An Apology to All Non- “Missionaries”

by Laura on March 24, 2012

I read a lot of missionary blogs.

When someone comments from Peru or Vietnam or Sudan, I click, and I read. Because the world fascinates me. It is a big, beautiful place, and God is doing amazing things on all corners of it. Absolutely.

But, as I have read missionary blogs, and as I have watched videos about world races, I am struck with the subtle arrogance of the Western missionary’s language. Things {something} like this are all over our websites and newsletters:

“I knew that there was more to life than the 9-t0-5 in America. I was just a businessman, and now I get to be so much more.”

“I felt God calling me into a bigger story. One that wasn’t so comfortable and easy.”

“I am living a good story, because I am moving overseas to Africa.”

“I’ve spent my whole life in the normal, but now I am embracing real adventure.”

“There is desperate need in India, and I finally get to become Jesus’s hands and feet.”

Okay, friends.  Put yourself in the non-missionary’s shoes. What does this kind of language communicate? Reading our overseas blogs from North Carolina or Colorado or California, what are we saying to all of those who aren’t choosing to live in a foreign country?

That their story isn’t good because they aren’t feeding African children?

That they can’t see God work in miraculous ways in the West?

That there is something selfish about simply rooting where you are planted?

That God doesn’t show up in dramatic ways in the “normal,” that there isn’t need in the States?

That their Christ-following is somehow, less?

This is wrong. All of it.

Because yes, the video of the white guy with the poor kids and the inspirational music in the background is dramatic and inspirational, but his story isn’t better by any means than the housewife who is trying to flesh out her faith in the same hometown she grew up in.

It. is. not.

Despite what our media sells us. Or our Christian circles tell us. Or the popular communicate in their highly-edited videos.

Following Jesus and loving others well can happen anywhere. Is hard anywhere. And can speak transformation anywhere.

And, so, friends who might read here and who aren’t choosing to live overseas, let me officially apologize– on behalf of myself and on behalf of all the missionary-media you’ve seen.

If the power of your story has felt devalued because you have chosen to do the hard{er?} work of staying and loving others right where you are, I ask your forgiveness.

Because a good story most definitely doesn’t require a passport.

And, to my missionary friends, please, please, forthelove, be careful in your communication. Be careful that you are not subtly telling your followers, your supporters, your friends back home that they are less.

The choice to usher in the Kingdom deserves respect, wherever it takes place.

***************

Related. When Missions Goes Hollywood   |  Quiet Heroes    |   They Guy in the Rice Field Never Read Wild at Heart  |  Living a Good Story

Thoughts on Missionary-Media? Been hurt by it? Done it badly yourself? Bring it.

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  • Hanlie

    Good blog! Very true.  We don’t need to go overseas to be missionaries.   Another thing that I have found with some missionaries here are, they are to busy being missionaries that they can’t be friends with anyone other than their missionary group.  Sucks when one is in desperate need of a friend, but they are to busy doing God’s work to see ones need…

    • lauraparkerblog

      Hanlie, Yes, I get that too! It’s like with anything, we can get tunnel vision on what our “goals” are and miss the very real needs/relationships right next door– literally.

  • melissa

    I appreciate that you aren’t afraid to share what is on your heart and mind; and this was very well said/written. Thanks for sharing!

    • lauraparkerblog

      Melissa,

      Thanks, friend. Appreciate the kind words. :)

  • pastordt

    Why, thank you, Laura. You are absolutely right. We are all ‘missionaries,’ we all live right in the middle of real life, dealing with real needs, face to face with people who need Jesus. Period.

    • lauraparkerblog

      exactly. :)

    • Tamara

       “face to face with people who need Jesus. Period.”  I need to stamp this on my hand so I see it all day!

  • http://bahava.wordpress.com Katy

    amen. and it’s that very message that has been preached and i’ve swallowed and i’ve probably even preached that has made this season of god planting me here so much harder than it really has/needed to be.  

    • lauraparkerblog

       Katy, oh, friend. I totally hear you.  I get that.  Sigh.

  • Marlana

    Personally, I think the west is the hardest mission field and hardest people to reach in the world. Besides the spiritual blinders, the legal system also makes working with people much harder than here, in its own way.

    That said, I understand the quotes from the missionaries too. Its hard to live overseas and your friends *not* get it. I don’t mind them saying they’ve never seen a house without windows and doors, or people who live in a giant dump (Cambodia). But it does hurt when they say they don’t want to hear about the abuse of the Karen, or if I’m just having a bad day, a typical bad day that I would have in America, or any American has as well, and I’m just tired of the isolation, and make a call to a friend, and the friend says, “oh, God just wants you to come back.” I don’t have a missionary blog,  but its on days like that that, if I did blog, I might be tempted to say, “I’m embracing adventure, I’m embracing a bigger picture,” because that’s exactly what why I endure what I endure.

    Of course, this is why I *don’t* blog.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Marlana,

      Yes. God protect us from this lie that “over there” is HARD and “here” (in the West) is EASY.

  • http://www.earlychildhoodinmonglia.blogspot.com/ Naomi Mckenzie

    Yes!!  Being a missionary is not about moving to a foreign country, or even always about working with people who are not from your own country or culture.  I love how Rick Warren puts it-  Jesus gave the great commission, not the great suggestion!  We are ALL called to missions, to live lives that reflect Jesus, to follow after Him with all of our heart and mind and strength, and to share His love with those He has called us to- wether they are children in Mongolia, street workers in Thailand or our neighbour down the street.  I almost don’t want to use the word “missionary” or even “non-missionary” anymore, because we have so many ideas of what that word means and how it looks and many misconceptions.  So… thanks for your post Laura!

    • Joel W

      Show me Biblically. A missionary is one who is sent out from local body to another location and or culture. (See Acts 13 for the church beginning this process.) My point is that yes, we are all called to the Great Commission but don’t mix your terms. Witnesses, ambassadors, but frankly the word missionary never even appears in the Word of God. (rather a category-one who is sent.) My concern when I hear this line is that people are excusing themselves from active participation in World missions. Millions have never even heard the name of Jesus while we spend millions on the West. Don’t we have  a responsibility to all the world?

      • lauraparkerblog

        Joel, thanks for your insight here. I think you are right in that the term “missions” gets confusing sometimes. I had a friend yesterday tell me that there is huge difference b/t “cross cultural ministry” {i.e.: business, humanitarian efforts, etc} and  “missions” {reaching out with the gospel to the unreached}.  

        I guess I had never really thought about that before, honestly, and I think it’s an interesting idea . . .  I hear you saying this mainly:

        My concern when I hear this line is that people are excusing themselves from active participation in World missions. 

        This is an important point, for sure.

        • Marlana

           interesting. Most “missionaries” in Chiang Mai arent’ reaching unreached people groups, so they wouldn’t be qualified as a missionary under those terms. But I agree with you. Not all are called to live overseas, but I think all are called to care about other countries; that speaks for missionaries praying for their home countries, too.

        • Joel W

           Yes! Some may say that I am splitting hairs, but I see it as necessary to maintain lines so that we don’t lose focus of the mission that God gave us:  Acts 1:8. With this commission, there are distinct roles that God has for each of us. With regards to your friends comment, not sure. From the side that my family falls on (unreached people groups) I see that there might be a difference but not sure about the terminology…food for thought….

    • lauraparkerblog

      Naomi,

      ” I almost don’t want to use the word “missionary” or even “non-missionary” anymore, because we have so many ideas of what that word means and how it looks and many misconceptions.”

      Yes, I agree. Sometimes I think the word really evokes more than I want it to evoke. Kinda like Christians not calling themselves “christians” but rather “Jesus followers” because of all the crappy things the ‘Christian” community has done over the last years. I get that, for sure.

  • Markandkorrin

    Someone once told me “There is no such thing as overseas mission – once you get there, it is local!”  And it’s true – we are to be Jesus wherever we are…

    • lauraparkerblog

      Oh, my, goodness. I love this quote. Gonna be using this one in the future.

  • MissD

    I really understand your thoughts Mariana! I also think that missionaries use that language not to ‘show off’ but to help their family and friends back home really understand what they are doing. There may be a feeling that they have to sound eccentric because the people back home might not get it.

    Coming from the west which really needs help, people can be really offended and wonder why you don’t ‘stay home’. There is a pressure to fill your newsletters with the amazing things you are doing on the mission field and you feel you cant come home or write a newsletter unless you have saved 200 unreached or rescued a child from a brothel.

    You mentioned that people don’t want to hear about your bad day. I believe that this could be because of our ‘adventure language’., To be open and say you’ve had a bad day can confuse the people who sent you, because we have already given them the impression that it is such an amazing adventure! How can we possibly have a bad day, aren’t we being ungrateful with our support?

    If we were really honest from the beginning of who we are, how we are and what we are doing, struggles and all (a bit like Laura) then I think that there would be better understanding from the senders and a greater and more fruitful relationship to be had with them.

    • lauraparkerblog

      This was a really thoughtful comment. I think that you are right in that the missionary gets in a tricky spot with communication. If we talk about the inspirational/adventure piece of it too much, we start down a road of becoming isolated and not having the freedom to share honestly, because it feels like the two are in contradiction. I do agree, though, that it seems like most people would rather have the real story, gritty as it may be, than the flashy newsletter one, anyway.

      Well, actually, I guess in reality, that might not be the case with a lot of supported workers. Hmmmm . . . . a conundrum, indeed.

  • http://www.nosuperheroes.com Chris Lautsbaugh

    Fantastic post. There is no separation of sacred and secular. Ecclesiastes tells us all of life “under God” is spiritual and all of life under the sun is meaningless. 

    The most spiritual thing you can do is not be a missionary….it is to be obedient!

    • lauraparkerblog

      Chris, Perfect here: “There is no separation of sacred and secular.”

      Yes.

    • lauraparkerblog

      I guess my real “beef” is just with missionaries making it sound like there is a difference and that one is superior to the other. Which is bogus, I think. And I think it is an idea that is fostered by a lot of our christian books/media, too.

  • Ktenclay

    Amen!
    I serve in Cameroon as a teacher of MKs.  This is where God has called me, but I am no more called to this place and job than I was the the public school where I used to teach in Kansas. 

    I also had a great conversation with a national friend yesterday about how many missionaries through their desire to ‘serve’ and ‘help’ and ‘save’ end up creating a situation in which we imply that our culture is somehow better, that out countries don’t have corrupt government officials and poverty and crime.  He was shocked to hear me say that such things exist in our countries as well but they are better hidden.  

    • lauraparkerblog

      Yes, isn’t this a danger– that in our efforts, we
      “end up creating a situation in which we imply that our culture is somehow better”.

      Ouch. I think we can make this mistake not only with nationals but also with the people back home. Thanks for your teaching in Cameroon! Glad to hear from you!

  • Wendy

    Great blog – keep pondering and writing, Laura!  I live/work in Mozambique and don’t like to call myself a “missionary” – we’re all called to give of ourselves, no matter where in the world God chooses to place us. Check out wendymozambique.blogspot.com for an exploration of the same concept, different words under the title, “What In the World is a Missionary”.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Will check this out, Wendy!

  • http://jbeane6.wordpress.com/ Jan

    Great post! Living a quiet life in rural Maine also has its challenges. Embracing the here and now requires listening to God’s voice. 

    • lauraparkerblog

      “listening to God’s voice”– a challenge anywhere, right?

  • NThaiMissionary

    I feel like this article helps to point us in the right direction but mostly I feel like it pushes the pendulum too far the other way.
    Lots of people who are doing nothing for the Great Commission don’t like to feel guilty and so when missionaries say that their lives have been enhanced in doing so it makes some people feel awkward.
    Since Jesus’s last command should be our first concern we can either go, send or sin in going out to reach people. It is true that you can do this at home but – are you really? It’s easy to say but hard to do. How many non Christian friends do you give the love of Jesus to. Are you really leading at least one person to Jesus each year and then discipling them.
    “Following Jesus is hard anywhere.” True, from one perspective. But isn’t it perhaps harder when your life is in danger or when you witness atrocities around you? The life of a missionary is way harder than many can immagine in so many ways that I’d need to write a book to explain it.
    You said it “That there is something selfish about simply rooting where you are planted?” Disobedience to God is selfish. Too often I hear people say “Grow where you are planted.” as a sinful excuse for disobeying God. On the other hand, there are people who “Go” and that is sin too. There is nothing wrong with “embracing real adventure.” and even admitting that it really is an adventure. There is nothing wrong with “9-t0-5 in America” as long as you are supposed to be there. 
    I Like what MissD said because the main reason missionaries communicate the way they do is so that the “churches” and missions committees don’t forget who they are, or get excited by the latest fad, and stop sending support. I was a missionary for 12 years (and even helped with Breanna’s House of Joy) and because I didn’t use the kind of language as you mention above I lost all support. I refused to play that game. So in that way I agree with you. I just feel like the article isn’t balanced addressing the other side.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks for your insights and honesty here! (and how cool that you worked at BHJ!  I assume, before we were there?)

      I think you are right in that any communication for or against something can either heap on guilt or relieve it. I guess it comes back to a person’s heart. I think I just get irked when people communicate that the life of the overseas worker is “always harder”– because I just really disagree. I have so many friends at home who are loving and serving God in radical ways and, honestly, I think their lives are much harder than mine . . . Now, if i moved to India . . . . :)

      Thanks for your response, here!

  • Dabukes

    I don’t think the point is whether we tell of our adventures or our bad days, I think the point is being sensitive to the words we use to convey that. We should try not to sound as if ours is the only mission field worth serving, but also not humble to the point of absurd self-deprecation. For fifteen years, God had me doing work with inner city American y0uth,  then pastoring churches, and now preparing to go overseas. None of those is any more or any less godly. That’s the point we need to be conveying, and making sure we’re not conveying that ours is the only true ministry.Ours is simply one more way that God has chosen to get his message out.

  • Rtjt

    Remarkable. Reflection. God’s living church and living Spirit works in all kinds of personal stories and assignments….

  • angela_lees

    This is great, thanks for articulating it.
    A similar illustration of this is here in NZ, the Navy ran a series of recruitment ads on TV with people talking to the camera saying things like “I could have been an accountant or a butcher, but I chose to go further in the Navy”. And it rubbed alot of people the wrong way (although the ads still run). Because one occupation might be better for you, but that doesn’t mean it is (or you are) better.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Angela,  thanks for this- great example of the same concept.

  • http://scholar-redeemer.blogspot.com/ Robb Wilson

    Thank you! As a believer called to mission in a secular field, I am deeply appreciative of your awareness and sensitivity. FWIW, I offer a more in-depth response on my own blog, The Scholar Redeemer (http://scholar-redeemer.blogspot.com/2012/03/who-is-doing-lords-work.html ) May the Lord continue to bless all aspects of all of the works He’s called you to!

    Robb Wilson, Ph.D.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks, Robb– will check it out!

  • Tamara

    Ok.  You’re forgiven.  Oh, wait!  That’s not my line – already been done : ~ )
    But really.  Thanks from all of us HERE for this post.  Nope, haven’t heard this sentiment from you but have heard it most of my life.  It took me many years of adulthood to realize that being a missionary did not always involve going to Africa.  I’m serious. 
    Acts 1:8  . . . and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem [hometown], Judea and Samaria [places of known enemies], and to the ends of the earth [who knows where??].
    Now after several short-term missions away from home, I’m called here.  Here is easy on the body – dependable electricity, creature comforts, no bugs since it’s CO – but hard on the breaking-through-to-others side. 
    We all gotta trust that this witness thing is going to be tough and fun and scary and rewarding and we’ll laugh at it all in Heaven.  Let’s be gentle with each other.  Thank you for encouraging gentleness both ways, Laura. 
    Hugs from here!

    • lauraparkerblog

      I love your honesty–

      Here is easy on the body – dependable electricity, creature comforts, no bugs since it’s CO – but hard on the breaking-through-to-others side.  

  • http://jesusyoume.blogspot.com/ Andrea Ward

    Beautiful thoughts!  I have been working very hard this year to bloom where I am planted in whatever way that looks like (currently wife, mother, middle school teacher, and youth leader in NC) and NOT to judge where someone else has been planted.  Thanks for the reminder.

  • Joel W

    From where
    I sit in this part of Asia as a missionary, those lines are not meant as barbs
    or arrows shot from the arsenal of missionaries. We are not challenging
    anyone’s calling in life other than to try and get across that we are truly
    honored to be used of God. Do we chastise the Apostle for similar comments in
    his letters, now New Testament books? (see Hardship-II Cor. 11:33; Is he
    bragging in Phil. 4:11-12?) If someone feels that there life is being devalued
    when someone makes these types of statements, perhaps it is time to sit before
    the Lord and make sure you were called to a life in business. If you arise from
    your knees and see you life’s calling FROM God as business, than by all means
    do it. We cannot be here without you praying and giving there. Believe me, no
    self-respecting, God fearing, by grace alone missionary wants to impugn someone
    else’s calling. God calls different people to different places on the globe and
    in society. These lines are merely words trying to convey the great unknown of
    the mission field to someone who has never been there. And aren’t these lines
    more of testimony? If someone shares a testimony about something, it doesn’t
    mean that my life is suddenly garbage because I am not like them.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Like this, esp:

      ” And aren’t these lines
      more of testimony? If someone shares a testimony about something, it doesn’t
      mean that my life is suddenly garbage because I am not like them.”  
      I do think the idea of testimony is important here . . .and maybe people are not as fragile as I assume sometimes– or maybe as I am!  

  • http://www.angiewashington.com/ @ngie

    Just had a talk with my kids about how 90% of communication is non-verbal. When we read blurbs online it is sometimes hard to judge the intent and purpose behind the statements. Therefore, when reading anything in this media flood it is wise council to assume pure intentions.

    Phrases like the ones you list in the first set (not the 2nd set) might very well be used by God to request that people evaluate their life and thereby be motivated to become involved, in some way, with world missions. But, most likely, the phrases are simply an invitation for people to rejoice in the goodness of God at work in the life of another believer.

    Might you be insulting those non-missionary people by assuming such a great level of fragility? Are these workers of the gospel, in whatever corner of the world, so inwardly focused on their own hardships that they cannot be glad that another found their calling?

    I tried to remove myself from the missionary scenario to think of an applicable example to explain what I feel. I decided to go with the book publishing scene. As person desiring to one day have a book out there, I follow many writer’s blogs. How can I become hurt or offended if I hear of someone else getting a book deal? As a non-published person I continue to write as I feel God has called me to write right now. I may never get that book deal. But that doesn’t mean that I feel that all newly published writers should watch the way they speak around me. I am glad for them. I am also happy for the point of the journey where God has currently placed me.

    I appreciate your desire to be watchful of our communication. You are never afraid to challenge the status quo. I love the way that you validate all sectors of the Kingdom, wherever they might be working. I don’t think you are too far off in helping missionaries evaluate their motives. I agree that all sectors deserve respect. Thank you, Laura, for your honesty and candid writing.

    It looks as though I *am* publishing a book in this little comment box. 😉 Yet, before I leave, I want to throw out this famous piece for consideration by Marianne Williamson:  http://skdesigns.com/internet/articles/quotes/williamson/our_deepest_fear/

    Love to you always!

    • lauraparkerblog

      Girl, you are brilliant. And I sure as heck hope you write that book. I loved your words here and I felt a little bit of an “ouch” of honesty and conviction on this point:

      “Might you be insulting those non-missionary people by assuming such a great level of fragility? Are these workers of the gospel, in whatever corner of the world, so inwardly focused on their own hardships that they cannot be glad that another found their calling?”

      This goes along with what someone else said about testimony.  It is important that we be able to share our stories, our testimonies, of God moving. And obviously, can not micromanage the ways that might impact others. I loved your book example. And, yes, the author shouldn’t be edited from talking about the process of successful publishing just because that hasn’t been my story, yet.  Good practical example.

      I think, mainly, I just still rail at this undercurrent that seems to run in the Christian circles that only the big, radical, crazy God-following (as we term “big, radical, crazy”) count. Ya know?

      • http://www.angiewashington.com/ @ngie

        I heard once that our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. I agree that we mustn’t puff ourselves up by falling prey to a savior-of-the-world complex. I don’t mean the following as an excuse, rather an explanation of creature behavior (which helps in addressing the heart issues). Survival as a missionary demands a high level of confidence and surety in the labor. If not checked, this tenacity can turn to a sour pride.

        To take this one step further, that same undercurrent of the big-radical-crazy trend, might be present in Christianity in general. A pervasive “us vs. them” mentality can be seen in many instances creating breaches. “I am better than you because I am not a sinner.” “How can you call yourself a Christian and be a member of *that* political group.” “You are friends with *them*? You are contaminating yourself with the world! *gasp!*”

        • lauraparkerblog

           my gracious, this struck me:

          ” Survival as a missionary demands a high level of confidence and surety
          in the labor. If not checked, this tenacity can turn to a sour pride.”

          I soooo see the need for that.  And maybe that is why it is a necessary thing that we talk dramatically about the work, because we ourselves NEED to feel inspired in order to survive.  Hmmm .  ..

          • http://www.angiewashington.com/ @ngie

             I think you might be on to something there, chica.

    • richelle

      really appreciate what you’ve said here, angie! thank you!

  • richelle

    i shared this post on my fb page – wondering what sort of a response i’d get from my friends. interestingly, the primary responders were missos that God had relocated back to their home countries… and who seem to be struggling with the idea that their current ministry position is somehow of less value than the contributions they made as an expat misso.

    i also had thoughts about another recent discussion you’ve generated – the stress of the expat worker’s life as compared to other lifestyles… i wonder how that plays into this??

    the balance between authentic and transparent and yet letting no “unwholesome communicaiton,” i.e. words that don’t edify, exhort and encourage our readers is a tricky beam to walk.

    i wonder if sometimes the problem stems from the motivation in writing a blog or a particular post – do i write to help validate the work that i feel God has called me to do and to help keep perspective? do i write to process (i fall into that category – as i think with my fingers) what is happening? do i write to let the grandparents know what is going on with the grandkids (that is a purpose of our blog)? do i write to hopefully maintain and garner additional prayer and financial support? do i write to challenge myself and others with what God is teaching me (that is also often me)? do i write because i’m compelled or called by God to write (multitude monday focusing on gratitude and thankfulness each week is an act of obedience on my part and has grown into a spiritual discipline i desperately need)? at the same time, the writer’s motivation is going to have some interplay with the readers’ motivations for reading. we can’t predict all of those…

    in our electronic age, where so much communication does not occur “in real life” – we don’t see our audience – and thus are less careful about the potential impact our words may have. so we write and hit the publish button before praying, thinking… sometimes before rereading. we bloggers (misso and otherwise) need to recognize that as sin, repent and ask forgiveness as well as the grace to change. on the other hand, we have an opportunity to communicate powerfully with others who may never see what we see, except through our eyes. we need to do that with tact, respect for our subjects and our readers, authenticity, accuracy, grace and love.

    thank you for this reminder.

  • J P

    As I was gearing up to leave Hawaii to come to South Asia, it was clear to me that the hardest call the Lord could give me was to stay in the US.  It’s hard.  And I wasn’t ready for it.  So for the time being, I am pleased to be where God called me to be, firmly planted in my new ‘local’ with a strange language and strange foods and “face to face with people who need Jesus.”

    • lauraparkerblog

      Ah, yes, “face to face with people who need Jesus”– they are everywhere, right?

  • Carol

    Wow, you have gotten a few comments on this one. :)
    When I read this several days ago, my first thought was “thank you.”  When Scott was in seminary we struggled with the fact that we did not feel lead to go overseas.  It was hard to avoid feeling like we were somehow choosing the easy road.  As the wife of a youth pastor who has preformed more funerals than weddings, I now know two things for sure: 1)we did not choose our easy road and 2)we are right where God wants us to be.
    15 years ago God pressed on my heart to begin the process of restoring a broken relationship.  There are still days that I feel like I am ramming myself against a brick wall.  Two weeks ago I was thinking through the whole process.  How lonely it is.  How fruitless the efforts seem.  How this one relationship could be the very reason that God has given Scott a fruitful ministry in the US rather than asking us to board a plane.  Not to make light of the crazy hard life that you and so many others are living, but I have days when I would rather board the plane.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Carol, hey girl. Loved this honest comment. Love your perspective that life and ministry and loving well can look like a million different things and I think you are not the only one who thinks this: ” Not to make light of the crazy hard life that you and so many others are living, but I have days when I would rather board the plane.”

      I think I get that, for sure.

      Love to you and your five!!

      L

  • SERA

    This post really struck me, as most of yours do. Yet, this is so true. As a senior in college, graduating in just 37 days with my eyes set on moving overseas as soon as possible, I’ve encountered this a lot in relationships with friends and room-mates who don’t share the same passions as I do. Certainly, I believe that all are called to be missionaries wherever they are, but that doesn’t involve moving overseas and giving up electricity to feel “fully used” by God. When I start going off on my tangents about my desire to live overseas as a missionary and how excited I am to give up my life, I have to stop and pause about how it makes those around me feel. My friends and room mates are no less important because of their passions and desires–one wants to start a counseling program for pregnant teenage girls and another wants to travel the world working with organic farming. God just asks us to obedient and used by Him, wherever that may be. I realize this is so important to bear in mind as I go through my daily life…I never want to make someone feel like they are less adequate or less of a Christian because they choose to live in America.

    Though sometimes I think I’m prepared, since I’ve been on the mission field before, I realize I really don’t have it all together, and there is so much more to learn. But I am so glad to have the ability to learn from others and continue to try and prepare myself for a whole new world. I know it will be hard, and it’s hard to even begin trying to picture what it will look like. Thank you for writing and sharing your experiences of your life in Thailand. God is using your words to touch the heart of me in so many ways. (I’ve spent the last three summers teaching English in Cambodia, and next year my boyfriend and I plan on moving to the Philippines to work as missionaries, after we are married.)

    • lauraparkerblog

      Congratulations on graduation! Love your heart to serve and go . . . and yet be sensitive to those not called to go. Thanks for your encouraging words, too. :)

  • http://www.oneordinaryday.com/ Ashley

    I appreciate this so much! Thank you, from ”
    the housewife who is trying to flesh out her faith in the same hometown she grew up in.” :) 

    • lauraparkerblog

      Carry, on, sister. You are doing a HARD following, for sure.

  • Josh

    I  have spent a lot of time overseas, and I’ll be moving somewhere in Asia long term within the next couple of years. I will admit I have said similar things. I love how well you have communicated this point! Something I have been learning during this extended time of being home in the states, is how to be Jesus’ hands and feet in my community. I’ve learned that I’m not called to a place, or a certain people group… I’m called to LOVE like Jesus loved, and serve like Jesus served.. it doesn’t matter if it’s in my own backyard, or on the other side of the world. Living a life sold out for Christ is an adventure no matter where you are!

  • Harold

    I think the only thing missionaries say that upsets most “non-missionaries is when they ask for money! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=634966576 Aaron Henderson

    Not sure if this has been mentioned in the previous comments, so if it has – please excuse my lack of time to read them all (maybe take it as conformation or something) But after being in the mission field for three years I could not agree more! I am a part of a decent sized and global mission organization and at times I’ve been frustrated at the “support letters” and video updates I have seen sent out or uploaded, often with pure intentions – but totally unaware of what is actually being communicated!! 
    So i would like to echo this apology, from someone that has served as a “full time missionary” in his home town for the past few years and have seen God do amazing things in (and more importantly) through the lives of those I have the honor and privilege of calling my friends who work “the 9-5”. I’ll leave you with a passage that has kept me in check over the past few years, Luke 17:7-10.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks, Aaron– great passage from Scripture and YES, there is such honor in the “9 to 5” absolutely true. A truth that so many on the “field” forget and diminish.

  • Nnmaxwell03

    Thank you so much for writing this. It’s been needed for a long time. My whole life all I have wanted was to do something great for God. I always felt that God would lead me to marry a pastor, youth pastor, or missionary. He didn’t. Instead he led me to marry an amazing man and bless us with a child a month into our marriage. I didn’t understand why God seemed like He was closing the door to us going over seas with YWAM and was instead calling us to a “normal life”. That couldn’t have been further from the truth! Our son was born with a rare heart defect which required two open heart surgeries in his first 2 weeks of life and at least one more this year. Through our experiences with our son God has shown me that there is so much pain and suffering in this world. You sure don’t have to board a plane to find it!  Do I still feel jealousy sometimes when I hear about my friends who are ministering overseas… yes, but God does not judge our ministries or our love for Him based on our geographical location! Thank you again for writing this. I believe it will bring much needed healing to those who have felt hurt by God “not calling them”.

    • lauraparkerblog

      yes, just yes. i hear you. i get this completely. thanks for writing in.

  • Luvwriting

    I read a book that helped me with the guilt of staying in the States and feeling “less” being involved only in the financial support of many who are going overseas. The book is called “Serving as Senders”and stated that for every soldier on the front lines of a battlefield, there are 9 support roles behind him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tvrdik6 Shari Tvrdik

    Ouch! … and thanks..I needed this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrissy.lovell.376 Chrissy Lovell

    Very cool message!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Chrissy,

      Thanks. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victoria-Lynn-De-La-Rosa/9005078 Victoria Lynn De La Rosa

    It’s all about people’s intentions. You can’t talk down on everyone who has done this. They are not all wrong, like you’re making it seem. Godspeed. http://www.VictoriaLRosa.blogspot.com

  • Alycia

    We have lived in Nigeria for 4 years and are with a mission that requires us to raise support. I often hear people in the US say things like, “I wish I had your courage.” or “I could never do what you are doing!” But I always try to tell them that God calls us to serve in many different ways in many different places. I try to remind them that we could not be doing what we are doing in Africa without people in the US working hard and doing what they are doing here! We are all a part of God’s plan and He plants us where He wants us. We all need to seek to follow him no matter where He has us. (of course as I write this I’m thinking, “What would I do if He called us back to the US?”…but I believe I would continue to trust that His will is best :-)

    Thanks for your posts!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Yes, totally– I love your responses to people who are stateside. They give people freedom and take you off the pedestal they’ve put you on– good for both of you!
      Love your heart here, Alycia. :)

  • Keld Fink Christensen

    Many christians, dream about fulltime ministry, like being missionary, or a preacher/pastor! They just forget, they allready are in it! its a fulltime ministry to be a christian, the moment we get saved, we are christians, 24/7 ! and the bible teaches us to be ready to share the gospel, at any time! you’r a missionary not “just” in africa, but at your job, the school, when you are on holyday! anywhere! and there are probably fewer christians in fx USA, than in africa !

  • Brady

    I hear your heart, and your feelings are 100% valid and understandable. I struggle constantly with wondering if I’m fully living in what God has for me. Especially since I’ve been on the missions end. I have felt how you have feel in the last couple years of being home.

    With that said, I went on the World Race, and for me personally, the quotes about adventure and finally living a good story have nothing to do with the physical location, or thinking that way is the better/right way to live out our faith. I can only speak for myself, but the World Race isn’t about traveling the world, it’s about finding God… and finding God in people… and finding Him all around us. Love. Without an agenda or a check list of how many “souls we saved.”

    Without trying to put down the American Church, there is something magical that happens when you take away the lights and cushy seats and all the exterior things we do in an attempt to experience Him. Yes, this is the culture here and I’m not going to say it is the wrong way, but there is something beautiful and raw that happens when you see it is so much bigger than Sunday and Wednesday, and that you don’t need all those externals to experience God. He is the same God here as He is there, I think the difference is there you can’t hide Him behind things… and that’s what makes the experience so unbelievable. You experience Him… in the nothing, in the mess. You experience Him in the brokenness. It’s hard to do that though when our culture -as a whole- so hides and runs from that.

    I believe you can have that life here, in America, but you have to fight for it. You have to move beyond, and that is difficult when it is the “norm.” So maybe you are right when you say choosing to stay is “harder” … but I will also say that I don’t think it’s fair to compare. We can’t say there isn’t a right or wrong way and then proceed to believe there is a harder, more burdensome way. One may be called to America, but another may be called to India. And that’s ok and it’s good. He is planting everyone exactly where they need to be. Those quotes aren’t to condemn, but to pull out heart longings for people who do feel called outside of their own home. Not bad or wrong, just different.

    I understand how these things can make you feel condemned for not choosing that route, but on behalf of someone who has experienced it, I can promise you the heart behind it is not one of thinking that this is the better way, but it’s just a way of seeing God without all the masks and boxes we can, and do, so easily use in our own culture. We do have to take responsibility for how we sound, but I also believe others have to take responsibility for not picking apart the semantics of it. I’m sorry if it has made you feel less than, but speaking on my own behalf, I can promise you this is not our heart or intention.

  • fancysimple

    Yes I agree with you, most of it were like that but ours are different try to read them your surely inspired, promise!! click here the family international

  • Jeff

    I don’t normally do this sort of thing, but I feel like putting some words out there on this topic. Not that my opinion carries any vast intrinsic or otherwise noteworthy value, but I have lived and worked in both “worlds”.

    I began my journey to Africa like most others, not knowing we would ever go there. I was in school and excited about my career potential. My wife and I both came from missionary families and had always talked of going, but that was all it was. Talk. When we finally were challenged to go, it was exactly as stated above! I was excited that I could be more than “just a businessman”, making my way in the world. I was excited to go somewhere “hard” to live to serve a mission. It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done and it took tons of blood, sweat and tears to get through a lot of what we went through. Having grown up on the mission field, and served there myself, I have spent more time living in foreign countries than the US. Sorry if this rubs you the wrong way, but like it or not, it is harder to live overseas. You are a stranger in a foreign land, the minority, without citizenship except what the local govt permits, in some cases dangerous conditions, and in most cases without “normal” conveniences of the US (grocery stores, hospitals, etc). My dad was killed by militant Muslims because he chose to fly airplanes on the mission field over a cushy airline job. The last year of his life was HARD, marching through the jungle as a hostage to those he had gone to reach. Living overseas is one of the hardest choices a person can make, doing it for your faith and not for a fat paycheck is even harder. This is why so few go.

    Before I continue, know that my family is now back in the USA due to medical needs that could not be dealt with where we lived in Africa. Our hearts are there, but we sadly cannot be. We continue to do what we can for world missions from afar while our brothers and sisters lead the hard lives we can’t anymore. This leads me to my final point.

    Now let me say something about those who stay and support. WE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO GO IF IT WERENT FOR YOU!!!! You got us to Africa, with your donations and prayer. You kept us going. This is where some people get rubbed the wrong way. Do not confuse “harder” with “more valuable”. Just because you stay in the states doesn’t mean you have less value to the work. You have equal, if not more value to the work because it takes support to keep people overseas. Rejoice for those who can live those hard lives! Don’t get offended and believe they somehow are “more valuable” than you. I now have a job in the states, infinitely easier than what I was doing in Africa. My wife has excellent health care, and my family is comfortable. Our hearts are still in Africa, although I doubt we ever will get to go back. This is why we give now. I do what I can from my job to support those who live the hard life that we are incapable of living anymore.

    If someone gets the call and actually gives up their life to GO, be happy for them! Let them be proud of that calling! It is hard, and something not everyone can do (as is evidenced by my own family). Don’t be offended, PLEASE, don’t be offended, by those posts on their blogs. Let them be excited about their uncommon life. They may very well be the next to give their life for the Gospel of Christ, which fortunately for us is not something we yet deal with in the good ol USA.

    Sorry that was longer than I intended. Bravo to those of you who made it this far.

  • Luke

    While I agree that being an overseas missionary is no more or less
    important that being “missionary” in your own country, I have to stress
    that people who are living 24/7 in a foreign country are doing a job
    that is pretty much infinitely harder than what you do. Short term
    trips do NOT give you a feel of what it is like in their shoes. Most
    intercultural experts agree that in the first 1-3 months a new
    environment can feel like a paradise.

    Foreign missionaries should never communicate that their work is more
    important. I honestly feel like America and Western Christianity is
    falling apart and needs more people to stay home and make a difference.
    However, foreign missionaries DO deserve a certain amount of greater
    respect for the much more difficult work they do. There is a reason so
    few missionaries actually last longer than 2-3 years.

    If you’re sitting there thinking to yourself that my statements are wrong,
    then I’d encourage you to look within to asses why you feel so
    defensive. Is it because you feel slightly guilty for your moderately
    comfortable life and are searching for some way to make yourself feel
    better? Trust me… your life compared with that of people choosing to
    live in a foreign country is a cake walk. I know that’s not a popular
    message and something most missionaries would never tell you, but it is
    the truth.

    Furthermore, I’d like to draw attention to the language in this article. Talking about the “white guy” going to save people, is really inappropriate. You’re using intentionally
    politically charged language to emphasize your point. In the West we
    have this negative image of white people invading other cultures to
    bring change, mostly due Americas mistreatment of Native Americans, and
    Europe’s colonialism. But trying to draw mental parallels to that, is
    doing a disservice to the men and women who are simply doing their best
    to serve their Father, and bring the only message worth anything to
    people who have little chance of hearing it otherwise.

    This “white guy” image you have of missionaries is not only offensive, it’s
    outdated as well. Asian and and African missionaries are doing the
    majority of work now. The role America filled in the past of leading
    the world in sending out missionaries has passed. The torch is now in
    the hands of Korean, Chinese, and various African believers. It seems
    more and more “white guys” are finding more reasons to sit at home in
    their more comfortable lives and feel good about themselves. Reasons
    like this article?

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