Yet sometimes I don't know why I'm here. I get so discouraged about what I'm doing. I feel like I'm not making a big enough difference. Drama and distractions get in my way.. and I cry out to God what's going on?
I believe that being a missionary is not a feeling, it's an action. More than that, it's a response to God's calling or tugging of your heart. It isn't something you do just for the fun of it or even on a whim. It's a response to God's command to serve, sometimes in big ways but mostly in small things- seemingly unimportant- often the overlooked.
I wanted to be a missionary for a LONG time. Ever since I was like 5 years old I've been dreaming of doing mission work in the jungle. I've always forseen myself having these crazy adventures. rescuing orphans, possibly assisting in big pregnancies, preaching sermons and watching baptisms, and occasionally crying myself to sleep at night.
But sometimes missionary work isn't like that. You see missionary work often doesn't seem special. Sometimes it's mundane. Far too often it seems like all I do here is teach swimming lessons and cook or wash dishes. Sometimes I help a little bit in the clinic...giving medicine, giving shots, comforting the kids. giving glasses, or registering patients. Sometimes though I get so frustrated because I feel like "I'm not making a big enough difference. I want to see results now. I want to go on adventures."
Tonight I read an article online about missionaries that I found very encouraging and would like to share part of "First, doing ministry in another country is just like doing ministry in the US, except for the fact that you have a mountain of additional challenges: the enemy’s violent opposition, a language barrier, cultural misunderstandings, having to learn new ways to do things (like shopping for vegetables outdoors or washing clothes by hand), and possibly doing without a lot of conveniences you are used to (for instance, a vehicle, air conditioning, or electricity). While I considered myself fully willing to give those things up and accept the extra suffering and obstacles, I had not yet proven myself able to do ministry faithfully and effectively where it was easy, so how could I expect to do it when opposition raged?
Second, missionaries like Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, and Amy Carmichael appear to us like glowing examples of triumphant faith because we get to see the end of the story. We can read their whole life story in a little book. Authors don’t spend a proportional amount of time on the drudgery-to-glamour ratio in the lives of missionaries. They focus on all the interesting parts of a person’s life. Even as we read, we gloss over the boring parts that do appear. We quickly page through the fact that Hudson Taylor spent a number of “hidden years,” or spent months bedridden with illness. We fail to consider how it felt to him to live through that. We read about Gladys Aylward marching triumphantly over the mountains. “She rescued 100 children!” we exult. But how many years did she spend in China before that, faithfully doing boring things that no one took any notice of? We read Amy Carmichael’s writings and our hearts are thrilled and inspired with her mighty faith, but we forget that her day-to-day life probably looked to her like a mundane series of tasks. We appreciate her vivid quotes, but fail to understand the pain and suffering she had to go through in order to learn these things.
The danger of over-glamorizing mission work
The danger of placing an unhealthy expectation on missionary work is that if God ever does call us to serve Him in another country, we will be unprepared for the challenges that we face and therefore be far less effective in the work."
Sometimes my everyday work- the things I do each day- seem so boring, so unimportant, un-impactful. Yet overall I look back and say "wow I taught 15 kids how to swim", "I made this little girl smile today. I held his hand when he was given a shot."
There are those times when being a missionary is that crazy adventure you are looking for. Like when I weaved through town with my feet wrapped around the 2 people in front on a motorcycle, or when your dreading your hair, experiencing a clinical emergency, or trying to lead song service when you have no idea what the words or the tunes are for the song you're singing. You will have those super fun crazy stories that you can tell your friends later.
And yes there are those times when being a missionary is crazy hard. Like when you're sick and your hands are swollen and black and blue. You have to go take blood tests at this sketchy place in town and you pray you don't get a disease when your phlebotomist drops your cotton ball on the ground and refuses to get you a new one. Or possibly when you are overwhelmed with exhaustion and being with 19 other sm's and just want to run away to get some peace.
But there are also those times when mission work feels boring. When you become unmotivated, when everything becomes routine and you forget to see the purpose in what you are doing. Whether it be washing dishes. cleaning the bathrooms, or cooking-- sometimes you get frustrated and tired. You wonder if you're making a difference at all. You struggle with God and the desire to read your Bible or practice Spanish. You struggle, you grumble. you struggle... until you realize--
1. that YOU right now are in the place exactly where God wants you
2. that sometimes God works in different ways and in different times than we choose
3. that if you look back at what God has done for you in the past you can see the fingerprints of God
If you are feeling discouraged today as a missionary (abroad or in your school, church, or college) here are some verses I found very encouraging. I pray you have faith in God and persevere through any tribulations you may encounter.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. I Cor. 9:24
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Zech. 4:6
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only. Psalm 71:16
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this. that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus