Crappy Missionary

by Laura on April 11, 2010

I wrote this at the end of the last two weeks struggling to set up life here in SE Asia–renting a house, setting up accounts, figuring out grocery stores, buying household supplies, trying to get internet at the house (still no success).  Most of the girls have been away on school holiday, so we haven’t had a chance to really experience the sense of purpose which I hope will come from being with them.  To top things off, it’s the hottest part of the year and only a few of the rooms in our home have AC.   

I am a crappy missionary.  Not just a mildly crappy one, but a big-time crappy one.  And while I would rather explain our move with a “My husband helps direct a Christian NGO” instead of  using missionary language, I have determined that I definitely qualify as a terrible missionary-lady.  Here’s the case against me:

1.   My Kid Eats Chicken Nuggets.  Still.  Almost only.   I’ve tried sneaking sugar packets onto rice.  I’ve tried waiting until he gets really hungry (which only results in a public meltdown), and still the kid wants pricey, inconvenient McDonalds every day.

2.   I Have a Cush House.  Even though the other missionary lady at the pool gave me a speech about “living like the natives,” and the “importance of not living above average Asian standards” we ended up with an above-average house.  It’s beautiful.  In a nicer Asian neighborhood. With a pool.   And I could tell you that it was only 50 bucks more than our budget and that we wanted a sanctuary to rest in and that I needed more space for homeschooling and that we wanted an extra room to host people and that we wanted a backyard to have teams over to dinner . . . . but the bottom line is that we are living at above-average cultural standards.

3.  I Came Not Speaking a Lick of Asian.  Well, unless you count “hello” and “thank you,” which anyone can learn on the plane ride over.  Try bargaining with real estate agents or calling on the phone to get your gas turned on not being able to speak or understand the language.  At all.  No matter how slowly they speak.  Uncool.  Un-missionary-like.  (But we are getting a Asian tutor in the next week . . . so at least there is a glimmer of hope.)

4.  I Have a Flat-Screen TV.  In my bedroom.  Hanging from the ceiling.  After I gave big speeches about the move away from American media, Matt and I are living like media-millionaires.  And while the reason is fairly legit, the previous renter just moved to China without notice and never came back leaving all of her high-end furniture (and TVs) with the house, it still looks pretty snooty.

5.  I’m Getting a Maid.  Yup, a maid.  Now, most everyone has them here, so that is perhaps not a cultural no-no,  but who ever heard of a missionary having a cleaning lady?

6.  I’ve Only Had Three “Quiet Times” (a.k.a. “times focused on my spiritual heart in prayer and reading the Bible”).  Three!  And I’m supposed to be living out the love of Jesus in a foreign land, and I can’t even figure out how to get time to be alone with Him.  Again, uncool.

7.  I Meltdown.  It’s true.  I cussed yesterday –in front of the kids– when I slipped on the slick tile and spilled a drink all over the floor.  And then I cried in the car because I couldn’t handle the three children by myself in a shopping mall for fifteen minutes while Matt picked something up at a store.  And yesterday I gave up homeschooling simply because it was too stinkin’ hot ( 107 degrees with what must have been like 90% humidity).

So, my friends, as you see, this girl is much less than she thought she was.  Oh, wait, that makes a number 8, pride—not a good quality for any Christ-follower or missionary-person either.  Dangit. 

While I feel like I knew how to swim in America, here in Asia I am a fish out of water.  I reckon my prayer should be (as Matt said yesterday) that “Jesus will grow us some legs fast.”  And I know that I will learn to walk here, eventually, but I think much of what I thought I could offer has been stripped away—right down to even my “right” to claim the ever-righteous “missionary” label.  I can’t see the good yet.  At all.  Any of it.  And though I do think I will fall in love with girls like these,  

I am not in love with the culture or the land yet, and find myself struggling much more with setting up house than I thought I would.  And there are no easy solutions for the struggle (or the heat) I am waking up to daily, just a bedrock assurance that I serve a God who loves (still) even the crappiest of missionaries

Which would most definitely be



“Not many wise in the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. . . For God has used the weak things of the world to shame the strong. ‘Let him who glory, glory in the Lord.’ “ – 1 Cor. 1:26,27, 31

 Note to our supporters:  I realize that many of you reading this blog are those that financially and prayerfully support our family to be here in SE Asia.  I hope posts about me being a “crappy missionary” don’t scare you too much.  Matt and I both continue to be committed to the honest recording of this journey and ministry—mess and all. 
  • Wendy Chase

    Laura, Your are a wonderful mom and a strong Christian. Keep your eyes on the Lord. Hang in there. God will never leave you. He loves you and your family. Miss you guys so much.

  • Chad Parker

    Bless you Laura…remember…this too shall pass. and being a crappy missionary is more than most of us have even attempted.

  • Todd Zeller

    We love you guys! Laura, I love your honesty! It really speaks of the reality of obeying Jesus. In some weird way it’s very encouraging for me and also hopeful for you that the enemy sees good things coming and is doing his best to defeat you. Know that you have an army praying for you!

  • Tamara

    SO many thoughts came to me while reading this! One that stuck out:”this girl is much less than she thought she was” and our Scripture’s response? 2 Cor. 8-10, part of which are Christ’s words ” My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Woo-hoo!

    Next, from my reading this a.m. is: John 17:15 when Jesus is praying for His disciples: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one”. So I, too, pray for you and Matt protection from the evil one and that you continue to remember your words above, that God loves you!
    In Him,

  • Anne-Marie

    Praying, Praying, Praying. Here is my current facebook post that I stole from Adeye’s website. “A.W. Tozer: God is lookng for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” God was looking for you and found you and is continuing to ask you to do the impossible. You were and are obedient. Have peace in the fact that you are being obedient to your Holy Father. I love following your website and keeping up with how things are going. You continue to be a blessing – your real, honest self. Love you Laura!

  • Christy Rogers

    Oh dear lady, you are not a crappy missionary, you are just a very human wife and mother. I think that our Lord is using this experience to grow you and shape you so that you CAN be a great missionary. We are praying for you guys. Remember, don’t worry too much about how you are supposed to live or what others think of you, only worry about what God has called you to do. I know that is hard to think of in the middle of a meltdown (either yours or the kids). But even in your lowest time there in that foreign place, he is still in control and when your heart is set to do his work, things will work for His glory, even if things are not how you thought they would be. It will get easier.
    Hugs Mama,
    Christy R.

  • Andra Tobey

    Hi There, I just spent a little time reading through your posts, which I found entirely by mistake whilst researching one of my projects. Please continue to write more because it’s unusual that someone has something interesting to say about this. Will be waiting for more!

  • evan stookey

    omg i just have to say it… awesome… im inspired. your words bring so much reality to life and that were all in the same boat, really. at least i am. your words about the sacrifice, its sticking with me. thanks for giving such honest, real and detailed blogs.

    this is so friggin appreciated guys! its helping us!

  • Zane and Jan

    WOW, you accomplished getting a maid, getting a house, getting SOMEWHERE in a car, FINDING chicken nuggets, Remembering that you are supposed to have a quiet timeAND actually HAveing 3 of them, Knowing when to toss in the towel for the day (big one), only said one cuss word. KNow what we say? You are DOING too much!!! Chill out.
    Go buy some squirt guns!! Really.
    You are going to need them.
    Songkram is coming fast and you need to Chill out.

  • Dave & Carroll

    Thank you for your honesty!! Continue to travel to Micky D’s to help bridge the cultural gap!! The International President of McDonald’s is a believer!! We can identify a “little” bit as we left WP after a cold winter to move to Florida in June 6yrs ago. You moved from winter to extreme summer in 30hrs!! Whew, that is body shock let alone culture and language!! We agree with Zane and Jan to focus on “one” thing positive each day and be THANKFUL!! Moving & change is never easy, but your home, pool and furniture provided is a blessing from the Lord saying THANK YOU for your faith…I’ll take it from here!! Home school can always be resumed, so consider the next weeks or months a field trip that most American students will never experience!! We THANK the Lord for YOU and your willingness to lay down everything to obey His call and He is multipling it to your account!! Thank you for your honesty and know that you are in our prayers and the prayers of many intercessors that may not have ever met you, but are there for YOU!! 1Thess 5:18

  • Teresa

    I am happy that you have found a sanctuary for your family! I appreciate your honest sharing of this tough transition. I pray for those “legs” to grow and strengthen and that God will give you daily grace to do the job He’s brought you there to do. I can only imagine how tough it is to walk through all this as a mom to little ones, but I hope that a beautiful new normal will emerge. Peace to you.

  • Zane and Jan

    Thanks for your honesty!! You are going to need someone to help you buy your gas and bottled water, if you want it delivered to your house. I love the house! It’s beautiful. You may, with Lu’s help, get the landlord to put in another air conditioning unit. He is pretty good with bargaining for things like AC. If you are thinking you are a crappy missionary, please don’t believe it…it is a lie from the enemy and he wants you to be defeated and thinking negatively. God wants you to be thankful IN all things and not necessarily thankful FOR all things. He knows that you are out of your culture and He is so pleased with your being there. He loves your obedience and He is smiling on you, even when you cuss!!! Like Zane said, just chill, relax and don’t feel guilty about how you are feeling. You have accomplished so much already. Please believe that. We are praying that you can get out of the American mindset, don’t worry and be full of His joy.

  • Amy

    I know its not funny but, this post made me giggle. Maybe if you prayed the serenity prayer over and over again it could help get you some positive points (plus, maybe some peace, too!). You’ll figure it out…don’t stress too much about it. Do the best you can and you will get nice, purty, strong legs really soon. Thanks for being so honest…we would all know you were being fake if you said it was all sparkly rainbows so far! Love you guys lots (see even the crappiest of missionaries are loved!)

  • Adeye

    Oh my goodness gracious, my lovely friend, I just cannot even imagine EVERYTHING you have been through in just two weeks. So crazy. I am rejoicing that the Father had provided you with a beautiful home, a place you can retreat and just BE. Be kind to yourself, it is going to take time to adjust and learn a whole new culture. Extend yourselves a LOT of grace. I admire you greatly, you’re out there DOING IT, inspite of the cost or how hard it is. No many will GO, friend. Good and faithful servants.

    Sending you a HUGE hug from the seriously crappy Ukraine. Please God–I don’t ever want to be a missionary here :)


  • Mom Ragan


    Honesty is the best policy, I suppose, but I know that God has blessed you in many ways,too… in this time of clinging to Him. You still have that sense of humor and gift of writing! He is Your adequacy. It’s that you realize that when nothing else is going for you! I am delighted to see you walk with Christ in such need. Remember the Winston Churchill quote you like so much. Another way of saying it, “You can’t say whoa in a mudhole.” Know that we are praying often and trust Him to show you the way through this wilderness. All you have to do is follow, according to the song.
    Fellow “Mud-hole dweller” MOM

  • Darla C

    Hey girl,
    Wow, what a beautiful house. You totally scored on that one! I think it it awesome that you have such a beautiful place to stay during your journey over there. I am so sorry you are dealing with such frustration though. I cant even imagine it. If I were in your shoes, I would be cussing for a day or two as well, so don’t beat yourself up too much….change takes time and time changes perspectives…I have learned that for sure. You are the most amazing, strong, brave person I know….and I know you will get through this smelling like roses, (not fish) so hang in there. Love ya and miss you. Darla

  • Rochelle Van Ryn

    Keep on, keep on, keep on. We know that pictures do not reveal the smells, noise, humidity and heat. And that is all crappy with small kids. Or big kids. Or by yourself. We know that pictures do not reveal loneliness, despair or the frustration of inadequacy…but your words have and you are being taken to the throne. Read this blog and the next one to Dan. Then we prayed. You are not alone.

  • Mary DeMuth

    I love this post. So real and honest. I was totally a crappy missionary in France on every single level. But thankfully God is bigger than our self perceived crappiness and crabbiness.

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  • Hannah

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I know I’m a little late but I just found your blog and I love it! I’m a “missionary” living in south america and I totally relate to everything you’re saying….and I’ve been here for over a year now. I live in a pretty nice house, have a maid (it would be kind of culturally unacceptable not to though, as a westener), I don’t really like the local food, I still can’t speak very good spanish and I can’t go outside for more than 2 seconds in the summer without crying out for AC and a pool! It’s just so nice to know that I’m not the only one! Thank you!

    • Laura Parker

      Hannah– glad you were encouraged. No joke, living overseas can be so. tough.
      Hang in there. And enjoy that pool! You are giving up lots already. :)
      Lots of love, L

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