Category Archives: church

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.

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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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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short-term missions & the nutrition of lucky charms (STM series pt. 2)

it’s that season of the year!  so here’s to all of you considering whether to participate in a short-term mission trip this coming summer.

if you asked my mother what the three dark lords of the cereal world are, she’d probably say Lucky Charms, Cookie Crisp and Apple Jacks, though she really had it out for Lucky Charms.

guess mom really didn't like leprachauns.

i was really certain that mom had something against the leprechaun.

But as a child, that was all i wanted for breakfast.  It was colorful, it was sweet, and i was certain there was some nutritional value in it; why would they make it if it didn’t?  i’d eat it for all three meals if i could.  and did i mention the marshmallows??  Oh. Em. Gee.  what kid says no to colored, sugary, crunchy, shrunken marshmallows?  none that i know of.

short-term mission trips are similar in that sense.  they’re packaged nicely, appealing-ly (look at all the great things you get to do!), they have a sweet taste going down, they make us happy and make us feel good because…well, a variety of reasons.  besides, what kind of christian says no to “loving and serving the poor and forgotten” or “sharing about Jesus with people who have never heard”??  i’d be an idiot not to go on an STM trip.  just like i’d always felt like i was missing out because i didn’t get to eat any Lucky Charms!  but herein lies the problem.

this is not at all what we should be thinking when considering whether or not to go on a short-term mission trip.  so i’ve put together 3 things to consider when deciding if you should apply to go on a STM trip this summer:

EXPECTATIONS – what are yours going in?  are you going in with the mentality that you want to know how this can shape your long-term goals/plans or are you going with the idea that this is indeed just a “short”-term trip with no long-term effects?  are you wanting to go and understand first-hand (culture, people, needs, ministries & what God is doing there) how you can be involved in mission with them in the future or are you simply trying to see how you can fulfill your temporary summer tour of duty of “missions”?  do you see the people of that country as projects and results to report to your home church or souls you can mobilize people to be praying for even after you’re home?  these are just a few things to consider.  having the right expectations going in can really help shape what kind of trip you end up having.

don’t sign up for a STM just because it’s packaged nicely.  STMs have to be promoted that way because, well, how many people would be sign up for “Hey! Come sweat nonstop all day!”?  or “Come and have fun smiling and nodding because you don’t know the local language!” or “All you’ll be doing is walking around and praying!”

https://i1.wp.com/blogs.asburyseminary.edu/global-talk/files/2010/04/short-term-missions-300x228.jpg

“Wanna learn how to be completely helpless for 2 weeks? Join us!”

i kid…though part of me really wonders if there’s any missio organizations out there who would dare to throw a trip promo like this out there? 🙂

but this isn’t just about how the trip is packaged.  all trips are done so, nicely.  no, this is about your expectations before signing up for it.  are you expecting God to use this trip to help affirm/lead you to involvement in missions in the future (in whatever form)?  if not, perhaps you should ask God to give you a willing heart first.  otherwise the effects of you going on this temporary-high STM  will fade and you’ll be back where you started.  you’ll become one of those CSST’s (chronic summer short-termers) who feel the need to have to go fulfill their mission duties each year but not during the off-seasons.   ask God to help you understand His heart for the _____ people/country, or even just a simple heart for missions in general (you can work out specifics later!)  ask Him to use you in the future for His global purposes in whichever way He leads.  and pray for yourself to be obedient when He does.

PURPOSE – hey, let me let you in on a big not-so-secret secret.  you’re not jesus.  never was, never will be.  is that a surprise to you at all?  most likely not.

not being able to walk on water is probably a good clue.

not being able to walk on water is probably a good clue.

 inability to have your face miraculously appear on a fish stick is probably another.

inability to have your face miraculously appear on a fish stick is probably another.

what is our purpose in going on an STM trip?  hopefully not this (now common) constant need to “save the homeless out of homelessness or poor & hungry out of poverty or women out of prostitution**” that kind of agenda goes back to the same problem:  you are not jesus.  you cannot save people in 2 weeks or 1 month.  surely you know that, right?  yes, you might be able to temporarily be of some help, but what many christian authors have written about are how teams go away feeling like they’ve done something significant and life-changing for people, whereas that isn’t necessarily the case for the receivers.

please don’t use short-term mission trips as a way to feel good about yourself.  that’s not what STMs are for.  that’s what growing up is for.

**(just a note: i am not saying that we should not help/address those social injustice issues as a church, but we need to make sure we are not going about them in the wrong way.  please see the chapter about STMs in When Helping Hurts or What is the Mission of the Church for help about those topics).

STM trips do not exist to let you fulfill your savior complex.  no, you don’t need to fly around the world to do that.  that is not the nutritional value of STM trips.  while Lucky Charms may be fun to eat, be all sugary and sweet going down, and make us happy while we eat it, we can only expect the nutrition to go so far.  if feeling good about ourselves because we’ve “done” something is all we’re expecting, in the end, the very-high-in-sugar component takes over and guess what, that’s all we have left is the “high” of a trip.  but when our purpose for these trips are about what God does (and not what we can do there), allowing Him to open our eyes and also what He wants us to do for the long run, the nutritional value of going on simply one short-term mission can be great.

OPENNESS – to hearing from God, to learning about the culture/people/needs/ministries, and how to follow through when it’s all over.  in preparation for my first “real” mission trip as a mature christian (this is after multiple STMs where i just went because it was what i “did” every summer), my pastor said to us something i remember to this day:  you serve with eyes wide open (which i’ve now realized is actually a book title!!!  hooray!)

you observe.  you ask questions.  you don’t judge.  you learn.  you make yourself available.

but ultimately, what did that phrase really mean to me?  it’s this:  you don’t go to “do” mission.  you go because you want to learn to be it.  you go because you’re ready to live it.  your eyes have been opened.

once i told God that i was ready and available for Him to use me for the long-haul, guess what He did?  yeah.  the third word of the name of this blog tells you what He did.  i don’t even understand how it happened, actually.  not everyone will end up being a long-term missionary.  but imagine if someone ended up a long-term prayer-y for the mission field.  or a long-term supporter-y of a missionary?  or a long-term mobilizer-y?  (not actual words, i know).  this is what that pastor said to me and i know this now – “being ready and available for God to use you is a dangerous thing because He will always take you up on your offer.”  so the question is really – are you open to it and ready to be obedient?  be honest with yourself.  if you’re not, perhaps you’re not ready to be going on this trip.  your eyes have been opened.  don’t shut them again.

choose the blue pill and go back.

our involvement in the Great Commission should not be contained to a 2 week or 1 month trip.   that’s really short-changing Matthew 28.  it’s like eating Lucky Charms and assuming it’s all the nutrition you need for the day.  please don’t let going on short-term mission trips turn into your Lucky Charms!  STM trips have so much more nutrition than that if you’re willing to take the bite.

churches & leaders – do your part in helping your people understand that pushing them to simply sign up for a mission trip each year isn’t the point of short-term mission.  i’m convinced that all it takes is one good trip (including good orientation/debrief) to help someone start on the road to a lifetime of mission involvement.  but they have to be ready for it, or no amount of STM-going will ever change their view of mission.  encourage them not to have an attitude of “doing our duty” as christians, but instead, to be ready for God to use before, during and most importantly, after the trip.  and be ready to walk alongside them through this.

the point of this post is not to discourage you from STM, or give you an excuse to not go on one because you feel you “aren’t ready.”  rather it’s to challenge you to think about why you’re going on this trip and how you can prepare for it.  short-term mission for a long-term vision.

we need to learn to stop seeing short-term missions as nicely packaged, high in sugary sweets cereal used to make us happy.  instead, we need to see them as (just as nicely packaged) Mueslix, Total or Cheerios that actually change us for the better in the long run.

…or some other cereal you deem healthy.  i wouldn’t know since i’m a toast and eggs kinda person.

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short-term missions & the science of zebras (STM series pt.1)

i’m gonna be doing a multiple-part series on short-term missions and different aspects of it.  i realize there have been plenty of articles written about STMs, most probably written a million times better, but hey, i have the freedom to weigh in as well, so here it is.  and yes, you’re probably wondering what short-term missions and zebras have to do with one another.  well, other than this post, probably nothing.  and yet here i go with trying to use this black & white animal to talk about short-term missions.  you can blame my incessant need to relate things together. 

are zebras white with black stripes?  or black with white stripes?  have you thought about it?  i learned the answer to this question last year while reading a science magazine for kids (in my dentist’s office, of all places).  in order to find the answer, we have to go back to the source.  zebras are born all black and then develop white stripes as they grow.

so make sure you color the black lines first.

so make sure you color the black lines first.

short-term missions is the same way in my eyes.  in order to figure it out, we need to go back the source and background of these trips: our churches.  how a church portrays missions to its congregation is so crucial.

having been in church my whole life, i can tell you that i grew up thinking my church was so missions-minded.  we supported 15 plus missionaries (most of whom were not actually from our own church), we had a missions month each year where we’d have guest speakers and a hall filled with booths that nobody stopped at, and most of all, we sent short-term mission teams out every year in masses (as we still do).  when the trips are over, we come back and report to the church that 5,219,976 people accepted Christ.  okay, i exaggerate.  but hopefully you get the idea, especially if that sounds familiar…perhaps you came from a church like that, too?  we seemed like we were “doing” everything right.

don’t get me wrong, i went on short-term mission trips almost every year of my life starting from age 15 and i’m fairly certain that God, in all His grace, used each of those trips to eventually lead me to full-time missions today.  but did i go each year because i had a heart for mission, for sharing the Gospel with the lost, or even just to understand the lost of another culture?  certainly not.  i went on those trips because it was the “christian” thing to do, i had a lot of fun, i was being “international,” and let’s face it – what other chance would i get to go to other countries totally out of normal reaching distance?

seals need good news, too.

antarctica needs Good News, too.                                      (a big ice cube might make a fun souvenir as well).

you see, growing up, church always told us we needed to go on short-term mission trips to convert people, or “share the love of christ.”  we had our own agenda, so we’d just buy our tickets, spend a couple sundays preparing lessons we wanted to teach, and then we took off.  we barely spent any time doing preparation/orientation (in terms of spiritual/emotional preparation), and our post-trip debrief times consisted of  “seeing them living like that makes me so thankful that…”, “i had the most fun…”, and…i’m sure you can fill in your own.  but the point is that after our 1 hour debriefs, we never talked about this trip again, except when reminiscing about the fun times we had.  had it changed our lives?  yeah, for maybe 3 months.  but other than giving money and physically going again (neither of which were emphasized as options at each of those points in life), there wasn’t much else i could do as a teenager/uni student/young adult to be involved in missions.  because the source of all my practical missions education, my church, never taught me (in practical terms) any other way to be, and yet still had me convinced that we were “mission minded”, when really, we were just “mission february & summer-minded.” (february b/c that’s when our missions months usually were…during which we’d promote all our STM trips!)

what i now wish church had taught me about missions was this: it should permeate our lives in every way, especially if we’ve had a chance to go on a short-term trip and learn, understand and witness first-hand from the missionaries & locals about what God’s doing in whichever country.  i wish we’d talked about global missions more.  i wish we’d learned to pray for our missionaries each week.  or how about just praying each week for missions in general.  i wish we were encouraged to think about full-time missions as a viable post-grad option.  i wish i was rooted in all these things before i started going out on short-term trips.

mostly, i just wish short-term missions existed in the church for people who were ready and willing to learn how to incorporate global missions into their lives in a variety of ways…for the long run.  of course, the church needs to have their own long-term direction & vision for mission in place before they can start thinking of more practical ways for it to play out.  otherwise they’re totally jumping the gun and just sending random people out on a feel good trip.  just like zebras, they’ve got to have the black background in place first, and then as they grow, the white stripes develop.

otherwise you'd just be this.

otherwise, you’d just be this sad little guy.

add your cliche-prince-charming-come-to-save riding on top, and you’ve got your typical church’s view towards missions.  but i’m hopeful, and i trust in the continued grace of God to develop and lead churches into ones that understand the purpose & importance of discipleship in missions, not products, results and numbers.

(forward march to pt. 2: short-term missions & the nutrition of lucky charms)

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