Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Rebuttal to the article entitled "10 Things Missionaries Won't Tell You"

I recently read a blog post entitled 10 Things Missionaries Won't Tell You. Obviously, it resonated with some people because it was so popular it caused the author's website to crash. Only here's the problem. I really did not like the article.

It listed things that missionaries typically say, most of which were benign statements about struggles and finances and loneliness. Then it went into detail about what the author believes to be the truth behind those statements. The whole thing made me sick to my stomach. Let me try to explain why.

First, it perpetuates the idea that those in Christian ministry have a public image that contradicts their private reality--that there is an unspoken law that we must keep up appearances for the sake of the Gospel. If a missionary isn't honest about his experience, he is either fooling himself or he doesn't think other people can deal with his brokenness. I choose to believe that our supporters and prayer partners are savvy enough to know that we are not perfect. If I'm having a rough time, I want to tell them plainly so that they can pray for me! Obviously I don't air all of the details of all of our trials in the public arena, but I certainly can be frank about the presence of challenging circumstances. And I have several close friends and mentors with whom I disclose the nitty-gritty and downright ugly. These people don't gasp in horror when they hear that I am fighting depression or having panic attacks or losing support. They speak truth to me, stand in the gap for me, and sometimes carry me until the Lord restores me fully. 

Second, the article insinuated that the missionary life is somehow harder or more stressful than any other life calling. Honestly, life is tough all over!  We all struggle, we all suffer, and we all get weary--missionary or not. Missionaries are not the only ones who get lonely or have money problems. We aren't the only ones doing kingdom work on earth. Our call is no more important nor more challenging than that of the IT guy who is the only voice of truth in his office, the stay-at-home mom who questions her significance, or the school teacher who sees hurting students day after day and wonders if she's making a difference. We're all investing our lives in eternity, it doesn't matter if we're doing it at home or in a far away place. Please, oh please, climb down off of that pedestal, Mr. Missionary.

Third, the author acts as if he believes his supporters would be shocked to think that a missionary took a vacation. Why? We're so holy we don't need a break? Do we need to prove that our work is so important that the world will fall apart if we step away for week? But what I really hated about this idea was that again, missionaries are portrayed as two-faced. It's as if the author said, "Okay, fine, I realize I need a vacation, but I better not let my supporters know that I actually liked it! I certainly better not publicize it on Facebook." Now I do understand the question of extravagance--many people make financial cut-backs in order to be able to support us, and it would be wrong for us to take that money and blow it on frivolities. I'm not talking about week-ends at the Georges V in Paris. But let's assume that my supporters have already determined that we are committed to living simple and generous lives. Would they begrudge us a family trip? Rest is actually critical to effective ministry. We need a break as much as anybody. So we go to places that we enjoy, and since we live in Europe, those places happen to be in Europe. My supporters also know geography. They know that we went to Ireland for two weeks last summer. They also know that we drove there, spent part of the time staying with friends, and had a blast! If a missionary feels the need to hide something like a vacation from supporters I think there's an integrity problem. 

Fourth, I hate the "us and them" tone of the article. It breaks the world into two categories: Missionaries and Supporters. Frankly, I'm both! I'm so grateful for our many faithful supporters! I know they make sacrifices so that we can be here to do  our work and I'm thankful that God has called them to be part of our team. But it's not like I can't understand the sacrifices they are making--I make them, too! Our support comes to us in a regular monthly paycheck, and out of that income we tithe, we support a couple of Compassion kids, we support a church plant project here in France, and we, too, support a missionary family. I hope this is true of most missionaries, though I really have no way of knowing. All I'm saying is that while I view my supporters work back at home as every bit as important as my work here in France, I also do not see myself as exempt from investing financially in God's kingdom work around the globe. Yes, we are the recipients of support. But we, too, are missionary supporters. 

And finally, the article made missionaries sound pathetic and miserable. The reason I don't tell you the things listed in this article is because most of them are not true for me! I actually am not lonely, I do trust people, and you do hear about my worst days. Of course we have bad days, but mostly I love my life! I feel blessed to be doing to this work, I feel excited about the challenges ahead, and I know that I know that I know that I am exactly where God has called me to be, even when being here is hard. I love living in France and learning a new language and traveling frequently. I love trying new foods and starting new ministries and meeting new people! Being a missionary is not drudgery--it's fun! It's the best job I've ever had, I feel like I was MADE for this! I have miserable moments, but no lasting regrets. We've traversed dark valleys, but we've also climbed some awesome spiritual mountains. We've seen tremendous suffering, but we've seen lives redeemed from the pit, too. 

The author of 10 Things Missionaries Won't Tell You writes, "Often, it is the things left unsaid that really begin to erode the passion and soul of a missionary." I agree. And many missionaries left comments saying, "finally someone has expressed what I've been feeling for years!" But the question that never gets addressed in the article is this: why are these things left unsaid? Are missionaries scared of losing face? Of losing support? Of seeming unholy? Are they ashamed of their struggles? Are supporters really expecting that missionaries don't have these problems? Would they really be shocked to know the truth? THIS, to me, is the real tragedy. 

In closing, I want to stand up and CHEER for all of YOU, our friends! I have always been candid on this blog, and that is because I know you to be savvy, wise, faithful supporters and prayer warriors. We are not two-faced because you accept and love us, warts and all! You journey with us, you encourage us when we're down and you celebrate with us when we have victories. You truly are our co-laborers, and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. 


  1. Excellent post. Thank you.

  2. This was refreshing to read. I just wrote a similar post. You may enjoy reading it, as I enjoyed yours! Thanks!

  3. You said actually What I felt about the article as well. If I wasn't honest then my supporters and prayer warriors wouldn't know how to pray for us. I love the missionary life. I grew up in the mission field and now am following in my Father's footsteps serving in the Same country my father felt called to The Philippines. I know that I know I'm called here and I love this life. I love our feeding programs and Our first food pantry. I just started these two ministries we call " Feeding God's Children From God's Storehouse". Yes, its in the starting stages and we have been able to feed 400 people already. The smiles on the their faces is priceless. We serve an awesome God. Thank you for your article.

  4. You are right you are spoiled and do not understand true Missions work because if you did you would have another view. Must be hard living there and do missions work with all your creature comforts. 24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;…