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,
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…..so 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…