjoy the most is the feeling i have when i am with these missionaries.  it feels like a family, yet i don’t really know any of them…not to mention they’re all about mom & dad’s age!  but each time they share a bit of their story with me, i feel their excitement and passion and all of this is being stored in my slowly-being-blown-up brain.  there is a closeness i feel with them that i don’t have at home – perhaps it is the feeling that we are all out here fighting a battle together.

i see their passion.  i see their heartbreak.  i see their overwhelming joy when a local friend begins asking questions about our God.  i hear their stories of pain, fear, struggles and triumphs in ministry.  most of all, i see their hearts, their willingness to be obedient to God to follow Him here to this country and go through all these experiences.  nobody said it would be easy.  it never is.  but i suppose that is the risk you take when you love God and are willing to follow Him wherever He leads.  i wonder if i could ever take that leap of faith?  am i cut out for missions work?  many of them have shared with me how they lived when they first came to the field 15-20 years ago.  surely if they could survive not just being away from family & home, but living without internet, tv & phones, then i could certainly do it WITH all those things??  i guess we’ll see in the long run.  well, at least God isn’t calling me to live in a hut in Africa.  i guess i should be thankful for that…or maybe i shouldn’t speak so soon just in case He does.”

{fast forward a few more months}

“it’s come to the end of my time here.  people keep asking me how i’ve changed – well for sure i’ve put on weight!  why is the food here so good??  but when i think back about the things i’ve learned, i can see how much these missionaries have poured into me, even though they might not realise it themselves.  i’m thankful that God gave me an opportunity to meet each of them, though some of them are a bit weird and in their own little world…but i actually think i enjoy my time with those the most!  when i struggled with living here, they shared with me how they could relate in every way.  in their sharing, i could see their honesty and openness – it was almost as if their first year was just last year; i had no choice but to believe them because they spoke with such conviction of how God met them in their struggles during their first few years.

what have i learned?  i’ve realised what a bubble i used to live in…my own little world.  as much as i served in church at home or wherever, i still always just fit into my own world.  these missionaries that i’ve come to know, helped me to maintain a kingdom perspective, which then reminded me that this life is not about me.  it helps me to see that in the big picture, what matters is God’s love and grace for all His people.  being out here made me realise not only how insignificant i am, but more importantly what matters in my life.  and i’d much rather be an insignificant nobody in God’s big picture, than a somebody in my own little world.  the missionaries all say that to leave their lives behind and come here in this foreign country to share the story of God’s grace hasn’t been a sacrifice.  perhaps one day i will truly understand that…”

——————-

mission discipleship matters.  walking alongside someone matters.  putting time into people matters.  helping them to have a kingdom perspective matters.

not everyone we disciple will become a longterm missionary on the field.  that’s not what i’m saying, and that’s okay.  there are so many different ways that being challenged to live a missions-focused life could play out.  sure, we’d love to see all the short-termers we get eventually become long-term missionaries  somewhere.  but, let’s face it – that’s most likely not gonna happen –  just keepin’ it real here.  however, since we never know where God leads each person, it doesn’t mean we don’t put in our all for each person that God brings to us.

if you’re wondering what happened with this short-termer and if she ever returned to the mission field, have i got news for you.   4 years after these journal entries, God led her first steps onto the mission field as a long-termer to serve alongside the very missionaries who discipled her.

hallelujah.

this entry lacks a pic/gif of some sort, so here ya go:

wombat

i hate to disappoint.

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i discovered a unicorn. it cost me everything and i came out beaten to a pulp.

it’s been a long while, my sarcastamigos (sarcastic amigos – spanish for ‘friend’ for you non-spanish speakers)!  want a better excuse than just “i’ve been busy”?  well here it is:  i’ve been very busy.  ha.

so squishy and always with a rainbow!

i secretly love unicorns.  that’s super girly for me, considering how un-girly i really am.  but yes, i love unicorns because they represent that one amazing creature that you would keep and treasure forever – should you be lucky enough to find one.  well, after a summer/fall/winter of summer/fall/winter mission teams as well as lots of preparation for random other projects, i’m glad to say that i’ve found my “unicorn” tangled amongst a plethora of branches, webs, hair, emails and whatever else it is possible to tangle together.

and this, my friends, is my unicorn: in my pursuit of God in the last 9 months of my life, i’ve realised that surrendering all is easier than surrendering a little.  (i’m sure you’re like, “duh, i could have told you that” right now..)

i wish there was a way to sum up how terribly difficult the past 9 months have been for me, but there isn’t, other than what i stated above.  since coming out to the mission field 6 years ago, God has brought me through a lot, broken me a lot, and restored me through everything.  it’s not like i’ve never been broken before, though i honestly felt like this last time God thoroughly took those pieces and smushed them into infinite little particles instead of just leaving them in larger sizes.  i suppose if anyone’s gonna do the smushing, it should be God, right?

i’d be at the very right of this scale.

and here you are, the 3 things that led me to my unicorn:

1) being a nobody of nobodies.  when i decided in 2009 that i wanted to follow God’s leading into full-time missions work, i knew that it would require me to become a nobody in the eyes of the world.  i guess i just didn’t realise that that path was even further downhill than most peoples’ – it required me to be a nobody of nobodies.  who knew there was a level beyond just a regular nobody?  well, apparently there is.

it wasn’t necessarily things i could explain easily to people at home (b/c that would take so much effort and so much explaining context and background, etc.)  but being on a field with other missionaries, i certainly thought that others would be able to understand the things i was going through in my particular ministry – but nobody really did, and i found myself disappointed with that.  so in addition to already feeling disconnected from Christians at home, it made it worse when those who were out in the field couldn’t even understand me and the ministry i am involved in – and sometimes were even downright discouraging about it.

it was like someone poked me in my right eye and then proceeded to tell me to relax so that they could poke me in my left eye. great, thanks.

i was reminded that i had once told God that i was willing to become nothing in order to follow Him..and yet here i was expecting some kind of affirmation for the difficult things i have to do in this role.  but it was as if God was saying to me, “isn’t it enough that I see it?’

i had to ask myself, am i someone who is able to serve without receiving any credit or acknowledgment for it?  can i be someone who stands by, while others receive all the thanks, and still wholeheartedly give God the glory? wasn’t that the price i was willing to pay when i said i would follow Him?  yes, i can.  and yes, i did.  i just didn’t realise it would be this difficult.  so my prayer became this – that even if others don’t see or can’t understand what i do as worthwhile, God does, and He calls me His good and faithful servant.

2) God takes a risk on me – not me on Him.  in my journey to where i am today, i’ve made a lot of mistakes, heard a lot of stories, and learned about who i am.  in fact, i think i’ve learned so much about what a sinful person i am, that i can’t help but wonder – why would God choose me, of all people, to come out here to serve Him?  doesn’t He know me at all?  doesn’t He know how unqualified i am to be doing what i do and serving His people?  who am i that God would choose me to be here when there are plenty of other ready and willing people who can do what He asks?

all this time i had thought i was risking my life, my future to take a chance on Him, after all, isn’t that what churches teach us?  how come we never think of it the other way?  that it’s actually He who is the e one taking a risk on me.  me, this broken, useless, sinful person.  yet, He chose me to serve Him this field and this ministry.  and what a privilege it is (and should be!) to be able to serve Him in any way.

3) not losing heart.  even through all that has happened, God constantly reminded me that He was next to me sustaining me, renewing me, giving me strength.  as long as i keep my eyes fixed on Him and the ministry of the cross, i would see that it is, in fact, God’s mercy that we have our ministry.  just as we each receive the Gospel, God also graciously allows us to participate with Him in His ministries.  so we cannot just give up and be discouraged when things don’t happen as we expect or when we face opposition.  just as it is Christ’s love that compels us to share about Him with others, so it should also be that which can keep us going in ministry.

mission work is hard, no doubt about it – nobody understands it unless you’re out here yourself.  and even then, we may not all understand each other.  through all the things that happened, the one thing that remained true was that God was making me surrender every last bit of myself to Him.  the path to finding my unicorn was filled with volcanoes and falling rocks that knocked me upside the head.  it was a painful, long and exhausting journey – one that God obviously knew i needed.  all my hurts, disappointments, frustrations, pride…none of that was allowed to be left…and i am so thankful for this process.  and when it was all over, in the words of James Brown:

i feeeeeeel good.

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9 things i believed about missionaries…until i became one.

and then i REALLY believed them.  haha no i’m kidding, although on some of these points, you’ll see that i may have been right to believe some of them!  and if you’re wondering why there’s 9 and not, say, 10, well…it’s simply because i don’t like to make even-numbered lists.  so those of you who are OCD about lists and think they  need to be in 5s or 10s or 3s…booya.

alrighty, and here we goooo…top 9 things i believed about missionaries (and still may)!

1. all the women wore long flowery skirts and collared, button-down shirts, and socks with sandals.  might possibly have long braided hair.

well, at least we don't have to dress like this anymore.

well, at least we don’t have to dress like this anymore.

prior to actually considering the missions life, i’d seriously thought all the women dressed like as i’d just described.  i remember meeting some missios who came to our church to share, and most of them fell right into this category!  and as time went on, i guess missios became more and more stylin’, so it’s rare to see this these days…though i went to orientation with 2 women who actually fit this exact stereotype.  well, except they had solid colored shirts instead of flowery ones, so i guess it’s not as mismatched.  but then again, what do i know?  i’m not a stylin’ missio anyway.  after my first year, i went home and sold 85% of my super nice work clothes for pennies.  now i’m just casual (or quite possibly out of fashion) all the time.

my language teacher says i dress like a university student.  with my hair now getting longer, she says i’m starting to look more and more like a woman.  if this keeps going on, i just might end up with a flowery skirt.  heavens, no!

2. they live in huts and don’t have electricity all the time.  

yes, i blindly/naively/ignorantly believed that missionaries all lived in totally worn down flats, if not huts or…i don’t know…teepees?  that’d be kinda cool.

yurt

or a yurt.  who wouldn’t want to live in this?

3. they’re crazy jesus fanatics.  

all they want to talk about is jesus.  if you don’t know jesus, they want to talk about jesus with you.  and if you already know jesus, they still want to talk about Jesus with you.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.  essentially they’re like mormons, but without the white shirt/black tie/black pants/skirt and different theology.  i’ve actually met missios that fit this stereotype.  they are courageous in turning conversations into altar calls, and like to (nicely & politely) Jesus juke everyone.  while i admire their boldness, it is definitely intimidating when i come across people who are literal human forms of the verse “the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (heb. 13:15)

or maybe i just don’t love jesus enough.

nawwww, who am i kidding?  He’s my favorite God-person (and the only one i know of)!

he's my favorite God-person.

“…and even i didn’t wear socks with sandals.”

4. they’re christian supermen/wonderwomen.  

this one kind of goes with #3.  they know every bible passage from memory and therefore have a biblical answer to every question.  physically speaking, they don’t need sleep because they’re too busy going  from ministry to ministry talking about Jesus x 3.  they’re like christian versions of the phrase, ‘money never sleeps’, which  ironically enough, they don’t have a need for either.  which leads to the stereotype that…

5. they are poor.  

maybe i thought since they all lived in huts, they were considered poor (it didn’t even occur to me that perhaps the culture they lived in simply, well, lived in huts).  but i guess this one depends on what organization you go with, what field you’re in, or if people are independents, how much money they’re choose to raise.  while the standard of living varies depending on the mission field they serve in (and so many missios serve in 3rd world countries), strangely enough, they are still more rich than 90% of the world (as are you, if you’re reading this and you’re not a missio!  you’d actually be in the top 95% or so).

i'm a poor missio living in a 4-story teepee with a built-in bidet.

i’m a poor missio living in a 4-story teepee with a bidet.


6. they had a 10 children.  

okay, i exaggerate.  not exactly 10, but for some reason, i always thought that missios had lots and lots of kids (though i never figured out how they’d have time to actually have & manage babies since they were Jesus-ing all the time).  perhaps i thought that missios were like farmers in that they lived out in the middle of nowhere, and therefore had a lot of kids to help “run the farm” (i know, big generalisation about farming families, but just bear with me…)  in the same way, missios had to produce more missionaries for the mission field.  why not start from your own family?

that’s a logical way of thinking, right?

rigghhhhttt????  hello?

well, i heard it.

7. there was something wrong with the single men.  

this was still when i bought into the idea that everyone “grows up and gets married.”  i always thought, ‘why were they single when there was a plethora of single women in the field?  not to mention local christian women?’  it’s like being in line at a buffet of all the foods in the world, but then getting to the front and deciding you don’t want to eat and instead want to go outside, sit on the curb by yourself, and eat your ham sandwich out of a ziploc bag from your tin lunchbox.  just because. (gift of singleness aside, of course).

he chose poorly.  (unless God told him otherwise).

he chose poorly. (unless God told him otherwise).

honestly (and realistically) speaking – today, women are at a disadvantage here in terms of ratio, so i found it hard to understand this…  before i actually became a missio, i met some single male missios at conferences and such, and during Q&A’s, the subject of singleness always came up.  it was interesting to note that in all these years, out of the 4 or 5 people i’ve heard share, they all mentioned having dated (either local or other missios) but still wanting to stay single, not because they felt they had the gift of celibacy (interestingly enough), but “just because.”  i should also mention that all these men were over 40 years old.  not sure if that has to do with anything?

just because they wanted to focus on ministry.  just because having a family would divide time.  just because they felt like they couldn’t handle caring for a whole family.  and a plethora of other reasons.  seemed to me like there were other issues there, but i’m not a guy, so i guess i’m not able to say what’s really going on inside their heads.

anyway, i’m still not sure what to think about this these days.  being a single in the field myself, i understand the joy & benefits of staying single in the field (other than the fact that this is just how God has kept me, which i’m perfectly content in).  also, single male missios are rare these days,  anyway, especially amongst the younger missios (of course, this is just conjecture).  most young male missios seem to get married before they reach the field or within a couple years of being on the field.  but i wonder if it’d be possible to get stats on how many single males in the fields are above 40 and how many are below?  it’d have to be an ongoing study, though, to see how many of the under 40s remain single past 40 years old…

8. if the woman went out single, she would stay single.

this goes along with #7.  i’ve always thought this.  because there’s less of a chance that a single woman would meet a single male missio on the field, i just assume that once you go out single, you’d better just prepare yourself to stay that way.  i’m curious to know what the percentage is, though, of single female missios who marry locals or another single male missio?  i think i mentioned in my previous post the stats of my own field:

21 men
42 women

21 married men
21 married womem
(obviously these two add up :))

0 single men
21 single women

hey, half the women in our field are single!  i should emphasize, that i don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a single missio female.  but just pointing out the obvious, here.  i’m curious to know what the other stats are for other countries and other agencies.  i’m also really curious (as i mentioned above) what the ratio is of single male/female missios who end up marrying while out in the field, and whether they marry a local or another single missio (or someone from home).  anyone got stats on that???

9. once you go missio, there ain’t no coming back.

some things you just give your all to.

some things you just give your all to.

things have changed so much these days.  people come and go after one term (or half a term) which i’m not sure is a good or bad thing.  but i definitely remember hearing stories of missios back in the day, who essentially set out on a boat (or later on in a plane) and for them – they weren’t planning on going back.  they were in it for life.  i think that’s part of what made becoming a missio such an IMpossibility to someone like me – i couldn’t even imagine the next year of my life, much less “forever!”

but i suppose now that i’ve actually become a full-timer, this is the mentality that i have.  i’m in it for life, or until God calls me elsewhere…which for now, doesn’t seem like is going to happen, but i guess that’s not up to me.

so there ya have it.  my top 9 things i assumed about missionaries.  did i miss any?  what are some of yours?

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missionary doesn’t mean white. neither does foreigner.

it’s been a long time since i’ve had any time to write and that makes me sad!  ministry is starting to really pick up, so that unfortunately means that everything else will need to hold off until my days off or when my brain is actually functioning during off hours…

that's rare these days.

...which is rare these days.

but today i wanted to address something that i’ve realized i may not be the only person to have concerns about:  mission agency videos talking about a field/country (so i’m not talking about videos about specific ministries within those countries – just the general field ones that cover the whole vision of that organization).

i spent the last couple months watching a ton of mission videos from different mission organizations from the west, and i realized one thing – there were only a handful that showed any asian faces as the “missionary”!

that was a bit disheartening, being of asian descent myself.

i know, i know, it’s not a big deal.  but i’ll soon be working with a video team for our field, and in the script, the writer had also designated the actors in the ministry scene to be “three white/foreign missionar-”

-say what?!

holy stake and ale, i did not like that.

exactly how i felt.

exactly how i felt.

well, to be fair, he did tell me that one of them could be asian if that was necessary.

of course it’s necessary!!

oh, you ask why?  here are some reasons why:

asdf

"hey lady! you call him dr. jones!" (see? even shortround had something important to contribute).

1. audience.  
these videos are not only going to be put on our website to use for mobillizing, but they will be shown in churches – when our missios go home on home assignment, they’ll use these videos (hopefully) as a mobilization tool.  and i can bet that quite a many of these churches supporting our missionaries are asian churches (since we focus on east asia in general).  as an asian, grown in an asian church, i can tell you right here that all the mission videos we watched growing up never showed an asian face as the “missionary” – only the seeker.

what does that say to me, an asian learning about missions in church?  it says that i can’t/don’t need to contribute in that same way because nobody else asian has.  leave the missio roles to the foreigners.  i’ll contribute some other way.  hey, that makes for an easy choice, right?  i’d choose to do the latter, too.  then i’d never have to leave home.

2. reality
i’m pretty sure there are a lot more asian-descent missios these days than before.  not just from the west, but we hear time and time again that the east is now sending out more and more missios (korea, china, etc.) themselves (which is totally rad).  i looked everywhere for more stats about this, but alas google search did not help with that much.

so i started counting the people in my own field.  here’s the breakdown (hopefully i didn’t miss any people!):

43 caucasian/non-asian
20 asian descent

21 men (2 are of asian descent)
42 women (18 are of asian descent)

21 married men (2 are of asian descent)
21 married women (11 are of asian descent)
(obviously these two add up :))

0 single men
21 single women (7 are of asian descent)
okay, i’m not even going to pull at the single men/women ratio thread (maybe i’ll tackle that another day?  heheh). 

alright, i think i went a bit overboard with the breakdown of stats.  but okay, almost half of our field is of asian descent.  i wonder if this is the case for other fields?  it might be dependent on the field.  who knows.  i’d love to see a breakdown of “missionaries’ ethnicities by field” one day.

all that to say that reality tells us that it’d be great to have an asian face represented more often as a missionary.  us asians like to see our own people doing things that aren’t considered “asian” – it makes us feel like we just might possibly be able to do it, too.

that is so fetch.

"that is so fetch," we'd say.

i know this is a very asian-awareness-centered-waah-waaah post, but i just thought it was worth pointing out, as i thought it was quite interesting when i thought back to all the mission videos i’d ever watched.  i think it’s high time we stop perpetuating the idea that missionaries are only caucasian/foreigner people (which is so not the case these days!)…though technically i fit into the second half of that slash.  aren’t i a foreigner, too?  i just have an asian face.

i know, i know, we all look alike (trust me, i’ve had many instances where i thought the same thing about asians even though i am one, too), and maybe non-asian people watching the videos might not even realize the asian missionary is a missionary.

but the asians in churches will notice.  we notice everything asian-related.  we’re just like that.🙂

* * * * * * * * * *

ps – i’m not saying this is only the case for asians.  as God brings increasingly more ethnically different people to be the feet to bring good news, agencies need to represent that.  i’d love to see some other ethnicities represented as the missionary role in videos, too!  simply using asians as an example here because well, i am one, and also b/c we have a lot of asians in our east-asia-focus organization.

ps #2- i also wanted to say i was so excited that my last 2 posts got hits from countries i don’t even know people in! (albania, united arab ermirates, venezuela, uganda, ukraine, mongolia, laos, czech republic, argentina, spain, bolivia, macao, india)  woot!  so thank you to everyone who passed it on to others🙂

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