Last night was one of those rare opportunities for a long, uninterrupted chat with a good friend. He’s a former MK, now a missionary living here in Ecuador. He’s one of those “youngsters” with an old soul. I love his insight and his wisdom, and he enriches my life in so many ways.
We got on the subject of being a “real” missionary. It came up because we’ve had a couple of people cross our paths in the last couple of months that remarked to more than one person that they didn’t feel like we were “real” missionaries. One of them was a young guy who came for a period of about six weeks. During that time, he complained constantly. About the food, about the people, about us, about the country…he told me on more than one occasion that he couldn’t believe how “stupid” everything was here. We really aren’t sure why he came, to be honest. The other person was a guy who came for a very short time, and he remarked that one of his reasons for coming was to see how “real” missionaries live. He was here for a grand total of two days. Forgive me, but I believe that it’s presumptuous to walk into someone’s life and assume that they are so shallow that you can “figure them out” in two days.
We took a hit on several different topics. We don’t live like “real” missionaries, because we live in houses in the city instead of huts in the jungle. We aren’t “real” missionaries, because we attend an English speaking international church instead of a Spanish church. The fact that our church has amazing ministry and outreach happening, to people from all over the world, was apparently irrelevant. We aren’t “real” missionaries because we aren’t living in a remote village somewhere, preaching to the “natives” (FYI–if you want to see a missionary, “real” or not, get angry real fast, just refer to the people that are our friends, our co-workers and our FAMILIES, as natives. In the words of Larry the Cable Guy…’that’ll git er done.’)
I wish I had had the opportunity to discuss this with the second guy (The first one I had ample opportunity, but I spent most of our time together trying to control my tongue, because he was just TOO. MUCH.) I would have asked him where he found his prototype for the “real” missionary. I suspect that someone, somewhere, influenced his expectations. Maybe it was a Sunday School teacher, or a book that he read…I really don’t know. I would have asked him if he had ever spent any time with any “real” missionaries (obviously we don’t count) and if so, what it was about them that made them “real”.
I know missionaries from all over the world. I know guys who are working to rescue women from sex trafficking in India. I know a couple who has a passion for street boys, and is opening a home for them in Manila. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law are passionate about reaching the people living in very remote areas of Papua New Guinea, where they live and serve. Friends in South Africa have a school to teach women trades that allow them to gain employment and support their families. I know missionaries working in prisons. In orphanages. In schools. In the jungle. In the city. In offices. In garbage dumps. In Hong Kong. In England. In India. In Ecuador. In Peru. In Africa. In the United States. Yes, I know passionate, committed missionaries who are living in the US. In houses. In cities. Shopping at Walmart. And they are making a difference. I know MK’s who have gone back to their “home” countries, and are igniting a passion for the world on their college campuses. They are making a difference. I know people all over the world whose lives are a living testimony. They have secular jobs. Church jobs. They’ve lived all over the world. They’ve lived in the same house since they were born.
I guess my point is this. “Real” missionaries are people who responded to the burden that the Lord placed on their hearts, to reach the people that He placed before them. Some of us live in very remote areas. Some live in cities. I have friends who have committed their lives to the armed forces, defending our freedom all over the world…and they are MISSIONARIES. They work tirelessly to reach the people where they are placed.
It’s not about your house. It’s about your heart. It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around you, whether it’s in the deepest part of the Amazon jungle or in Suburbia, USA. We are real people. With a real passion. About a real Jesus. We are “real” missionaries.