The other day I was perusing my Facebook feed and noticed several inspiring stories and updates from “The Mission Field”. Instead of being excited by the various accounts I found myself feeling frustrated. It felt like two-dimensional portrayals of these individuals’ lives, both the missionary and the person being ministered to. It bothered me to think that people would read these stories and believe that this was what Missions is like. That it’s a simple 1 + 1 = inspirational and complete success! When in reality it mostly means 1 + 1 = only the beginning.
Initially I thought this was caused by a consumer-type mentality, an unrealistic expectation towards missionaries. But as I thought more about it I realized that the fault begins with us missionaries. I think we often do a disservice to Missions when we focus on the final product, the crest of a wave rather than its roiling, gritty, pitching crash.
We get disheartened when it comes time to write our newsletter and we have to wrack our brain for the correct kind of information, the right anecdote. We’re discouraged by the feeling that if we don’t have something sensational to share then we haven’t “earned our keep” and won’t inspire those who have commissioned us. Yet we contribute to this cycle by prioritizing the interesting over the reality. We exchange true support and encouragement for portrayed adventure and even heroism. We ask our supporters back home to partner with us in ministry but deprive them of the opportunity when we don’t clue them in. We rob ourselves of the chance to receive true prayer-support for the uphill climb of discipleship. We miss out on the depth of revelation, relationship, and wisdom that comes from sharing a mistake, a frustration, or a discouraging experience. We forget that we are only a member of a team and we cheat our teammates when we don’t invite them in to pray, support, encourage, exhort, and advise.
I think we need to stop selling Missions as an adventure. Missions doesn’t need to be marketed.
Missions isn’t conquering Everest. It isn’t a gripping, best-selling novel or big, blockbuster hit. I’m not Indiana Jones. At no point when I became a missionary did I escape myself. I still live side by side with my selfishness, my pride, my insecurities, my propensity for sin, my inadequacies, and my own limitations in understanding God and His teachings.
So what is Missions?
Missions is plowing a field; It’s the privilege of watching a butterfly emerge from a caterpillar’s cocoon and knowing that the miracle isn’t a result of your own doing; It’s embracing and sometimes offending a different culture; It’s sinking instead of swimming; making dinner; paying bills; fortifying your marriage; teaching; preaching; investing in friendship…
Perhaps Missions is an adventure after all.
It’s the adventure of being used by God in spite of yourself.
It’s the adventure of everyday life.