What is it like to be a missionary?
I get this question a lot and most times I honestly do not have a very good answer. I feel like I let you down by not being able to verbalize it. Maybe I can’t because it is so complicated or ever changing, I’m truthfully not sure. However, I have such a desire for each of you to get it even if just a little bit. Why? Because we are here on the mission field because God called us, so missions must be close to His heart; therefore, it matters, it is important, it does change lives. God has been putting it on my heart a lot lately to share what missions looks like for us, so that is exactly what I am going to try to do.
This is a picture of my husband….what may appear to be a spoiled rotten husband eating dinner in bed…well it is not what it seems. This is a husband who I am seeing for the first time at 9:30pm, who is eating dinner, his first meal of the day, in his bed because everyone else had already eaten and was asleep in bed. His day consisted of running errands, paying bills, church banking, being at the feeding center, talking to moms of the feeding center kids, doing house visits, and then men’s group at the church. This is a day that is so full, but saying that doesn’t really even start to explain his day. Here we say everything takes a whole day to do, we don’t know why but it just does. For example church banking that sounds like a quick in and out, but with the lines in the bank it is at 30 minutes if not an hour to just make a deposit and that doesn’t include the book keeping he had already done. When he is at the feeding center he waits for all the kids to enter and then teaches a little bit, or plays games, or teaches bible verses and then the kids eat. While the kids eat he goes around and talks to as many moms as he can about their lives, their difficulties, their doubts, their questions. Now on to family visits these are almost always very hard and I’m not talking about the walk up steep hills hard, even though that is almost always a given here in Guatemala as well. It is hard to see the living conditions of people we have grown to care for very much, and it is hard to hear so much pain. The story after story of living in such poverty, but not just that it is hearing story after story of so much heartbreak. So these family visits almost always take hours. Hours of them pouring out their hearts. Hours of trying to giving encouragement and advice. Hours of prayers. Hours of meeting the family. It all takes time here, and normally a lot of it. But this is precious time because it is spent instead of in lines, it is in people’s lives and that matters. Then my husband goes to men’s group where he is the leader, and sometimes it’s fun and card games, other times questions, other times pouring out their hurts and difficulties as well. So when I said this is a full day yes it is, but not in the since of busy(which it was that as well); however, in the since of full of emotion, full of tears, full of heavy stuff, full of incapability, full of fighting the devil, full of talking, full of listening, and full of striving to let the light shine through such a harsh and cruel world.
Sometimes… well many times my husband will tell me I just don’t know how I can help, I want to help so bad, and I just can’t. Being on a missionary budget we don’t always have the means to help. However, I have to say that the Lord has given my husband such a wonderful giving heart. He almost never has money in his wallet, but it truly is because he gives it away so freely to others. This night he told me the same I am so tired Morgan, I’m not talking physically ( which he was that as well), but so tired of not being able to do something… so after a long day, I thought man this might be the last thing he wants to hear but I said it anyways… You know what you can’t do anything, BUT God can. In all this situations that seem so hopeless HE still has hope, HE still has the means to change situations, HE still can. So I said let’s ask Him to do that. So we prayed and asked God that He would show up, and give hope and future. And then my husband went and ate his reheated dinner like the spoiled husband he is. J
So you must be thinking surely not every day is that jammed pack and you are so right. Not everyday is like this and some days I see my husband even most of the day. I am thankful for those days because we never know when the next really full day is coming. I recently heard my husband on the phone saying, “you know I don’t know what I have been doing lately I feel like I’ve just been home more and with the family and working on house projects, so maybe for that I don’t feel good like I haven’t been doing enough”. This really made me start thinking about another side of ministry that maybe many don’t know about. The guilt. The guilt that we are spending too much on our family, we came here to serve other and minister to them and there are so many that need it. The guilt that we need to be doing more. We know and have been told so many times your family is your first ministry. If our family is not good the ministry will not be good or even not exist. We do believe this but putting it in to practice really is a different story, it really takes carving out time, and being super intentional or it does not happen. Because on top of ministry we still have to do the normally everyday things like buying groceries, paying bills, taking and picking up kids from school, doing reports, gardening, mowing, phone calls, home repairs, the mundane, but oh so necessary for life to function.
Speaking of family, I feel like that where I come in more. I told you about ministry but more the ministry of my husband. So what does ministry for me specifically look like? Well because I am a stay at home mom of 3, 2 of which are very young, most of my days are in the home. Including cleaning, cooking, laundry, homework, baths, naps, playing, potty training, teaching, diapers, tantrums, hugs, attention, snacks, bedtimes. Taking care of my family, raising my children, having food on the table, these are the things that consume most of my time. It is not always fun, easy or glamorous, and seems like not at all what you want to hear when you ask what being a missionary is, but the truth is I have come to learn that this ministry desperately needs just that. I have tried to do it all and drag babies along with me while doing it, I have tried going to minister and once again leave my children at home, I have tried to make my little one as much a part of every aspect of ministry as possible. I am here to tell you for my family it does not work. Because I end up with kids who can’t get consistent parenting because I was dragging them along everywhere and I pay for it for weeks after. I end up with kids that are so clinging when I am there because I wasn’t present enough. I end up with kids that are sick all the time because all those places and houses and kids I took them around is just too much for there still growing immune systems. I have come to find out when all this is going on with my kids my husband nor I can ministry well at all; therefore, for now in the phase we are my ministry is in my home, my ministry is not facebook worthy, but my ministry matters to God and so it is important. So I now choose very selectively what is worth my time away from my family. One of which is women’s group and we meet every week with the goal to create community within our church and I have seen small but such encouraging differences. I teach English during my kids nap times. Kids ministry on Sundays. I go on family visits when my husband suggests it would be good if I was there, normally when he knows the situation needs a women or some medical advice. Recently, I went to visit a lady that’s 15 day old baby had just died. It is a visit I hope I never have to do again. I had to listen and ask and realize her baby died of something that could have been fixed if she had just known. I had to see and touch a precious but lifeless baby. Nothing inside of me wanted this, none of it. But this is part of ministry…death…hard…heartbreaking that you just want to run away from but that sweet momma can’t run away so neither will we. Our Father doesn’t run so we must learn to stay, stay in the pain, stay in the tears, stay in the loneliness.
So our ministry is being here: Being here when it is sacrifice and when it is blessings. Being here through the changes of people and needs. Being here even when our family and friends are so far away. Being here in the trenches and on the mountains. Being here is missions. So I encourage you to be there. Wherever with whoever He has called you to be. Be there when it is hard and you want to run away, and be there to rejoice the triumphs. And when you don’t know what to do ask God to do it!