What I do, so many hats to wear…

Did you know that a missionary wears many hats?  Everyone does in a way, but as a missionary it shows up a bit different. I remember recently talking to a college student who wanted to pursue missions.  They were surprised to hear of all the little jobs you need to do on the field. Most people think we are moms/dads, spouses, as well as  evangelists/teachers/translators/doctors…

wearing_many_hatsHere’s my list of some of the hats I wear:

1. Yes, you are a parent and spouse in a totally different culture than you grew up in, away from your extended family for years. 

2. Yes, you are a ___________ whatever your title on the field is. A teacher, doctor, pastor, church-planter, evangelist, translator, trainer, etc..

3. You are also an accountant. We must keep track of our spending and send in reports to our mission agencies. We also track finances that we supply to the ministries that we are involved in, which often means working with nationals who are not so financially savvy!  Oh yeah, this is also done in another currency which needs to be converted at the daily exchange rates to keep the books within cents of balanced.  Sometimes the line items are in a couple different languages too.

4. You are a secretary. You need to record all the correspondence received and track all financial donations to your ministry. You also try to thank them frequently for their support (in your spare time).

5. Reporter. There are regular mailings sent out about your ministry as well as updating the blog, facebook, and website about your current events, ministries, projects, and stories.  These are important in today’s world of instant access on the internet. Unfortunately many of us live in areas of limited or no internet access and it can take hours or days to send updates or financial reports.

6. Field position. We also have meetings among our team members and often take the role of treasurer or secretary of our field.

7. Host. Many of us have visitors or other team members from remote areas visiting us while they buy supplies. We host teams of people as they come to visit or do short term trips.

LAB_Multitask8. Travel agent.  If a team comes to visit we are contacting airlines, hotels, taxis, guest houses, guides, etc.…  We also calculate the budget for all of these teams (hoping the exchange rate changes in our favor by the time they arrive). 

9. Aunt/Uncle/Grandma/Grandpa: We become a family to the other team members we work with. The kids will call me “aunt _____”.  Not only are we co-workers, we are family, and friends.

10. Boss: Many of us live in cultures where having help in our homes is the norm. In fact we are thankful for that help who enable us to focus on our ministries.  In a world where nothing is prepackaged and we cook in wood stoves, it takes a lot longer just to live. We can spend 2 days doing laundry by hand or help a local mom out with a little extra income and have time to homeschool our kids.

11. Teacher. Most of the moms on the field end up homeschooling their kids for at least part of their education. 

12. Medical “expert”. Thank God for the book, “Where There is No Doctor.” Living far away from medical help. We must help each other determine what to do in medical situations. Local facilities often are not helpful. Phone calls to medical friends help a lot, but we do need to know basics on wound care and vaccinations.

13. Agent: We often spend hours and hours over several days working on basic things like visas, permits, licenses, banking, and registrations.  That doesn’t include clearing containers and vehicles, paying customs on packages and materials shipped over.

14. Plumber/electrician/mechanic… Before heading to Africa I had little knowledge of these areas. But necessity has helped me learn. There are no plumbers for miles. There are not any electricians nearby.

15. Tech guru. Yes, we need to know how to fix basic computer issues. How to connect systems, how to create networks, and how to find lost files. We need to understand many terms the average person has no clue about. We look for supplies that only professionals use.

Oh, the list can go on and on. It takes time to do our ministry but it also takes time to do all the other things that we need to do in our lives as well. 

Sustainability

photo1549This is the big “term” of modern missions. I agree that it is important not to just give things away, but to teach people But I also know that in some places dependency is normal. It is part of a culture.  We are constantly making the point that we don’t want to put our “western” culture into the places that we work.  But sometimes we put our culture in because we follow the trends of missionology.  I merely want to play the Devil’s advocate here and talk about both sides of the issue from various angles.  Not that I am for or against one side or the other, just some food for thought.

When a society is interdependent in its nature, when they depend on each other to help and supply daily needs, when they depend on others rather than working hard, when this cycle comes full circle by getting help when you need it because you help others when they need it, when they are a “dependent” society. When their government operates on the dependency of other governments, when they see that you try to get as much “help” when it is available in order to help you in the lean times, when you are jealous of others that make a way for themselves and leave the normal group behind, etc….  When, when, when, ….

AnimPlaceholder_0001_OpenBookWe are falling short of our goal of being Christ-like and spreading the Gospel when we start focusing on all the things that we need to make “sustainable”.  But this term is often in light of ministries that are not just sharing the Gospel. It is often referring to ministries that missionaries begin that are to help people—schools, hospitals,  development projects, etc…  

If the work of missions were only about starting churches and training people who will train people, we wouldn’t have near the problem of “sustainability” that we have today.  Sure there are dynamics of running a church, Bible training centre, and seminars that require funds.  When the missionaries move to another field, how will these run? 

In reality if they are all about the church and it’s body, these members should be raised up who will take the “torch” and run with it when we leave. When we start the other ministries that help people physically, then we have more problems with sustainability.

Yet, when an organization so focuses on being “sustainable” that is begins putting this term before anything else, how will that affect it’s ministries?  How can you measure the “sustainability” of a seminar, conference, Bible class?  These things will not be “financially sustainable” in the future.

That’s okay, when we teach God’s word, it’s about a spiritual “sustainability”.  If we focus on how we bring funds and what events we can fund and supplies we bring, but don’t focus on the spiritual people we are training, then we are failing.

Picture1 (1)We need to begin thinking about “spiritual” dependency.  Are we creating a spiritually sustainable church?  If there are no more funds coming into the organization from home or abroad, will the people who remain be “spiritually sustainable”?  Will they be “spiritually dependent” on the Lord and not the missionaries? 

May God help us remember to keep the main thing the main thing.

Heading to Furlough and all it entails

images (18)I recently came across an interesting situation.  I met three different couples on the mission field who were heading back for furlough soon.  I spent some time with them and was able to observe very different approaches concerning their return.  I am aware that each situation is different and yet sometimes we are burned out and need to return. Other times we see it as a burden to go back and leave our work.

Some use the furlough as an excuse to let their guard down and begin to show signs of burnout. Some let these emotions control them and forget to let God rule the situation.

We are dealing with different organizations too, so that was a factor.  We are dealing with different age groups, which is also a factor.  We are dealing with different lengths of time on the field, which is also a factor. 

One couple was ready to go back and see their grandkids. Another was ready to go back and introduce their elementary age children to family and friends whom the kids barely remembered if they remembered them at all from their previous furlough. The other couple was more recently married and have not had any kids yet.

One couple had a house to return to and family and friends in the area. One couple had two different home churches and no idea where they would live after the first few weeks where they will crash in a family member’s basement. The other couple had lined up to stay with family for the duration of their stay. 

One couple had plans already laid out to travel to supporting churches for more than 60% of their time home.  Another couple had only 4 churches to report to in their time home. The final couple fell somewhere in between the amount of travel expected. 

One wife was stressed out worrying about how they would fit in all their family and friend visits between churches and doctor’s appointments. One family was concerned because a close family member is in the last stages of a terminal illness.  One couple was concerned about whether they could raise their needed support. One couple had scheduled a debriefing time with their organization. One couple had found an outside organization and signed up for debriefing.

One couple is burned out and finding themselves curt with nationals and frustrated by little things.  One couple is seemingly depending on the Lord and not showing signs of burn out.  One couple is just coming into their own in their ministry after several years of laying ground work. They are worried about handing things over during their absence. 

Some are excited to be in the US, some are scared. Some are happy to leave their host country for a time, others are content in both cultures. Some are starting to miss family and friends as the time is approaching, others are stressed about getting into family politics during their brief time home.

How do you prepare for furlough? Are you ready emotionally to leave and “get out of here”? Are you stressed out about what’s coming or are you excited? Are you stressed about leaving your work behind or feel relieved to have a break?  Are you physically exhausted before your return? Are you spiritually hungry to be fed in your own culture and language?

Whose Fault Is It Anyways?

I have recently listened to a message about Taking Responsibility.  It makes me think. Where am I lazy? Where am I judgmental? 

When I judge others and criticize them, am I also to blame?  Are all my ramblings on this blog only blaming others and not taking the responsibility for my actions?

In missions we have views and philosophies but in the end, there is no One answer on How.  I know that the nationals will always find some fault in whatever approach we take.  I hope that in the end they don’t just criticize our approach but come to see the God we serve, alive and working in us.  May they see our love and compassion, even if we have a weird approach to serving them.

new manMay we as missionaries analyze our focus, work, ministries, and attitudes before the Lord more than we analyze the faults of the culture or nationals whom we are sent to serve. May we be open to His guiding in changing us to better serve Him and others.   May we be willing to make changes in our ministry focus or the way we spend our time so that we can better serve. 

May we not just play the blame-game of Us and Them.  Sometimes that is how missionaries always talk. “They do things this way.”  We try to teach “Them”,etc.…

We are all part of the Body of Christ and maybe we need to be more inclusive and say all of us.

purpose

This blog will be my ramblings, musing, funny stories, and other thoughts.

Some posts will be sad, others pensive, others funny, but mostly they will be from my heart and true.

 Somethings cannot be shared publicly but under anonymity I hope to set things out there.  This is not to shame anyone in the mission field. Rather to open things up. It is not to be a grumbling or griping page. Rather a behind the scenes look at what goes on on the heart and life of a missionary.