Missionaries are Messed Up.

summer-sunshine-alcohol-drinkI recently sent a small, short-term mission team to visit another ministry. This other ministry does some incredible work and is lead by a profoundly inspiring man. The group spent a full day experiencing the ministry, listening to the stories of what goes on and saw how God is moving. They were impressed and impacted. They were also surprised that the leader of the ministry was wearing a Call of Duty T-shirt. “Missionaries don’t play Call of Duty.” Mmmm, maybe a little…

I love the line “Missionaries are normal people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.” This is so accurate. Some people think missionaries are somehow more spiritual or together than most. We really aren’t. I hang-out with a LOT of missionaries and let me tell you, we have some issues. Below are a couple of examples that might surprise a few people.

We like to have a beer now and then. (three baptists just passed out reading this). I’m not saying missionaries sit around and get drunk, but a nice IPA between friends, when not out in public, is good now and then.

We use dark humor to cope. “Why is it always better to date and marry adult orphans? No in-laws.” We deal with some of the worst issues in society: abandoned children, sex trafficking, things most people do not want to think about. It’s common for people working in emergency rooms, people in law enforcement, or anyone who works in life and death every day to use dark humor. It’s weird and disturbing, but it does help people to survive and cope. (I can’t write some of the jokes here, fairly offensive, use your imagination)

We worry about money more than we should. About twenty-five years ago, when my wife and I started in missions, we had a company that was fully supporting us. It worked for about three years and then the company went bankrupt. Scared the cr-p out of me. I know, I’m supposed to trust 100% in God and talk about how He will provide, but when you have your one source of support suddenly end, it tends to “stretch your faith.” I do know God will provide (He has) but when you’re not sure where your next meal is coming from it can be complicated. Recently a group of missionaries were hanging out in my office, and someone asked “How much can I get for a kidney on the black market? (they were kidding, but somebody helpfully Googled it for them) Fundraising is a much bigger part of missions work than most people will tell you.

We watch/read/listen to the same stuff you do. A leader on our team uses his spare time to attend Comic-con every year and he loves superhero movies. I recently binge-watched Breaking Bad again. At any given time I would say the music my staff listens to is 50/50 Christian or secular. We have an informal staff meeting over coffee every morning, and you’d be amazed (or shocked) to be a fly on the wall. Sometimes after an exceptional odd meeting, I joke with my team “Other missions teams talk about favorite Bible verses or devotional themes, if people only knew about our conversations…”

I know of one ministry in our area that has a PERFECT social media presence; all photos of prayer and service and well-lit images of their leaders speaking in front of churches. They give a very polished, clean, holy presentation to everyone who visits their ministry. I kind of struggle with it. While doing some great work, I know them, and I know they have their share of flaws and fears. You would never know it by the way they present themselves. I think more people would join them in their work if they were a little more approachable, a little more transparent, a little more real.

George Müller was a Christian evangelist and the director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England during the 1800s. He’s a missionary and orphan care hero and legend. Maybe I’m cynical, but along with the truly incredible work he did I have a feeling George had his bad days. He probably did worry about money now and then, got mad at his dog, felt like punching someone occasionally. That doesn’t diminish the great work that was done; it just makes him human.

The point of this is not to bash missionaries or shock anyone. The point I want to make very clear is that God uses regular people. I hear from people all the time that they’re not ready to serve; they’ll serve when they’re good enough, when they have enough support, when they’ve paid off their student loans. Here is some news: you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never have enough support, go anyway. If we’re waiting for the “perfect” time or circumstances to step out and serve God it will never happen. God does not use perfect people. God uses the broken. God uses the available. If we wait until we get our act together, we will be dead and in a box before we do anything.

Go serve someone; you’re more ready than you think you are.

You can help me by sharing this on Facebook or wherever you hang-out online.

5 thoughts on “Missionaries are Messed Up.

  1. Larry Bender November 11, 2019 / 7:40 am

    Good stuff especially the beer part. Enjoy friend. Blessings

    The Cross Has Spoken Finish Strong


    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Hessler November 11, 2019 / 10:04 am

    I still have the shirt…. However, I have never played the game. I try to tell groups not to judge me by my shirts. I don’t fly airplanes, ride motor cycles or dance like Michael Jackson. I just buy my t shirts at Walmart.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Deborah Coon November 12, 2019 / 7:58 pm

    I love this! From a mother of a missionary…Thanks for telling it like it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. K Erickson November 13, 2019 / 7:58 am

    Such great points DJ. I was watching Sheep Among Wolves documentary last nite on Youtube. Joel says “God is not calling awesome people, to come here and be awesome, He’s calling willing, flawed people to GO, and He’ll do the rest”.

    I thought I really knew this stuff as a former missionary and as I’m going to the Middle East in late Feb to train, to go to Iran and Syria and Kurdistan, I felt all of those things DJ was talking about and the questions “Am I really holy enough, strong enough, listening to God enough, prepared enough?” In fact I was just starting to struggle with ALL of those questions given the situation over there currently. As I prayed last nite, I now realize this article from DJ is God’s answer to my doubts and questions. God is so gracious with me and us, and thanks DJ! Please know He used this to truly and directly remind me I’m very flawed and isn’t calling the equipped He’s equipping the called. GREAT reminder for me and once again, I need to let God be God and He will do the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nino November 15, 2019 / 8:34 pm

      Good words for the soul of this tried-to-be-a-real-missionary, less than perfect- but ever-lovin’ Jesus dude.

      Liked by 1 person

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