Tag Archives: God

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

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.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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)

Tagged , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

surviving the mission field as a single

just in time for valentine's day!

just in time for valentine's day!

a friend had passed on to me an entry from the blog Stuff Christians Like called “Surviving church as a single” and i laughed to myself as i read through the list and saw how many of the items on the scorecard had happened to me.  i mentioned that there needs to be a “surviving the mission field as a single” version, and since nobody’s made one, i’ve taken the liberty to do the spin-off.  🙂

note: a couple of these overlap from the “surviving church as a single” post.

The Surviving the Mission Field as a Single Scorecard

1. you’ve been told you have the “gift of singleness” after you’ve been in the field for couple of years. = +2

2. you’ve been told you have the “gift of singleness” even before you go out into the field. = +3

3. you don’t even know how someone else would know if you have the “gift of singleness.” = +4

4. you’ve used the mission field as a bargaining chip with God to help you find someone (in a “you scratch my back, i’ll scratch yours” kind of way).  = -3

5. your supporters and friends keep asking if you’d marry a local. = +1

6. people keep asking you when you’re going to marry a local. = +2

7. the locals ask you to marry a local. = +4

8. you try to imagine yourself marrying a local. = +2

9. (if you’re a male) your supporters keep asking to set you up with a single gal who’s going into the mission field as well. = +2

10. (if you’re male) the girl you’re interested in/being set up with ends up not wanting to go to the same mission field as you, so people ask you to consider switching locations. = +3

11. (if you’re female) your supporters keep asking to set you up with pastors, deacons, elders, or just christians in general, who are “quite possibly” interested in missions. = +2

12. (if you’re female) the guy you’re interested in/being set up with ends up not wanting to go into the same mission field as you (or at all), so people ask you to consider your call as a “wife.” = +3

13. you’ve had people not want to introduce someone to you for fear you might drag them into the world of long-term missions. = +4

14. someone pays you the world’s most backhanded compliment: “i just don’t understand how someone as great as you isn’t married yet.” = +1

15. someone tries to assure you you’ll find someone because “you’ve given your life to serving Him.” = +3

16. people tell you that it’s easier being single on the mission field. = +2

17. in an effort to “console” you about your single status, people start quoting stats at you, like how single women are the 2nd most content group of people on the field.  (1st being married men, 3rd being single men, 4th being married women). = +2

18. you make sure your apparel does not shout “old single female/male missionary.” = +1

19. (if you’re female) you try not to think about ending up as a cat lady.  or bird lady.  or dog lady. = +1

20. your married friends try to tell you how difficult marriage life is and how it’s all amplified on the mission field, all in an effort to tell you that you’re not missing out in case you don’t get married. = +2

21. married missionaries get you to come babysit their kids so while they’re away doing ministry with the locals. = +1

22. supporters/churches assume you have a lot of time because you don’t have a family to care for. = +2

23. even your single friend supporters assume you have a lot of time because you’re single. = +2

24. in any of the pictures you show your supporters, you always get asked who any opposite sex person is and whether they are a “special” friend. = +2

25. you go through seminary/bible college with heaps of single people lookin’ to get hitched before they go out to the mission field. = +3

26. you thought seminary/bible college was your last stop (and last hope) for getting married. = +4

27. people remind you that Jesus was single.  so was Paul. = +3

28. people tell you that missions work will be easier if you “have someone by your side.” = +2

29. short-term teams always ask you what it’s like being a single in the mission field. = +1

30. people ask you if you’re glad that you’re “away from all the weddings/bridal showers/bachelor/bachelorette parties/baby showers” so you don’t have to be reminded all the time that other people at home are going through those things. = +3

31. when your friends’ children ask you who you’re married to, your friends tell them you’re super special because you’re “married to Jesus.” = +3

32. churches tell you that they are supporting you with less money because you’re only one person, as opposed to the family being sent out. = +2

33. the only speaking engagements/panels you’re asked to do during your church’s missions month has to do with being “single in the mission field.” = +2

34. you get really nervous when a single female/male joins your field because field members automatically assume you’re going to marry them. = +2

35. you are your field’s (country) token single male missionary. = +3

36. you’re one of the many single females in your field. = +3

….so?  how did you pan out?  i’ve probably missed a lot of stuff in there, but those were some general ones i could think of, having had this conversation with plenty of other single missios.

i assume that most of you reading this aren’t actually missionaries, but it’s all good.  now you have an idea of what we hear.  all.  the.  time.

while i’m content being single, it still leaves a stench when there is a feeling that other people assume you’re unhappy being a single missionary.  but no worries.  having lived through many of those things above, i’ve developed some replies to the question “how come you’re still single?”

“my organization doesn’t allow people to get married if they’ve joined as a single.”
“the tribal people that i serve told me that it takes 2 years before the potion starts working.”
“do you know how much two plane tickets cost?  support-raising would be crazy.  i’m trying to save you money.”
“i’m waiting until i’ve converted 50 natives here.”
“when underground churches stop being persecuted, i will marry.”
“because God told me my life would be more fun dealing with you people and your questions.”
Tagged , , ,