The title itself elbowed me. I read a little just to get the flavor of the author’s ideas. This is what I found: “The stereotype that “missionaries are perfect” is debilitating to missionaries who are living in the reality of their own brokenness and imperfection…We have to start talking about the real issues going on in missionaries’ lives…What is hard, needs attention, needs help and needs redemption?” Ouch!
We can’t blame this stereotyping completely on others! We missionaries contribute to it by not talking about our brokenness, our struggles and what needs redemption. We tend to write grand narratives of the wonderful things which God is doing (and He is!) or the big list of things we have accomplished (which we have!). However, many times the people who are receiving these narratives have nothing else on which to build any assumption other than “missionaries are ________ (whatever grandiose adjective you might have for missionaries.)”
So, here is the under belly of missionary life [which, by the way, can become the means of strength and grace.]
Typically, we are out of our comfort zones – Jacob and I miss our family more than words can say. It is just “plum” painful. We miss conveniences and foods, but, mostly, we miss our family profoundly. We are missing out…there is no doubt about that! And they are missing out on us, too!
We are isolated from other graces, such as our local church, which is also our family. We miss opportunities to be fed and nurtured by our under shepherds. We miss the corporate gathering of the church and worshiping in a language and culture which is meaningful to us and helpful in keeping our eyes fixed on Christ. We miss out on our small group interactions where accountability and encouragement take place. This has been painful for both Jacob and me.
We are separated from friendships which have been built over a lifetime. It’s hardly possible to regain that in a few years, especially when a new language and culture must be navigated. It’s easy to feel like outsiders, especially in large crowds where everyone is laughing and talking in a language you don’t understand. Participating in it is impossible.
As I have struggled through these issues I have had numerous bouts of depression and lots of tears.
I know this struggle is temporary. I counted the cost coming into this experience. I know there is a way through it. And, as I said above, this vulnerability of isolation can become the means of strength and grace if I do the right thing in the middle of it. I am not there yet! However, I am seeing some light. As I have mulled over the reasons why I could have gone from feeling “at the top of the world”, spiritually speaking, to feeling at “the bottom of the heap” with little hope in sight, I remembered a verse I studied in depth years back.
I have done exactly the same thing for which the Lord rebuked the Israelites. Jeremiah 2:13 says that they did two things – forsook the Lord, the fountain of living water AND they created their own faulty (leaky) means of storing water. Though what the Lord had to offer was so much purer and more refreshing they preferred what their own efforts could produce. They did not want to be dependent on the Lord. God is the fountain! God is life! If I am hanging my happiness and fulfillment on anything else – person, food, activity or thing, I am sure to be disappointed and, worse, to die! Nothing and no one but God was meant to carry that weight! All other sources of supply are faulty…leaky…unreliable…liable to stagnation and disappointment.
Which one of us would rather drink from a stagnant pond instead of a fresh, flowing fountain? Ridiculous question, right?!! But, oh! We do it all the time! I have been doing it! Instead of “flying to the fountain of Life” when I am thirsty, I have been sipping on murky water (trying to be happy in things and people). In my times of depression I have forgotten that the only One who can fully satisfy is Jesus. In my neediness I have looked to earthly sources of fulfillment and found them wanting because no thing and no earthly institution and no person can satisfy the longings of my heart but the Lord. I was created for happiness that is not of this world! I was meant for living water!
I am learning, once again, to cry out and run to the “fountain of living water.” If, in my darkest times, I run to Jesus instead of wallowing, my dark times will become to me the sweetest times because I will find that Jesus fulfills the desires of my heart in a way that earthly things were never meant to.
This is the real me…weak, unsteady and faltering, yet hopeful, not abandoned and not defeated. Please pray for us “real people!” We really need the Lord and the grace which He alone can supply, though He uses many means, including other people. We need your prayers to be informed by our real needs. Pray that we will never get so wrapped up in our activities that we forsake the fountain of living water and pray that we don’t rely on things that cannot satisfy. Pray that, in our weakness and vulnerability, we would be pleased to find our strength in Christ alone!
“I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”
Carol (Jacob) Lee
For those who have asked, small packages and letters may safely be sent to:
Jacob & Carol Lee, PO. 55, Moyo Uganda, East Africa
The greatest evil is having the gospel and not doing everything within our power to get it to those who do not have it. (Jacob Lee)
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