Ask Jamie How Missionaries Do It: Defining the BEST missionary

Dear VWM,
What is your definition of the very BEST missionary? Because that’s what I want to be “when I grow up”. And please don’t say it has anything to do with wearing long denim skirts every day and having kids that are seemingly well-behaved but grow up to be Jesus-hating atheists.
Pretty please let this be the first question you answer in your new blog.

Your faithful follower,

Dear Jenna,

First, I want to thank you for being such a faithful follower of The Very Worst Missionary. Second, I want to apologize for adding “Your faithful follower,” to your original question, but a girls gotta feel needed and appreciated once in awhile, so I went ahead and took the liberty…hope you don’t mind. Third – Wish granted! Your question will be the very first in the brand new “Ask Jamie How Missionaries Do It” segment of this blog. You’re welcome.

So you wanna know what kind of person makes a good Christian missionary, huh? Well, in a an awesome twist of irony, our answer comes from the great Eastern Philosopher, Confucius (ok, either him, or that one guy from Buckaroo Banzai), who said this *clears throat*: Wherever you go,…There you are.

That’s deep, right? And true, too… unbelievably true….*sigh*

Let me explain it for the dumb ones: Whoever you are, whatever strengths and weaknesses you have, all your bad habits, all your amazing talents, all of the ways that you do and do not glorify God in your average everyday life, well, all that stuff is along for the ride, no matter where you live, and no matter what your calling is. So, for example, if you are working as a waitress in Hometown, USA and you’re in the habit of finishing off cinnamon rolls with a chaser of vodka and diet pills, and then you feel passionately called into ministry so you pack up and go to work in, lets say, an orphanage for kids with like no eyebrows in Cambodia, you will still be that same person hearing that same little voice that says “Go ahead, eat it…eat a cinnamon roll…eat two…eat six. Oh…and by the way…your ass is enormous…aaand your Mom never loved you…” Now, it’s true that, initially, like when you first step off the plane, you may be able to control these impulses because you’ll be like “What am I so worried about….these kids don’t even have eyebrows!” And that will make you feel all kinds of blessed and stuff. But then, kinda slowly, those old feelings will creep back up, because they’ve just been lingering there under the surface of excitement and novelty, until you find yourself alone one night in the village’s thatch-roofed restaurant, gorging on sweet rice dumplings and throwing back laxatives with a glass of brown tap water. Are you feelin’ me?

Dude, wherever you go, there you are. You cannot escape your self.

Are you lazy now? You will be a lazy missionary. You a workaholic? You’ll be a workaholic missionary. Manic Depressive? Bipolar? Hypochondriac? Narcissistic? Germophobe? Homophobe? Materialistic? Foodaholic? Liar? Addicted to Facebook? Raging porn addict? Whatever it is…it’s hitching a ride to wherever you end up. You don’t get to leave it behind. Bummer, huh.

Um, for the record…here is what I’m NOT saying: I am NOT saying that good missionaries don’t struggle with sin. We all have junk (I get that!probably better than most)! And there are A LOT of good missionaries out there who also happen to frequent strip-clubs – or whatever – and hate themselves for doing so, but who are simply stuck in the fight. And then there are even more really good missionaries who are winning their personal battles more and more often. Most of them are probably, despite the things that would hold them back, honoring God and succeeding in the mission given to them. So even very messed up people can turn out to be super decent missionaries. And thank God for that, cause I would be so screwed if that were not the case…

But, the question was how do I define the very BEST missionary.

How I see it is, the very best missionaries are the people who were already doing a pretty good job at life in general before they started serving cross-culturally. In fact, the very best missionary I know isn’t a missionary at all. She’s just a really cool chick that grabs every opportunity to love the people around her. She is completely generous and so legitimately kind, and at the same time, she’s real and transparent and she lets you see her flaws. But what you end up seeing is a person that doesn’t hide behind, wallow in, or excuse her error. Instead, she functions through it, above it even, so that while, yes, it is there, it’s not the dominant feature of her character. You know what I mean? Oh, and also, this girl moved to freaking Alaska about a year ago and was basically just like “Bring it on, frozen tundra!” and that is just plain bad-ass, plus she bakes an apple pie that makes me weep in pleasure. Not even kidding. But that’s not really the point, I guess.

The point is, the very best missionary isn’t defined by being a missionary, or working in full-time ministry, or living in a foreign country, or having a bunch of stamps in their passport, or any of the other dumb things that some missionaries love to talk about. The very best would-be-missionary is a high-functioning, socially perceptive, mentally stable, generally cool person who is already all of those things right now as they work as, say, an accountant, or a mechanic, or a stay-at-home-mom, or whatever.

Aaand, On a personal note, I’m kind of wrestling through some of this junk in my own life right now. No, for realsies. I know…I seem so “together” and everything…but I’m pretty much falling apart at the seems right about now due to some of the unmanaged/ignored-for-too-long-junk that I hauled down to Costa Rica in what I like to call the “knap-sack-of-doom”. I do not know what the deal is. But I’m thinking maybe a cocktail of medication is in order..ooh, or maybe a cocktail AND medication…now that could fix things right up. No, but seriously, does anybody know what they call Zoloft in Spanish?…anybody?….what about Paxil?..Celexa…er, wait…is that one for depression or erectile dysfunction? I always get those two confused…



  1. Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras on November 22, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Zoloft – Sertraline hydrochloride
    Paxil – Paroxetine
    Always good to go with the generic name – there's a high possibility they have them, of course it will be something like hidroclorida or something like that (I find a lot of their names end in "a" – amoxicilinA, penicilinA (you get it). Just write the name down (generic name), and show it to the pharmacist – then check it of course – often times when I'm looking for something I haven't purchased before, this seems to work pretty well. Hey – YOU asked the question ๐Ÿ™‚ I know – more than you wanted. Love ya!

  2. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on November 22, 2009 at 1:04 am

    That's totally awesome!! (and exactly what i needed to know) haha – thanks girl!!

  3. Kelly on November 22, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Love you, Jamie…flaws and all. I love that our God takes the weak things in this world (US!) to shame the wise…an amazing plan, really…and rather tough on the weak things, but somehow, He keeps reforming us and working in and though us. Man, I love Jesus!

  4. Jeff on November 22, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Hey… I see a reference to ALASKA! Awesome. That chick who lives here AND bakes apple pie must be awesome.

  5. Anonymous on November 22, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Miss you. And would give anything to show up at your front door. I would be a puddle of tears….. exquisitely happy tears.
    …. you are loved

  6. Jenna on November 22, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    THANKYOU THANKYOU THANKYOU. you certainly answered my question. your response was funny, helpful, insightful, and of course FUNNY. i love you, Jamie. and i'd have to agree with Jeff–that chick must be the coolest ever.

    p.s. i feel a tad bit famous.
    p.s.s. i am most CERTAINLY your faithful follower.

  7. JP and Jessica on November 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Dude, thanks SO MUCH for such an honest post about missionaries. I am also very familiar with Zoloft, AKA Sertralina, since before coming to Mexico… The (spiritual, emotional, addictive…) battles dealt with in the States HAVE been brought down with me, to deal with here. You have a hilarious way of explaining stuff like this, I love it!
    Oh, and I just HAVE to meet you some day, I think we have a lot in common. ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on November 29, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks Jessica! It would be SO COOL to meet in person one of these days. I am always down with having like-minded and outrageously cool people in my life!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. deemus on December 3, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Good stuff Jamie, you are now on my blogroll.

    I appreciate the realness of your posts. The honesty is refreshing.

  10. Susie White on March 24, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    This is why I am so glad I found your blog. You remove the shame and get to the heart of your readers. I feel more empowered to face my "stuff" and not hide.

  11. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on March 24, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks so much, Suzie!! It's cool to see how God can use a blog to help us reveal and, ultimately, transform ourselves, together.

    Very cool, indeed! Thanks for taking the time to comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Suzi on April 23, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    i'm really enjoying reading your blog – i grew up as an MK all over Indonesia.

    it's fascinating reading about similar experiences but from a parents perspective.

    "please don't say it has anything to do with wearing long denim skirts every day and having kids that are seemingly well-behaved but grow up to be Jesus-hating atheists."

    that is such a freakishly accurate depiction of so many of my former peers. ๐Ÿ™

  13. Ransomed~Redeemed on June 26, 2010 at 12:23 am

    "please don't say it has anything to do with wearing long denim skirts every day and having kids that are seemingly well-behaved but grow up to be Jesus-hating atheists."
    that is such a freakishly accurate depiction of so many of my former peers. ๐Ÿ™
    So Suzi, Jamie, what do you think causes that? I am a mom of 5 that longs to be a missionary. I want my children to witness to the lost but not do the things the lost do. You know, the whole Holy and being Set apart thing. Coming out form among them but ministering at the same time. I try to let most of the service things that we do be done as a family with them participating so they develop a heart to serve. We are in OC in a city the police call the black hole of SoCal. ๐Ÿ™‚ There were 3 shootings in the last week near my home. I try and be a blessing to whomever God puts in my path. We moved to a bad neighborhood and I had hopes of being a missionary to the people here. ( since the Lord hasn't seen fit to move us international yet? I find that lately I am mostly ANNOYEd by the people alot lately. . They steal from us, they try to teach my children horrible things, they have an entitlement mentality that they deserve and should have everything you do. Even if they have the same they want yours. NO ONE watches their children. (young) Kids are out alone at 12 midnight.. The kids all want to be gangbangers. I love World Impact and that sort or urban missionary stuff was my goal but I am in a funk. NORMALLY I AM VERY WELCOMING but now I find myself "busy" when they kids come over wanting to play. sad huh. I want my kids to want to love others but not do the things they do. I feel if I am so terrible now I will be terrible on the mission field. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thinking, my kids will think mama is a big ole hypocrite. In Christ, Alida

  14. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary on June 27, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    That's such a great question, Alida! I wish I knew the answer…

    I can tell you that I know exactly how you've been feeling, and have experienced similar emotions here! Particularly after having been "victimized" by the culture (ie, having our house robbed, our car stolen, being constantly leered at, etc). I have a tendency to develop an US vs. THEM attitude – and it leads to great amounts of bitterness and annoyance on my part toward the people that we came to serve.

    I would just like to encourage you in three things:

    1) We ALL go through funks. Especially when we're living outside of our social comfort zone. It's totally normal to have 'highs', or periods of great compassion and desire to impact the community, and 'lows', times when you just need to shut your curtains and your doors and let the world pass by outside. And that's ok – as long as it's temporary. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2) I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is the ability to be introspective. So – for us – it's been important to remove statements like "they always blah blah blah " or "these people never blah blah blah" – and it's WAY harder than it sounds. But I feel like it helps fight bitterness and promote a more positive attitude toward our neighbors. So, for example, instead of "They never watch their kids" I'll say "It would be cool if all these kids had a safe place to be and someone to watch over them." This takes the focus off of they're failures and puts in our heart, wanting good things for them. Ya know?

    3) The environment you're living in is overwhelming, the problem too big. But if you can narrow your focus down from "urban ministry" to "my third-graders best friend", it get easier to get your head around it. Choose 3 kids, or 1 family, or whatever you have a reasonable capacity for, and poor your time, effort, resources, prayer and love into that specific list of recipients. And be flexible with your list, allowing it to change – grow or shrink – as need be.

    The truth is, I'm sure you'll make a fine overseas missionary! Just the fact that you're already aware of what might be your stumbling blocks puts you a mile ahead of the rest of us. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You'll have to keep us all updated!! =)

  15. Carlien on July 27, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Seems this is the post that just keeps on giving.. comments ๐Ÿ™‚
    I'm browsing around your blog since I just discovered it last week. There's a lot to catch up on. I enjoy your writing style and the windows into your faith-walk, but this post hits the spot so well, I'm going to have to forward it or share the link or something. And I might have to ask my agency's training dept to give print-outs of this to all new applicants..

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