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, 31Note 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.