Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ten Things That Your Missionary Will Not Tell You




Things That You Won’t Hear From Your Missionary.

I am going out on a limb here, so I have to put some disclaimers up in advance. 

Disclaimer number one….I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!    This blog is pointing out the bad aspects that you will not hear us normally say.  It does not mean that I am unhappy or unfulfilled.  

Disclaimer number two….I am speaking of feelings and perceptions. I know what the Bible says and can give a counterpoint to each of these.  For example, when I share how we feel about shortchanging my children, I know that there are 100 things positive that people can point out to me.  I am sharing our heart, how we feel.  I don’t need anyone to send me a Bible lesson. :)

A friend of mine sent me a link to a blog with this title.  It was pretty good, and got me to thinking.  So, no copying, but there is so me overlapping.  Here is what your missionary will not tell you in their newsletter or at your church mission conference.  Here is a little of the dark side of missions.  

1.  Sometimes, most of the time, living in another culture is hard. 

Your missionary will talk about the joy of cross cultural missions and going into all the world.  What they won’t tell you is that it isn’t fun most of the time. I was first exposed to this while on a short term trip to Ghana.  I was invited to a missionary going away party.  A nurse from Canada was returning to her home country after serving on the mission field….get this….for 40 years.  She had come to Ghana as a 20 year old and was now going ‘home’.  During the conversation I asked her how come she was saying that she was going, ‘home.’  If you have lived for all of your adult life, slightly over 40 years, in Ghana and only visited Canada every four years…then isn’t Ghana your home?  She told me that no matter how incorporated you are into the culture, no matter how good your ministry, no matter how accepted that you are by the people…you are not one of ‘them’.  

I have now been in Bolivia for 8 years.  I am fluent and have a great ministry here.  I love what I do.  But I am not at home.  I am not a Bolivian.  I do not share their cultural history or family ties.  When I go to someone’s home to celebrate a birthday or wedding, I am the white guy.  I am the stranger.  I am the foreigner.  When they begin to laugh about family memories or tell stories about relatives, I just smile at the right time.  I do not belong.  When I go to ‘La Cancha’ our market place, children stare at me.   I had a man visiting us from the States tell me when we were there, “This is weird, we are the only white people in sight.’  

It gets old being a stranger.  It is hard to not be in the group.  It isn’t fun to always be noticed.  



2.  It is lonely and your friends and family from the States have forgotten you.  

You won’t ever see this in a mission letter.  We will tell stories of fun things and great times.  We will be upbeat and happy and post photos of our family Christmas party. 

You won’t have us posting videos of us crying or hear us complain about missing friends, but we do; and the harsh thing is that they do not miss us.  When we were planing on going to the mission field, we interviewed 10 different missionary families.  We talked to people who were single, married, married with kids, and older missionaries.  I asked them a question: “What is the hardest part of being a missionary?”  Their answer, all ten of them at separate occasions without any knowledge of what others had said replied, “Loneliness.  After the first year people totally forget about you.  Even your best friend now will not continue communicating with you.”  

We decided to fight against this and using Facebook and social media, along with monthly communications and blogs, we knew that we would stay in touch with our friends.  What surprised us was how quickly they did not want to stay in touch with us.  Oh, we understand that their lives are busy and we have moved.  The truth is, that understanding why something happens does not mean that it doesn’t hurt.  This goes along with the first thing…not being part of the culture.  We don’t feel like we have a home but we do feel like those from our previous home have forgotten us.


3.  We are normal people.  

People think that missionaries are some super christian.  We are one step up from being a pastor, and if you are a missionary pastor then even the Apostle Paul envies your spirituality.  You won’t be reading in a missionary letter, “This week I did not spend hardly any time in the Word, got mad at my wife, yelled at my children and was jealous after seeing photos on Facebook.”  We won’t report that, but it is the truth.  We are normal people seeking to honor Christ even though we are weak and fragile vessels.  We sin, repent, sin, repent, and then repeat.  We are like you.


4.  We never have enough money but feel guilty asking for it.

Missionaries ask for money.  We have to.  We put it in terms like, “opportunity to support’, or ‘be part of the blessing’, or ‘looking for monthly partners’.  

What we want to say is, “We are dying here!  Please help us!  We need money!!” 

We can’t do that.  We have to appear above money.  We need to make it seem like money is something that we could probably use, but no big deal.  We are walking by faith and trusting God to provide..that is what we need to display. You see, we don’t want it to seem like all we want from you is your money.  It isn’t, but in all honesty we do need money.  We need it for our family and for our ministry.  We just hate asking for it, and you hate hearing it.  So, we keep quiet or couch our needs in spiritual terms.  

Another part of this is that we really struggle with being judgmental over money.  This just happened this week.  I posted a need for our ministry.  We would like to purchase some additional dental equipment to help with our evangelistic dental ministry.  We need $700.  At the same time, a friend of ours in the States who sings occasionally at coffee houses posted that he wanted to raise $4,000 to make a CD.  We had $210 donated.  He received $4,300.  Really?  I am not saying that he should not do this nor that it was wrong for him to raise money for it, but really?  He got $4,300 to experiment with a CD and we could not raise $700 to help the poor hear about Jesus through dental missions.  Really?


5.  We feel like our children are getting shortchanged by our choice.  

You will see cool pictures in my newsletters of my children helping do outreach, being in the jungle, washing orphans, or having a monkey on their shoulder.  It all looks so cool.  But the truth is, we feel like our kids are suffering because of us. This is compounded by Facebook.  Just this week I have seen photos of kids playing football, music lessons, dance, debate, camps, concerts, movies, lock-ins and taking college classes at the community college while in high school.  My kids do nothing like that.  I know that I can post all the cool things that my kids do, but I simply cannot compete with the options that you have.  I find myself fighting jealousy, envying and coveting.  


6.  I took a great vacation but I cannot tell anyone. 

One of the neat things about social media is how we can share our lives with others.  Pastors can go on cruises.  Friends can go to some wonderful island.  Family can travel Europe.  They can all brag about their time and post photos on Facebook and social media sharing their joy. 

We can save up money.  Live on a budget.  Spend less than we make.  The, after five years of frugality take a much needed vacation.  What do we hear?  “I should be a missionary, then I could take cool vacations.”  Or, “Is that where my donations go?”

Real example.  My father passed away and after the initial burial and settling of the estate, I found myself with $19,000 of unplanned income.  We prayed about it, and decided to tell the kids that grandpa wanted to bless them.  So, with MY INHERITANCE, while we were in the States on a planned furlough, we rented a home outside of Disneyworld and after vacationing there took the whole family on a cruise. We received several snide comments and one donor quit giving to our ministry.  

My wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year.  We did something really fun to celebrate.  Here is what we did.  We told our kids, “This is on the downlo.  Do not say anything about it to your friends and do not put anything on Facebook.  We don’t want anyone judging us.”

How stinky is that?  You can share your joy, we feel like we have to hide ours or people will think and/or say that we are somehow taking advantage of our donors.  We would love to post photos of our fun and have you just say something nice…but we can’t.


7.  We hate being judged by a standard that our judges do not follow.

Every missionary that reads this will scream “Amen!’,   When we meet with mission committees, churches, sending groups and donors they always ask us very specific questions.  I have NO problem with that.  What drives me bonkers is when someone NOT doing what I AM DOING judges me because they don’t think that I am doing enough of what they are not doing. 

The best example of this is when you meet with a missions committee and they ask us about our evangelism.  I share how, this year alone, we have shared the gospel with over 2,000 people (true story) outside of the church walls and have baptized 35 adults.  The committee talks a little and then says something like, “We are concerned about the follow up of the converts and why so few have been baptized. We would also like to hear more about your evangelistic endeavors.  What do you do and how do you do it?”  Then, after sharing what you do and how you do it, they have critical comments and corrections about methodology.

The problem is this.  The church that this mission committee is a part of hasn’t baptized 35 adults in the last 10 years and does not have a single planned evangelistic event on their church calendar.  I often want to say, “We have baptized 35 adults and shared Christ with over 2,000 people…what have you done?” , or, “That is a great idea on evangelism, help me put some flesh on it.  How did you guys implement this in your church?’  or, “What do you do for follow up after your community evangelistic event?”   I can’t, but I really want to.  It is honestly difficult to listen to armchair quarterbacks who have never suited up critique the game that I am participating in.

Another example of this is how people who are doing nothing to help the poor criticize us for how we help the poor.  They tell us what we should do, what we should not do, how and when and to whom we should do it.  They tell us of the latest book that they have read and/or the latest sermon that they heard. They do nothing themselves, but they know exactly what we should do and if we don’t do it their way, then the threat of cutting support is dangling over our head. 

If someone who is actually doing the ministry has advice, input or corrections then it is infinitely easier to accept.  It is when we are told what to do by someone not doing anything that we have to constantly check our hearts and put a guard on our lips.  


8.  Saying good-bye stinks…and it is not the same in the States.

This happens to missionaries our age.  Our lives become one of a constant good-bye.  We are saying good-bye to fellow missionaries leaving for the States. We have to say good-bye to our children. Denise and I now have four kids living in the USA while we remain in Bolivia.  When we visit for furlough and see grandpa and grandma, we have to say good-bye again to go back to the field.  It stinks.

I was invited to speak at a mission conference in the States.  The church was a little over an hour from where my 24 year old son lives, so he drove down to see me.  After I preached, I went to my mission table in the hall and was chatting with people, passing out prayer cards, shaking hands, etc.  My son and his girlfriend came to say hi, and after a few minutes my son hugged me and said, “Love you Dad, see you in….what…two years or three?”  

I started crying and people graciously walked away form my table.  I realized that I was not going to see him again for at least two years.  This week, three days ago, my wife took my 19 year old to start college in the States.  She called me from her hotel room weeping and said, “It doesn’t get easier.  I hate this! I hate this!”

Now here is where the second part of my point comes in to play.  Friend will say, with totally god intentions, “I understand, my son left for college this week also.”

It is not the same thing!  Your son/daughter can come home for the holidays and on school breaks.  They may be able to snag a $100 ticket and bop in for a three day weekend.  At the most they are a quick flight or short drive away.  We live on another stinking continent.  When we say goodbye, it isn’t “See you on break”.  It is “See you for a few days in three years.”  My son Jacob moved to the States and was living on his own.  He had not been there long and called us and after talking I let him know that he needed to go to the hospital because I thought that he had appendicitis.  At the hospital he let us know that it was, and they were doing an emergency surgery.  

It took my wife three days to get there.  She could not hop on a plane and be there before he left the hospital. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I knew that when the phone call came telling his children to come say their good-byes, that I would not be able to be there.  I knew that I would miss his last words, not be able to minister to my family and probably not be able to attend the funeral.  It is not the same thing as living in the States.  It isn’t.  

I would say that out of all the negatives to living on the mission field, this is the worse one.  Saying good-bye.  


9.  Going to the States is hard.

You would think that returning home on furlough is wonderful.  Every missionary looks forward to it.  It is the focus of the year that it is going to happen.

That is partly true.  However there are two things that your missionary will not tell you.  One you probably already know.  Logistically it is difficult.  Most missionaries don’t have a place to live, a car to drive or a plate to eat off of.  All those things that we need in everyday life, from pillow cases to car seats, we do not have.  We have to find short term solutions and we HATE borrowing stuff.  We also do not want to live in your basement.  We want to be a family with our own privacy and family time.  

We also want to visit and spend time with our donors and churches, but making that happen is so hard when we have donors in 12 different states.  It isn’t cost feasible to spend $1,200 to visit a church in Arkansas that gives you $25/month.  But you want to and think that you should.  The logistics make home assignment difficult.

The second thing that you probably do not know is that it is hard emotionally.  Why?  Because we discover that we have changed and that you no longer really want to be around us.  I wrote about this one time.  Let me summarize that blog here. A man from the land of Blue became a missionary to the people of Yellow.  He struggled because he was a Blue man among Yellow people.  However, after a while he began to truly understand their culture and become partly assimilated.  One day he looked in the mirror and saw that he was no longer Blue, he was now Green.  It made being in the land of Yellow easier.  Then, after many years, he returns to the land of Blue. To his dismay, no one there in his homeland of Blue wants to be with him because, well because he was a Green person in the land of Blue. 

After being on the mission field you are a different person.  People perceive you differently.  Even people who were friends are no longer friends.  They have grown without you.  They have had different experiences without you.  You are no longer ‘one of them’.  When you return, people want to shake your hand and say that they missed you, but they don’t want to be with you.  They are also worried that you are going to ask them for money.  We actually asked a person out for dinner, a person who had been a friend before going to the mission field.  Their response was, ‘We don’t have any money to give you.”  They REALLY said that!  

After being in my home church, where I had been a pastor, and was now feeling ostracized, I shared my feelings with a staff member of the church.  He told me that he knew why people avoided us.  I asked him what it was.  He said, “You intimidate people.  Not by what you say, or what you do, but by who you are. We look at you and your choice and we feel guilty for being materialist.  It is easier to avoid you than it is to repent of our love of money.”  

I don’t know if that is the reason or not, but missionaries feel unwanted.  We may think that you appreciate us, and we really are grateful for your financial support, but we feel like you don’t want to be our friend.  


10.  I constantly feel like I have to prove myself to you.

You, whether an individual or a church, give us money.  You support our ministry.  Like it or not, I now feel like I have to justify to you that giving us money is good.  I have to prove myself and my ministry over and over again.  My newsletters are not to let you know what we are doing..they are far more than that.  They are items that I am entering into evidence as proof that you are making a good investment.  And….if a period of time goes by where we don’t really have anything BIG to report….we feel like a failure and live in the fear of you giving your money to someone who deserves it.

Often we don’t feel like we are on the same team as you.  We feel like you are our boss and it is time for the annual performance evaluation….and this year someone has to be let go.  We are tempted to pad our resume and make it look better than it is.  Instead of saying that we go to church, we say, “We are actively engaged in a local congregation”.  We don’t say that we buy our fruit from the same seller every week, no, “we are building intentional relationships with those in the marketplace”.  We may lead a Bible study but we call it, “engaging in a mentoring relationship with young married couples.”   Look at what I just told you.  I buy fruit each week, go to church and lead a Bible study.  That does not sound worth supporting does it?  I mean, you do that.  But if I am building intentional relationships while mentoring young married couples as I am actively engaged in a local congregation…then maybe you will think better of me.

So, we say things that make us sound better, holier, busier than we are.  We can’t say that we are living in the culture and doing what we can to promote Christ but it is difficult and we really don’t have much fruit to show you this year.  That is because of numbers 4 and 7 above.  We need money and you are judging our worth…and your evaluation will determine our money.  This may not be true, but it is how we feel.  We feel like we have to constantly show you that giving to our ministry is a great idea and you should keep it up.  It produces a lot of pressure and emotional stress.




So, there you have it.  Ten things that your missionary will not tell you.  They may not be pretty, but maybe hearing them can help you relate better to your missionary.  Comments are welcome, especially from fellow missionaries. 



187 comments:

  1. Amen! I thank God that we have many supporters that we don't feel the need to "perform", but we often still do! And after 25 years of doing this, saying Good-bye still stinks!

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    1. Joe, I am an MK. Lived in Indonesia from age one to 18. I understand, even as an MK how true those struggles are. Especially having to say "Good-bye!" I went to boarding school from August to December and January until June. Communication was by letter.

      I hear a theme in those 10 Items. Everyone around you are "playing God!" They think they know what is best for you. What they don't understand is that their journey with our God and their journey with our God is different. AND THAT IS GOOD! I can share what I am learning about God and life with you, and I will grow as I listen to what you are learning about God and life. Missionaries are afraid to share how God is leading them because of the condemning attitudes of people in the church. It is easy to say this - much harder to do: truth is the best avenue. God honors the truth. It may weed out the critical, and bring in those who clearly care.

      What I miss most about being an MK is the closeness all the mission agencies had working together. All adults were "Aunt" and "Uncle." And Indonesia is still "home" for me 35 years later! The hardest thing about being an MK was that our mission agency required borading school. I barely knew my parents.

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    2. Joe, I am an MK. Lived in Indonesia from age one to 18. I understand, even as an MK how true those struggles are. Especially having to say "Good-bye!" I went to boarding school from August to December and January until June. Communication was by letter.

      I hear a theme in those 10 Items. Everyone around you are "playing God!" They think they know what is best for you. What they don't understand is that their journey with our God and their journey with our God is different. AND THAT IS GOOD! I can share what I am learning about God and life with you, and I will grow as I listen to what you are learning about God and life. Missionaries are afraid to share how God is leading them because of the condemning attitudes of people in the church. It is easy to say this - much harder to do: truth is the best avenue. God honors the truth. It may weed out the critical, and bring in those who clearly care.

      What I miss most about being an MK is the closeness all the mission agencies had working together. All adults were "Aunt" and "Uncle." And Indonesia is still "home" for me 35 years later! The hardest thing about being an MK was that our mission agency required borading school. I barely knew my parents.

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  2. Joe, you have a gift on expressing what few can, or few will for fear of backlash.
    Even though we have been back in Oregon for 2 years, with 2 years to go, we have felt and feel almost all of what you have written. Being an outsider is difficult no matter where you live, but when it's EVERY where you live, it is discouraging.
    Thank you for having the courage to share honestly. May God use this to glorify HIS name and to encourage others to think outside their preconceived boxes about those who serve HIM

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  3. As a missionary I agree with most of the article; I feel that much of the problem is that the American church is not "mission-minded." We're out of sight and out of mind. People don't know how to relate to us because churches do not generally emphasize missions or teach members even the basics of missions and the importance of missions. The American church is many times self-centered just as are many American Christians. Not all of course...there are many good mission-minded churches and pastors, but...a low percentage I would say. And giving; that's a whole other area; ask for funds for an overseas orphanage, then ask for funds to help the pastor take a cruise vacation and see who gets the most funds. I don't mean to be critical, and I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY, but unfortunately many times it's just how things are. We can change awareness through prayer and patience, but we have our work cut out for us. Until then we continue to serve, love those who don't understand or criticize, and know that our reward is from the Lord anyway and the ultimately He is our source of everything.

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    1. And those who are not mission-minded do not realize that they are missing out on so many joys! What privilege to be a part of God answering our prayers! And yet, as one who served for a time and then returned, it is so tempting to just get sucked into the joy-choking "cares" of this world and not be that committed to praying for and supporting others.

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  4. After 30 years on the field, I can relate to soooo much of what you say, but I just want to share a positive supporter story:
    When we were in the States last year we used money we had inherited to buy a home of our own for the first time. It was a foreclosure that had just come on the market, very inexpensive yet a very nice little place. I was a bit nervous about what our supporters would say but I was so excited that I posted it on Facebook anyway -- and so many of the positive comments were from supporters and members of supporting churches. They were overwhelmingly... supportive!

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  5. Joe, thanks for the honest thoughts.

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  6. Appreciated reading this honest written blog. Much of this is true of those called to cross-cultural ministry. I think all these experiences help missionaries better appreciate that there true 'home' is really with Christ. Whatever hardships, spoken or unspoken that we face, the joy of knowing Christ is always worth following Him.

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  7. Hey, Joe, you don't know me, but, could I 'come alongside you?" I see the GREAT hurt and pain and realness, that MANY missionaries face, and to my dismay, I have been guilty of 'overlooking' the TRUE needs of them! I, for a short time (2 months), was a missionary in Russian, because my heart breaks for the people, and I was compelled by Christ's love to reach out to them! :) But, of course, I had to come home. Being away for that time, I too, felt like I was 'forgotten' by many Americans and friends. I realize that they are going on with their own lives, jobs, careers, etc., and many just don't think of the HUGE, astronomical sacrifices that missionaries make; not do they really seem to care to take action to help. Could it be that they just do not have the same vision? I think so. So, my comment earlier, "Can I come alongside you?" still stands in that I WANT to come alongside and pray with and for you! If you would like, you can reach me on my email. I love the Lord for He has done SO MUCH for me, and I want to live my life for Him!! Take care! - Andrew

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. thanks for being transparent, Joe! I know God uses that to go farther than we can see. living with you all these 4 months has been an awesome opportunity for God to break me of some of the ways I "stereotype" missionaries, like you mention here. you and your family encourage me by the way you live humbly before God and honest-to-goodness seek to let him determine your worth and priorities. : )

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  10. I was a missionary for only 3 years in South Africa and have been back in the states for about 5 years now and still feel this way. I pray for you and your family. My heart goes out to you and your ministry and allow God to bless you in whatever He sees fit! I know I don't know you, but I am proud of you and your family.

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  11. I'm an MK and can relate to everything you said there. Even in a country of white people, speaking the other language as my first language, I was still the foreigner. But coming back to the States is when I really felt like a foreigner. Having to ask people to repeat multiple times, looking at 3 rows of what looks like pretty much the same thing but having to read every label to make sure it's the right thing, being clueless when they talk about things "everybody knows," and the list could go on and on. My green may have more blue now that I've lived in the US longer than where I grew up (if you count deputation and furlough), but I'm still far from being blue.

    And then there's family. I hear others talk about time with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and realize that's something I totally missed out on. Not to mention the dreaded good-bye when I won't see my parents or siblings again for a long time. I still remember the now-disgusting taste of what we had for lunch after dropping my brother off at the airport when it was his time to return to America. Wow, such intense grief! It was like he'd died. And then it was my turn, but that good-bye was in the US when my parents returned to the field. Now I'm a mother. And the good-byes are still just as hard. Or maybe even harder, knowing what wonderful grandparents my children have, and how I missed out on my own grandparents, and how much my parents long to be with them. Now, I understand how hard it is from a parent's point of view as well as from a child's. To protect myself against those hard good-byes, I tend to avoid letting myself get too attached to people. I've heard that's a common MK thing.

    One thing you didn't touch on was how missionaries in different fields are compared to each other. We'd have pastors trying to figure out what we were doing "wrong" because we weren't seeing the numbers that missionaries in other countries were seeing. And we'd read other missionaries' letters, and while we were excited to see what God was doing through them, it made it hard to deal with the lack of growth in our field. But that's how that field is. In some countries, people are receptive and you can get to the field, start a church while still in language school, and turn it over to a national pastor all in your first term. In others, like where I grew up, 3 terms later you're still in the same church with still just a handful of people who may or may not be the same handful as before.

    I could go on and on, but you get the point. And yet, for all the hardships of MK/missionary life, I wouldn't trade it for anything! But I'd sure love to have my family closer to me.

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  12. As an MK, who has started and run a non-profit organization to assist missionaries, and as a participant in missions trips and vacations to visit family members and friends who are ministering in foreign places, I can vouch for much of this article. There have been times that it has been obvious that the Lord arranged for us to be there to be a listening ear for a missionary to vent to -- to express things that they couldn't even HINT at to co-workers, to supporters, and (most of all) to home office personnel. I hope it is an encouragement to you that, in spite of all that, the biggest disappointment of my "career" as a missionary enabler is the distinct feeling of "outsider" because, for all the problems and hardships, I wasn't a "missionary" -- I was just an administrator of a non-profit. (the Lord supplied for us financially through seasonal employment, so I never "raised support")

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  13. You nailed it! Thank you.

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  14. As a missionary's kid working among muggles in a factory and living both lives,I would gladly trade places with you.

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  15. My daughter and SIL are missionaries. This is spot on. Thank you for your insight and honesty,

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    1. please delete this immediately for security purposes!

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  16. Very thought provoking and necessary article.

    It is a FACT that American churches and American Christians are materialistic. Our "heroes" are the "big preachers" with the designer suits and fancy pocket squares. Success is judged by numbers no matter the methodology to produce them.

    The answer is Christ! Christ for the missionary, Christ for the churches, Lord help us, we are so full of everything else but Thee!

    God bless you and your family, my dear brother, He is not unfaithful to forget!

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  17. Sadly true - oh that we might be less critical more compassionate and intercessors for you! Thanks for sharing

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  18. I am glad to read this article. I knew in my heart that missionaries share the same struggles as those of us who stay home. Hearing it spelled out is helpful. People need to know your hearts, so they can pray for you in a more meaningful way. I am a preacher's daughter and married a preacher. I have moved more than 20 times. Like you, I feel I have no place to call home, and have been praying recently that like the dove in the ark, God would give me a place to rest and settle. My children and I, could not grow up around families and cousins. We could not even retain friends for more than a short time. I have been begging God for contentment and peace. He is a great God and we do not serve Him in vain. Thanks so much for the letter to inform us of your personal struggles and needs. In Christ.

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  19. An American missionary in East Africa (7 years now).

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  20. Joe, hello from La Paz. I can really relate to a lot of what you have shared, especially the one about saying goodbye. I have reposted your blog to my Facebook. But I wonder…how many people will want to know the 10 things I will not tell them when they are often not interested in the things I DO tell them. ::::sigh::::: I know that our God shall supply all of our needs, physical, mental, emotional…all them.

    You have so many positive comments here from other missionaries and MK's. We can draw together and support and pray for one another!

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  21. 1. living in the US is usually just as hard. Before we moved overseas I worked from 6 AM to whenever and my wife worked as an accountant from 9AM to beyond midnight sometimes, with an hour+ commute. I want no part of that lifestyle anymore, and yet that is the life of many of our supporters.

    2. Life can be pretty lonely in the US, too.

    4. I live my life based on the assumption that God has obliged Himself to meet all my needs. Therefore He has given me enough and if I have lack, it is likely due to mismanagement.

    5. I grew up overseas as an MK. I'm tri-lingual. I've been in 28 countries and counting. I've lived in 3 of those countries. My life has been abundantly blessed because of missions. I have never felt, and never will feel, ever, that my children are being shortchanged by missions. Categorically untrue and false.

    9. I love going back to the US.

    Any "sacrifice" I have ever made in the name of missions, and I've been making them since I was 10, has been repaid to me exponentially. My life is unspeakably richer than it could otherwise have been because of missions. I've also lived and worked enough in the US to know that life there is just as difficult. I'd rather have the challenges of the mission field any day as opposed to the daily, monotonous challenges that my faithful supporters endure.

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    1. Tim, I can agree with most of your points, just as I see a lot of validity in what Joe was shared too. However, I strongly disagree with you on #4. It is true that the Lord always provides and supplies. But as a missionary raising funds for a family of 6, in addition to funding a large ministry which includes salaries for 13 staff, the financial pool is often very slim to empty. We are very careful managers of our funds, and the lack is hardly due to mismanagement. More probably, it is due to big hearts who see a sea of needs and long to do more to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. There may be some sin in that too, but honestly, I do not appreciate your suggestion that the stress of fundraising is due to our failure.

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  22. Good read. Some of it isn't only for missionaries though, I hope this will help you in a way:

    Many parents look at pictures of others' kids on FB, including MKs, and find themselves fighting jealousy, envying and coveting..

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  23. Tim, I can agree with most of your points, just as I see a lot of validity in what Joe was shared too. However, I strongly disagree with you on #4. It is true that the Lord always provides and supplies. But as a missionary raising funds for a family of 6, in addition to funding a large ministry which includes salaries for 13 staff, the financial pool is often very slim to empty. We are very careful managers of our funds, and the lack is hardly due to mismanagement. More probably, it is due to big hearts who see a sea of needs and long to do more to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. There may be some sin in that too, but honestly, I do not appreciate your suggestion that the stress of fundraising is due to our failure.

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  24. TB,

    I don't know you but, I am praying for you!!! It takes a special Christian to be a missionary, and all I can say is GOD BLESS YOU!!!!
    God has laid it upon my heart to pray for you all by name and lift you up through prayers and supplications. Again I say GOD BLESS ALL YOU MISSIONARY'S!!!

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  25. What an honest commentary. I'm a 70 year old MK, so my perspective may be different. First, I have absolutely no regrets to having been raised in another culture. In fact, I've been blessed the last 8 yrs. to serve in a church that is "pastored" by a man from my "home" country. I'm blessed to be able to minister to immigrants who visit us in their native language. I feel so sorry for my grandchildren who express being "bored." I never knew boredom. When the Lord brought me to this church, I felt like I had come home. I am described by my church friends as "chocolate cake with vanilla frosting". I understand their culture better than some of them do because they were so young when they left their country. And I know things about their country that none of them remember - some of them were still not wearing much clothing!
    Unfortunately our US churches have lost the vision for foreign missions, so there is no love or understanding. It used to be the "people" who kept in contact, thru snail mail, not the "missions committee". We are a society of self-contentedness, so we don't see beyond our immediate self. I eagerly anticipated Christmas because churches celebrated in July to make sure we had things like kool aid, cake mixes, juicy fruit gum, a new dress, etc....
    We were blessed to have a "home" church that served us well. A furnished home was waiting when we came on furlough as was a new auto which was exchanged at year's end for a new vehicle to take back to the field. I sadly don't see those things happening today. The biggest losers are the local churches. Years ago I spearheaded a missions giving project during VBS. the kids brought toothpaste, jello, pencils, bandaids, pins, needles, etc. At the end ladies held a personal shower for the wife and the men held a tool shower for the husband. Closing program was a dinner for all ages and a presentation of gifts by adults and children. The excitement in the church - by all ages - was amazing. I tried to do something similar about 10 yrs. ago and was ultimately given the left foot of fellowship. Our church mentality has definitely changed for the worse. We do have to make changes as society and technology changes, but God and His Word never change - let that standard remain.

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    1. Wonderful comment! Thank you for your perspective.

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  26. Great article. I am a 20 year veteran of overseas missions, my family grew up in another country, we are all green. I read what "Tim" wrote and I am glad he is so well adjusted, he is 1 in a million...he just does not speak for the vast majority of missionaries I know. Your article is very educational for many people and I am very happy you have written it. One thing I have noticed the most about missions is something you alluded to very strongly, and that is we are visitors everywhere we go. When in the USA I am asked, "Are you impatient to get back home?" When I am in my country of service I am asked before a trip to the USA, "Are you excited to go back home again?" When I visit churches in the USA they are happy for me to come and happy for me to leave... in other words, yes, it does get tiresome to always be the one who is never a part of the group. But, it is our "cross" to bear and we have learned to manage as I am sure you have as well. In all, I can say a hardy amen to your post, I have seen most of this in my life and I have seen all of it someplace at some time in the lives of my fellow missionaries.

    While we may be viewed an a "necessary expense" to churches who want to "fulfill" the Great Commission, the vast majority of our supporters actually do love us and treat us well. It is that one in one hundred who voices his displeasure that causes us to retreat within ourselves and ask if everyone is not thinking the same thing.

    So, thank you for your honesty and for saying what a lot of people are thinking. This is an educational tool...people should read your blog and think about it before they retaliate or pontificate. May the Lord bless you.

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  27. Very brave post. Well done! Love and appreciation from Indonesia.

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  28. Thank you for posting this. This really helps us to pray for our missionaries better.

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  29. Personally (MK for 16 years, missionary for 30)...I cannot say from experience that any one of these have been true for me (including #3: since we are CALLED to holiness, not normalcy; and we've never felt the need to hide anything or put on a show for others...what you see is what you get! ) ;-)

    "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

    For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

    Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

    Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith. Grace be with you all. (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6‬:‭6-8, 10-12, 17-18, 20-21‬)

    [disclaimer: Not to decry the validity of the evident feelings of some, but I hope one would never think this relates in any way to our experiences as a missionary family!] ;-)

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  30. Spot on!!!

    My parents were missionaries for 40 years in South East Asia. My father was an ordained minister missionary at that! (And I had much more respect for him than I ever will for Paul ... just sayin'). To top it off, they were salaried missionaries so did not have the same fund raising pressures that a self-funded missionary does. That did not absolve them from fund raising or the dog and pony shows to 22 supporting churches each time we were on furlough. One of our family-isms was coined by my father deep into one of those road shows one furlough when he sighed and exclaimed, "I can't be better than I am much longer!'.

    I'm 48 years old now and have lived in the US for 30 years and absolutely relate to much of what you were brave enough to put down in writing. I was born Green and years ago accepted that I will forever be a stranger in a strange land. But getting to that acceptance wasn't easy, and having come to terms with it doesn't mean I don't still have bad days. At my Father's funeral, my brother spoke of having grown up thinking he was Yellow (to use your wonderful analogy) and knowing he wouldn't fit in the land of Blue. When it came time for college, he was comfortable with his outsider status in the land of Blue. After all, he was Yellow. He shared that one of the hardest moments in his life was that first trip back home to the land of Yellow and the shocking realization that he wasn't and, worse yet, HAD NEVER BEEN, Yellow.

    While I would not trade my upbringing, my family or my parents' calling for anything in this world or the next, that does not mean it was or is all a bed of roses.

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    1. as an MK - one of my biggest fears and one reason I haven't gone back.

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  31. Thank you for sharing the hiding points of missionary life. These are so similar to ministry in small-town, rural America. My entire life has been serving in various small towns as either minister's daughter or wife.

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  32. I'm a newbie on the mission field (it's been a year). But this is the first thing I've read that really puts words to my struggles. Thanks for sharing!

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  33. Thanks so much for sharing! And as we have friends who are missionaries overseas, this just begs the question: 'Aside from the obvious monetary support, what are some ways we can minister to/support/love on our missionary friends? What are a few practical things that would be meaningful and helpful?

    Blessings to you!

    Wendy

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  34. Yes, and as you can see from the posts that there are a whole other set of difficulties for MK's, the second generation to this. We never had a home and we don't know how to make one. We will never belong and we know it. We look like American's but we don't have the memories, the culture, or the thinking of Americans.

    The only thing I can do is to find a higher cause for every part of my life. I must find it a a privilege to live for him, because nothing else will ever satisfy or "be right." "To know him, the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable to his death" has to be a constant reality, not a good idea. We will only be at home when we reach the "city not made with hands."

    Maybe as a missionary parent you have to realize you are raising martyrs, not Americans? It is better than being an American.

    The Holy Spirit is my home, and He is the only one and the only place that can be a home. Having the mind of Christ and living to humble my self is the highest calling. It is an identity, not a goal.

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    1. Well, said, Ann, well said. I am getting ready to send my fifth child to the states after she graduates from high school here in El Salvador where we serve. I am going to share your wise words with her. Thank you.

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  35. 1)As I had said, this is interesting, eventhough we may not have had all these same feelings/thoughts at one time or another over the 21 years in Honduras. Let me explain: I think we would agree with the first statement to a certain point, in that many and/or most of the cultural things can be difficult, but yet there are several I personally would choose over the U.S. culture we come from, for example: folks have/take time for eachother here without always worrying about time and schedules first (this can also be a frustrating thing). Most families here eat atleast one meal together each day (we eat together almost 3 per day, here on the ranch:), where in the States, many families barely eat one meal a week together. This is one of several things we love about Honduran culture, but as the author of the article pointed out, one of the most difficult things is no matter how accepted you are, you have never been and will never really be one of them, and that doesn't account for how we feel living in an area that was once Amish/Mennonite. Something the author didn't mention though, is that "back home" in the good ol' U.S.A. you may "fit in", but yet you don't feel as like you fit in anymore and especially having to compete with folks schedules, extracurricular activities, and etc, when visiting there (talk about reverse culture shock). 2)During the "season in our life" (July 12th of this year) someone had posted an article similar to this one, which at that time we didn't expound upon much, but should, yet at that time, we sure could relate to. You may be interested in reading it if this one caught your attention. As for the second statement, I think we would agree in having felt this way a "time or two" in our 21 years (and still do from time to time), eventhough many of you would say we have really never been forgotten. P.T.L. for this FB, but yet, due to our "loneliness" (hard to think how one can feel lonely in an environment of 20 people around all the time;), FB and other social media become addictions. 3)As for the third statement, maybe we aren't that "normal", because we just don't seem to fit in anywhere (guess we're not supposed to, but are just a passing through) and we feel kind of strange many times;) We definitely would agree though that we aren't super humans and/or super Christians. 4)The forth statement pretty much hits the nail on the head and we would agree almost a 100% feeling this way many times.

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  36. 5)Then there is the fifth statement that we would almost 100% disagree with. I feel that our kids had quite a rich upbringing and are better people because of it. All those extracurricular things are what we have to compete with when we visit the States, those activities being more important than coming and hearing what the Lord is doing down here. 6)We may be 50/50 on the sixth statement, but would have to add a comment we've heard several times, "Man, must be nice suffering for the Lord like that", of course in a sarcastic way. Isn't the Great Commission to everyone? It was kind of nice though recently doing substitute teaching for five weeks and being on a schedule, being told what to do and/or knowing what one needs to be doing, getting paid to do it, and then feeling as though it's your money to do with as you see fit. 7)P.T.L. we don't have this problem (statement 7), but have been there, done that (experienced this) in the past. 8)We'd have to say amen to the 8th statement:( 9)We'd also agree to most of the 9th statement, but as I said with the 3rd, we're just a passing through. One of the hardest things is competing with everyone's busy and inflexible schedules in such a short time in and between our homes States of Wyoming and Washington, and beyond. It's definitely not a time of rest and relaxation. 10)Again, we'd have to agree the the 10th and last statement. Apart from my comment on the 6th statement, because we don't get a wage and/or salary, it's hard to buy things for me, myself, and I, feeling it's not "my" money and without feeling guilty using it on "non-ministry" things. Also, not long after moving to the mission foreign field, I thought there was something majorly wrong with me, since I had never heard of other missionaries sharing many of these things, leaving me feeling as a great failure:o

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  37. I thought I was lonely in Haiti then I returned to the States and realized I am more lonely here. My husband is such a wonderful support. Thank you for sharing with such honesty.

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  38. Thanx for your heart-felt, truthful blog. I feel ashamed for not giving, loving, caring about my missionary friends as I do those around me here at "home"

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  39. Thank you so much for expressing these things. When I was young, I decided that I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up. My church and family were supportive, but I began to learn about these things when I started talking to missionaries. It's funny that I know some of the missionaries who I talked with had mentioned a few of these to friends in their home churches, but the friends never came to truly understand what was going on.

    All of these points came up throughout my high school and college years when I was getting serious about planning my route to the mission field. Thankfully, the missionary friends I'd talk to didn't hold back the truth and were honest about their struggles as well as their joys. Oddly, I began to face a few of these before I ever went to the field. I would make a comment about "when I have a house of my own..." and someone would say back, "you're going to be a missionary, so you won't have your own house." I'm not sure whether they were meaning that I wouldn't ever be in a place long enough to have a "home" or that I would never be able to afford one, or even that if I had one, it wouldn't really belong to me, but the commentaries that happened hurt deeply and seemed frequent. There were the accusations and expectations... "if you're planning to be a missionary," which was always followed with someone's idea of how missionaries should or shouldn't act, what they should or shouldn't spend money on, or even how they should dress. I was once told by a well-meaning woman that I'd probably have to wear dresses and skirts that went past my knees for the entirety of my missionary career (which is ironic since I was studying to be a pilot), as well as no tank tops. Ever. Those were the things I was hearing throughout high school and college. As a young woman trying to make her way, I found a lot of the "encouragement" to be so discouraging, even insulting.

    That being said, I gave up on being a full-time missionary because I want to be one to meet the emotional, financial, and even physical needs of the missionaries I have come to know and love. Being a pilot has opened a door that, in a little over a year, will provide the means to do this on a much larger scale. I know missionaries need someone who can see them as a human being with real needs. Since I was on that path for so long, I feel that I understand their plight more than most in the churches back home. Even my job gives insight into the cross-cultural issues (as I currently live outside the continental US) and the "always saying goodbye."

    Anyway, thanks again for writing this. I have shared it in hopes that my friends and family can better understand the missionaries they seek to support!!
    -Amanda

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  40. You are a very brave man. And I am a coward for wanting to repost it and being terrified to based on the reasons you posted on losing the few supporters we have. I hate asking for support but working a regular job and doing ministry is not an option in the country my husband and I serve in. Thank you for posting this and thank you for obeying the Lord to serve Him the way you and your wife do.

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  41. Appreciate your article! Thanks for taking the time to write it! I have stories on each point! Missionary for over 20 years. I say being in the states is like living in "The Matrix"! Never really belong here, but I am at home in the country where I have served the longest and I think it is because of the relationships I have with the locals that I am the mom, the sister, the elder, the teacher.

    I've seen God through this life He chose for me and I consented to being gracious, miraculous, fun, serious and I have been sorry for those Christian especially in the states that have missed this fabulous "side" of God!

    Blessings to you and yours!!

    His servant
    your sister
    s.e. coleman

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  42. Joe, the funniest thing today another missionary friend who is based in Guatemala posted a similar article from a brother in the Faith serving in Kenya!! His points were similar, yours much more developed. ODD, wondering now IF I should write my take on it?? :-) http://adammosley.com/2014/07/05/10-things-missionaries-wont-tell/

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  43. I was a "home" missionary for 3 1/2 years and even though I left that ministry 4 years ago, I still feel like I have to live up to people's expectations for me. I weigh everything I say on FB and I hate that. I have grown and changed, but don't feel like thats allowed because of what people think.

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  44. I'm an MK... And you should know that even though growing up on the field was challenging and quite painful at times, I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything.
    And even when you live in the States for years, you still know that in your heart you are different from all the rest... you are "green" for the rest of your life... but that's okay. :)

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  46. My husband and I just started doing missions this year and I already totally agree with this article either because we have experienced them or other missionaries we work with feel this way. Great article. I really feel like those who support missionaries (and those who don't) need to read this!

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  47. You have said what I have been struggling to find the words for. I couldn't say it any better. Thank you.

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  48. Brutally, beautifully honest. My husband and I are the parents of 21 children -- 17 adopted, most with special needs -- and the founders and directors of an adoption ministry. Our first adoption was from Bolivia in 1998. We lived with missionaries during our weeks there and watched their lives, day in and day out. And it changed us. Now, with our own little "mission field" here in our home, we actually experience quite a few things expressed here. Even though we are still in the States, we - and our children - have become somewhat Green and don't really fit. And we fight these same human inclinations. Your honesty has been refreshingly encouraging this morning. Thank you.

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  49. Rarely do I read a blog with which I agree on so many points - gut-wrenchingly so! Still, I wouldn't trade what I do even for Dave Grant's supporter base!

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  50. We should get together. I'm a missionary too in Cochabamba.... 60117785

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  51. Thank you so much for sharing this article. My husband and I are missionaries in Japan. Thankfully, since we are sent out by a German mission agency, #4 is not a problem. Germans are really good at managing funds and making sure they shoulder the burden of raising funds for their missionaries. I am really bothered to the extreme at how much American mission agencies require folks to raise, that they do not share the burden of fund-raising ("it's all up to you to sell yourself" mentality), and how missionaries become so stressed traveling all over the country to raise funds. I am blessed and thankful that we were not responsible for calling up churches and asking for funds - our mission agency did that for us and helped us along the way. I'm not saying we didn't have to do fund-raising but we didn't feel like we were out there alone, raising all the support by ourselves. The more I hear about the way things are run in the US regarding support raising for missionaries the sadder I feel. For example, I have dear friends who are "stuck" in the States because their support ran out and every church they call never returns their calls...and their hearts are broken because they want to be in Japan!!

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  52. Thank you for posting this! I'm not a missionary, but now that we know this list, we can hopefully be better at trying to bless those that are. This really touched my heart! God bless you! And thank you for serving Him with your life!

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  53. Joe, you are simply amazing! I have never read a blog with so many "comments" and at this time there are 57. All of those responses between 8/24 and 9/21--less than a month!
    You are an excellent writer and every missionary who finds out about your blog will want to read it. Your critical thinking skills are far above average so I have to say that much of what you have put into words are thoughts I have entertained but could not express.
    Coming "home" after 7 years on the mission field, when I had not planned to, but God insisted and arguing with Him didn't work. I was hit "head-on" with an unusual set of circumstances; then I understood why God had brought me back. Seven relatives and close friends passed during the next 8 weeks.
    God had me leave Ethiopia. Then when I realized it was not just for a visit, I felt the fabric of my life had been torn and could not be mended. A missionary friend, who is a psychiatrist, explained that leaving the mission field is a major grief process in itself; called "disenfranchised grief."
    Try explaining that to those who have not been in your shoes. You probably can, I tried and couldn't.
    I'll be sending your blog address to our mission's pastor and youth pastor who have been on short-term trips and may not be able to relate but believe me when I say that these are great people who love serving God and He is doing great things through them. So, if they can get their heads around this it will make a difference for missionaries in the body we are a part of, especially, for the M.K.s who feel "different," as one M.K. shared with me. One thing is for sure, Missionary families are always in transition it's not easy. By the way thanks for sharing the video. Your girls show such compassion for the poor and they were precious in expressing their reasons for wanting to raise $10,000 to build a church for a community in Bolivia. So happy they reached their goal. Congratulations! Thank you for what your blog has taught me. Dee Donalson

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  54. taylor h. maxwell sr.September 30, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    My years in the "international" part of american business brought many of these "yellow green blue" issues into my life and the life of my family. We lived in England, Belgium, and Argentina. I spent much more time traveling in "foreign" countries as I worked, than being at home in the USA. My kids spent most of their formative years in other countries. We remember the difficulties of home leave, and having our kids at university in the USA when we lived in Argentina. I loved living in Argentina and only transferred back to the USA so my kids would/could feel that they were Americans not "green". My first exposure to missions and missionaries came via the families we met as we and they were part of the "American Community" of the country we lived in then. I left the big american company I was with and founded a small company to get FDA approval for the first "orphan drug". This allowed me to retire very early, not yet 50. Missions and Missionaries have been key parts of my church life since then. All of this is only to establish my "credentials" for commenting on the "overseas" life experience for American families. Many of these 10 points could be made by expatriates from the business world.
    Now that church/missions and missionaries are a big part of my life I think I can see how these points are indeed different for expatriate Pastors and church workers. For all involved in the missions efforts remembering/recognizing that we do not have a gift of the truth but only a poor approximation of reality, is necessary. An attitude of humility is the minimum we should bring to our thinking about working to advance his kingdom.

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  55. Joe I appreciate your authenticity in this post. However, I think you may want to re-think the following example:

    "Another part of this is that we really struggle with being judgmental over money. This just happened this week. I posted a need for our ministry. We would like to purchase some additional dental equipment to help with our evangelistic dental ministry. We need $700. At the same time, a friend of ours in the States who sings occasionally at coffee houses posted that he wanted to raise $4,000 to make a CD. We had $210 donated. He received $4,300. Really? I am not saying that he should not do this nor that it was wrong for him to raise money for it, but really? He got $4,300 to experiment with a CD and we could not raise $700 to help the poor hear about Jesus through dental missions. Really?"

    I think I know the person you're referring to... He is a gifted songwriter and singer who feels called and is passionate about sharing the gospel message in song. Obviously, others agreed enough to provide funding to produce another album and go on tour (yes, produce an album and tour the US for $4,300). That's less than many people ask for to go on short-term mission trips. In fact, he will most-likely have to cover much of the tour out of his own earnings but the $4,300 at least covered the production costs.

    Over the next six weeks he share the gospel with several thousand individuals in concert and his album will minister to untold more via Spotify and iTunes for years to come. This may be the means by which he’s able to start a career sharing the gospel message. It may also be just a short-term mission trip. But if I had to wager which investment would have more impact on lives between this album/tour and some dental equipment, I'd put my money on the former.

    The last time I checked, there are several teachings of Jesus encouraging us to use our talents to God's glory. I haven't found anyplace in Christ's teachings or Paul's that encourages people to take on full-time "ministry" roles. Even Paul worked on the side to support himself. Such roles came out Constantine instituting Christianity as a state religion and the deadly influx of Roman hierarchy and pagan traditions. We are all called priests with direct access to Jesus Christ and ALL commissioned to share the gospel message. Before criticizing someone else for asking for some assistance to help in their calling I'd careful to do some potential "plank pulling" self-analysis.

    Just because someone else is asking for help and they don't have the title of "pastor" or "missionary" in front of their name doesn't make their need any less worthy in God's eyes. The most important question to answer is whether or not those resources are going to be used for God's glory. If it is, I'd leave it the those contributing to decide to give "as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion." People gave $4,300 to this individual because they wanted to and believed in the mission and passion of that individual – not because they didn’t think people have dental needs.

    In this example, I think you misjudged the intentions of this individual. In the process you have promulgated the lie that something done outside of institutional ministry is less worthy than those requests coming from ordained or anointed sources. For the first issue I think you may owe that individual an apology as it did not go unnoticed. For the second issue, I think you need to seriously consider whether or not you see vocations outside of "full-time ministry" as mattering less to God. If you do, I'd encourage your to seriously examine what the Bible has to say about the role of "pastors" (found one time in the Bible as a role -- not office) and "missionaries" (not found at all).

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  56. This a response to Jon Tigges comment: Joe, you seem to have read far more into Joe's comparison of the response to the cd producer's request for financial assistance and his own request for help with the dental center. Joe's point was clearly and simply to illustrate how people's response to a missionary's need for financial partnership can tempt a missionary to be hurt, disappointed and even judgmental toward them. Joe clearly made NO judgment about the friend who was raising money to produce a cd. (Joe said NOTHING to indicate he was aware of the part about the "tour" that followed, yet that was a significant part of your argument condemning Joe for judging that friend.) In fact Joe said the opposite. He endorsed that friends prerogative to raise the needed funds. He brought up that illustration merely as an example of the kind of response missionaries often get to their requests for assistance that can cause us to get tripped up. Nor was Joe making any statement or judgment on which kind of vocation is more worthy of financial support. You put those words in his mouth. If any one owes someone an apology, in my view, you owe Joe one for adding a lot of straw to what Joe in fact said, and then judging that "straw man" for things he never actually claimed. And by the way, you are misinformed about whether Paul and Jesus encouraged full time vocational ministry. They both did in unmistakable ways, both in what they taught and in how they lived. Take a second long look at the record, sir.

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  57. You just brought me to tears. As a long term missionary I don't think I have ever read anything more profound or honest. Frankly I am tired because of your ten point, tired and disillusioned. I relate entirely with each of your points and those points often come up in dinner conversations with our fellow missionaries. I am scared to share this on my FB wall lest I am "judged" according to many of your points. I am from Australia but I can tell you that your points are universal. Thank you for this article which all should be mandatory reading for all churches and mission sending agencies!

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  58. I just read this for the first time. I read it to my wife, and my eldest daughter, who are sitting on the roof with me. As I read, I kept hearing things like, "Amen!", "That is exactly how it is!", "That would make a good sermon.", etc. When I finished my wife said, "That sounds like 'we' wrote it, and not someone else."

    These 10 points are spot on, and I appreciated reading it. I especially liked your story of the blue man going to the yellow man, and changing to become a green man, then returning home to not be understood, or liked because he was green and not blue. That has been my experience as a missionary. I have also noticed that missionary kids are 'green', and not blue or yellow, which is why they are not readily accepted, or seen as 'different' when they go to the states.
    We have been missionaries for 14 years in a third-world country, and we are no closer to being 'one of the people' than the first day we arrived. What has happened, though, is that we are no longer, 'one of the people' when we return 'home' now.
    We will forever be different because of surrendering to God's call to go overseas to reach a people other than our own. In some ways it is sad, but in others, we have grown because of the experience. We are usually, however, misunderstood by the people both here and there. The people in the states may say things like, "It's getting like that in the states too", or "We have that same problem here.". They just don't realize that it really isn't the same.
    Thank you, brother, for listing these 10 points. I could add somewhat to them, but think they are very complete just like they are. This is part of the price we pay to serve our Lord. The good thing is that He does get it, and He gives us the needed grace to go on. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness to us, even though we are so undeserving of His love. Stand firm, and stay faithful.

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  59. Amazing, well written, convicting article...totally schooled me on what life is like for missionary families.Our family has a difficult time living in the American culture trying to hold to a biblical worldview. even within the church we often feel like strangers when we share the idea of eating meals together, having devotions,supporting missions etc. We have six adopted children, three are African American and they feel the difference living in suburban Chicago.
    Thanks for sharing truth, I am already concerned for a family we are trying to get to the mission field...will this be too difficult for their 3 young sons? Have they really been prepared for this by their agency?????

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  60. thank you for your post! your points were well thought out and written. I've been on the field for 11 years and have felt at one time or another each thing you wrote. The only thing I would add is that sometimes, like in my case, everyone including the sending agency got all passionate about sending us out but then they totally dropped the ball with missionary care along the way. All these emotional and spiritual issues many times have to be faced alone, or only with a spouse or family member. It is a very lonely journey. I'm glad His strength is made perfect in our weakness because if it werent for that we probably would have thrown in the towel. Except we are green now and can never go back to being blue

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  61. Thank you.... for expressing things I couldn't begin to put into words. While I don't understand all of it I do understand feeling like I have to preform or look a certain way so that people will keep on giving. I have friends who are looking into going over seas and I know this has opened my eyes to things that I can do to be a blessing to them. So thank you.

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  62. You put it VERY well! THANK you for saying what we can't! On the field 30+ years

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  63. AMEN!!!!!! The things we do as missionaries to 'look good' to supporters....well said!!!!!

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  64. I have a brother who became a missionary in his own country, enjoys a good life standard comparing to the average peruvian citizen, takes vacations several times a year to exotic destinations, keeps sending his letters of support and the saddest part is that when our father was dying, he was too busy to be with him and care for him, as every dying parent deserves to be care for, I dont hate him, I feel sorry for his soul and it makes me sick that he hides this double life from his donating church going christians, that support him and his family.....

    I had the impression that a missionary is exactly what you describe, so I am glad I found your post. I do believe in God but him and other people I know behave the same way and that made me realize that God and money dont mix well...

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  65. My husband and I are missionaries in Poland and I can sooooo identify with this! Sadly, it's mainly missionaries who read these posts.

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  66. Wow, reading this brought tears to my eyes! I am fairly new to the mission field and this describes how my first couple years have been. Most months I have had serious struggles just being able to feed myself, much less being able to do anything else. I have contacted many churches about giving, but the funds never come in. I do feel that I have been "lost" in the eyes of friends and churches back in America. I will return to the US in December for a couple weeks to meet with some new potential donors. This post gives me a little insight on what to expect. Thanks for writing and putting into words what I've been struggling to post.

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  67. We spent time in Guatemala as missionaries. I know exactly how you feel. We felt all those same emotions. Well said.

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  68. Great article, I can completely agree with everything you said, I don't have kids or am married yet, but when I am and do have kids I am sure every single one will ring true. I have been serving in missions for 10 years now, and have on more than one occasion (pretty much daily) struggled with several of these on this list. Thank you for sharing this. It is extremely tough being a missionary, and so very uncomfortable in many areas. BUT I love what I do, and would not change it for the world. :)

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  69. How honest and brave you are, and how sad it is to realize our unawareness about the big sacrifice it implies to be a missionary. I pray that our Lord change his church's mentality about this topic and teach us to love and serve better to whom devote their lifes to this ministry. God bless you and your family.

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  70. My husband and I serve as MSC missionaries for NAMB, so we're self-funded. While I can't relate to the living in a foreign country parts, I can *so* relate to any of the points regarding money and fund raising. Aye yi yi! Thanks for being willing to share so candidly! :)

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  71. This is exactly why I will never follow my parent's footsteps and never set foot in ministry.

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    1. That's so sad. I experienced all of these things too, but serving in ministry is a deeply satisfying thing to do. Of course, you need to do what God is calling you to and be in His will, whether that is in full-time ministry or not. Blessings to you!

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  72. I am a missionary wife. I find that as the years pass there are even more things that supporters tell you are not allowed to be talked about - one are is health needs. Most people don't understand that living in a different country also means new exposure to different diseases- different allergens - different bacterias - different water - etc. People don't understand the difficulties of living near cement factories - not having paved roads- dust and all the stray dogs leaving treasures on your doorstep each night that you have to clean up each day. If a family is sick a lot - b/c of these things - we only ask you for prayer - we don't want to be judged and we don't want to be told that b/c we are sick all the time we are sinning in our lives (remind you of Job's friends?). We ask b/c we need prayer and are on the front lines. So now for 3 months I haven't asked for prayer for health reasons for my family in social media or in prayer updates. It is sad how little we can share these days and receive a positive response.

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  74. Jonathan White jwhite@motorsformissions.orgJanuary 24, 2016 at 10:51 AM

    Growing up an MK and now having been on the field for over 20 years I can relate to everything that Joe said. Each family or individual may have variations of these issues but ultimately you still experience them in one way or another. My wife 4 daughters and I have now been on furlough 5 times. This particular furlough God has led me to talk exactly about these things. I have called it "Trench Talk" What missionaries say about you after they leave your church. It has been amazing! I have found that most people have never considered what we feel or experience. We should be take care to educate them more than we do. I like how one of you said that a missionary pastor is a notch above a regular pastor. If this is so, we need to minister to this particular area of the church boldly and confidently. How do we do this? you may ask. Easy... I begin by asking if you (the individual christian) are a colleague or just a spectator. When a christian is active doing what God gave them to do no matter where they are geographically, they understand a missionaries passion and resolve. Albeit the circumstances are different, but the job is the same; winning others to Christ. So basically it is a call to look inward at what you are not doing for Christ. I ask what their video or presentation would look like if they were presenting in that particular service?? This can be done with authority and kindness if you are convinced of your own calling and ministry. Forget the offering! Remember that God honors those that seek him, and our supporters need to know these things if we have any plans or dreams of staying on the field for much longer. Never feel that you as a missionary are "sub par" or "second class" when compared to any ministry back in the blue country.
    This would be a great venue to put together ideas on how our supporters can be involved without becoming burdensome to us. I, like most of you have to much to do to be able sit at my desk on Facebook or answering letters all day. And honestly it only last for a short while as the author has already suggested. Also it would be beneficial to all of us who participate to have a solid message when visiting supporters and answering questions. You will find that we have been put into a mold over the years, and this has been the cause of much discouragement and failure on the field for many missionaries. It's time for change. As we have been trained to do our job, the church needs to be reminded of theirs and have their eyes opened to reality. I trust God blesses each of you, and thank you Brother Joe for this new revolution! God bless

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  75. A response to Joel Holman, missionary in Bolivia.

    I have read with much interest your very honest article of the frustrations and disappointments of missionary life.

    After serving for over 15 years in Cambodia, I relate to a number of areas you mention.

    However, I cannot agree with everything.

    You write: ‘2. It is lonely and your friends and Family from the States have forgotten You.’

    Interestingly for me, I have found the opposite: My friends and family back in France have not forgotten me. Every time I go back to France I get a fantastic welcome, invitations to eat out and to preach at all kinds of churches and youth events. On the other hand, since I moved to Northern Cambodia 6 months ago (after 14 years in the capital city), I feel I have almost been forgotten. Christmas and New Year this year were particularly hard. No invitation for a meal. No phone calls.

    You write: ‘4. We never have enough money but feel guilty asking for it.
    Missionaries ask for money. We have to.’

    Who said so? I don’t want to sound too spiritual here but since 1999, I have always had enough money for myself and for the various ministries I was involved with. And I have never asked for money.
    WEC, the mission I was brought up with in France and with whom I served for most of my time Cambodia still follows the faith principle that led to its birth over a century ago: ‘Make your needs knows to no one but to God. If God sends you, He will surely provide’. Thousands of WEC missionaries around the world today are witnesses to this truth.

    You write: ‘5. We feel like our children are getting shortchanged by our choice.’

    For me, growing up as a Missionary Kid in France was not only a wonderful experience but also a great privilege. WEC International, some years ago made a survey worldwide asking young adults who had been raised on the mission field ( most of them in third world countries) if they had any regrets. The vast majority responded that if they had to do it all over again, they would gladly do! So for those parents out there planning to take your kids to a far distance land: Rejoice! You are the lucky ones: You’re about to move into a fantastic adventure of faith!

    You write: ‘9. Going to the States is hard.
    We also want to visit and spend time
    with our donors and churches, but
    making that happen is so hard when we
    have donors in 12 different states.’

    Hey! You don’t have to go back home to visit your donors. If the reason of going on furlough is to raise funds and see all your donors then you’re on the wrong track Joel!
    In the last 15 years, I have made dozens of trips overseas all every continent. I never go to on a ‘fund raising tour’. I have always gone to stir others out there in move into overseas mission where people, 2000 years since the birth of Christ, have still never heard the Gospel. If you go on furlough for that reason, you don’t have to worry about money. God will take care of it.

    You write: ‘We actually asked a person
    out for dinner, a person who had been a
    friend before going to the mission field.
    Their response was, ‘We don’t have any
    money to give you.” They REALLY said
    that!’

    Well Joel, I’m not surprise to what that friend of yours said. People are not stupid. They can smell if the reason of your coming back to America is to raise funds.
    Next time you go to the States, don’t even make fund raising one of your goals.

    You write: ‘but we feel like you don’t want
    to be our friend.’ That very last sentence of your article Joel is depressing.

    I know missionary life can be difficult at times but, I come on, I’m sure you wouldn't swap it for anything else.

    God bless you Joel as you keep on serving Him in Bolivia.

    Timothée Paton



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    1. Most mission sending agencies require you to go home at stated intervals to raise money. I have never heard of one that didn't.

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    2. There are several large mission agencies that do not require fundraising, supporting missionaries from a large central fund, actually. This was not the type I was raised a part of but they do exist. The theological belief of not making needs known to amyone but God was something George Mueller did, as well. I'm not sure how many mission agencies are centered around this approach but it is uncommon in my circle of MKs and mission experience. Interesting perspectives, though I feel some judgement from Timothée towards Joe's (and might I say a majority of the responders) personal experience.

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    3. You are in the very tiny minority.

      As an MK, yes, I would do it again. But that doesn't mean that growing up as an MK is all roses. I will never be normal. I will never fit in or belong, I will never have deep friendships. I lost out on a basketball scholarship to college because my parents are missionaries. Being an MK is a very lonely thing.

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    4. My parents' mission agency was one of the ones that didn't require them to raise their own money. ...and then you face a stigma from all the other missionaries on the field who DO have to raise money. We were considered the "wealthy" missionaries. Even though we were hardly that.

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    5. This response and the replies to it really show the difference in US world outlook and European. In the US it seems hard for people to look outside of themselves and their world to see the needs​ of others. In European countries, they are already giving a much larger portion of their salaries to the government for the greater good. Perhaps it is easier to part with what is left for spreading God's love.

      Maybe there mission boards in the US could realize this additional need and recruit people to specifically raised funds for missionaries. It seems terrible that missionaries are doing the work in the field and have to come home to beg God's church to finance it. Surely someone else has a gift for fund raising and would be much more suited to do so than a tired and weary missionary returning for rest and revitalization.

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  76. I as a Christian do totally get it. The part I don't get is the many many people in the states that also need more than a Sunday morning visit to their church. I have been disabled for 16 years and have been hospitalized too many times to count. I have in the last 16 years had ONE person of Christ actually visit with me in the hospital or at home. My health has gone down hill dramatically but still I worship my Lord and Savior every day without fail except when I was in intensive care for 14 days when my lungs dropped not collapsed but tore away due to an outpatient surgery gone bad. The point I am trying to make is that the parents of missionaries go through very rough times themselves. The states are no longer a place of moral majority (I think that's what the U.S. was known as)with our government going crazy with liberalism, genderless restrooms in our public schools as mandated by our President, Gay marriage is now legal in every state, we have cities that are wastelands and people are forced to live in the squalor, homeless people on the street corners begging for work or money or food.
    I could go on and on but I don't think I should have to. I have been at odds with my missionary child also. It is a difficult life. I still have a daughter in public schools with the genderless restroom and locker rooms and a 23 year old son still in college racking up so much in student loans that he may never be able to pay back. He went to a University to become a part of law enforcement but now that the police have targets on their backs for doing their job he has changed his major to computer science cyber crime. For those that don't know ...race relations have gone south. The police are now going to jail for "treating" criminals roughly or some other trumped up charge. The friends I have had in law enforcement over the years were never paid anywhere near what a typical factory worker makes. One Police Officer that was a good friend got hurt in the line of duty and the insurance he had was not enough to cover his hospital bills let alone his therapy and his wife put a post on Facebook to try to get donations to help with medical bills and living expenses. Oh yes I mentioned that I had five children so here goes... one is still at home in the 9th grade, then my son in college, then my son that lost his job he worked at for 5 years due to a mix-up in medical leave paperwork so he now lives about 1200 miles from us with friends that helped him find employment, then there is my missionary child and my 5 year old grandchild and her husband ( I have not heard her voice or seen my grandchild in over 3 years now)they are coming home for a furlough and will have one day set aside to visit me her father, last but not least my oldest son that is married also and has a daughter that is almost 12 and a son soon to be 5. He has lived about 40 miles from me for the last 20 years and most of that time with his mother and stepfather because he has had a tough time holding a job. I have not seen them in almost three years either why I don't know or maybe he doesn't feel comfortable with his disabled father and my disabled wife.
    Again, missionary work is a very stressful calling but sometimes I think that some missionaries forget how tough it can be for their relatives and friends. Especially when the only communication we have had with our daughter has been through her blog or an occasional post on Facebook neither is personal communication but is always public.
    I am not tryin to belittle the people that are doing Gods work but it would be nice to have missionaries here in the states instead of all of these mega Sunday churches (they are popping up everywhere in the well to do areas of town) that forget you after the doxology. You are all to be commended for your sacrifice but please open the eyes of your sponsoring congregations to what is happening in their own back yard.
    Thank you and God Bless
    PS: I had to edit this down due to the character limit so some thing might not be in the right order.

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  77. My son answered the call to be a missionary to Honduras 5 years ago after going on a medical missions trip. He came back to the states with his young wife but they left their hearts there on the mission field. They immediately started their journey on deputation and raised their support in a short year and a half. They have now served the Lord there for over three years and have added two beautiful sons to their happy family. Words cannot express how blessed I feel to have my children love the Lord so much. In the time they have been there I have witnessed the very things you have written Joe. It is not an easy way of life. In the beginning they struggled with the culture shock. You can never truly prepare yourself for the changes in lifestyle you experience. The language barrier was also difficult and very frustrating for them. They battled all of these things with Gods help and never complained. The hardest thing through all of this were exactly the things you stated in your blog. #4 not so much because the children are still very young. The three year old has picked up a lot of Spanish phrases which we feel is a great blessing. As a mother my heart has broken several times over for the pain I have personally witnessed them experience. They have said very little and have kept their faith in the work God has given them to do but I have seen the hurt. It's personal when it's your child. I have been blessed to visit on several occasions and the stories that I have been able to share with so many at home are unthinkable yet the expectations are still there. I could go on and on but I won't. I wanted to thank you so much for saying some things "out loud" that so many need to hear.

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  78. We live in the USA, in a small house. We do not make much money. One year, we ate nothing but cold cereal and potatoes, and my kids struggled with envy when they saw the kids of missionaries we supported eating better than we did. We have relocated often due to my husband's profession. We make friends in each place, and when we leave, they forget all about us. We work hard within the churches we join in each place. But we are always considered outsiders. I spent most of my adult life away from my family - and when we came to visit, people didn't know what to say to us. They didn't know us anymore. We have never taken a fancy vacation. A small inheritance we received was used to help with the bills. All our our vacations have either been to visit "home" or going camping - not in a RV. My point is, there are people everywhere doing their best to live for the Lord, facing the same issues in different places. If you are a missionary in another culture, or a Christian doing his best in the USA - we have to stop thinking life is better in someone else's house. If we follow Christ, we all have hardship of one kind or another. It's different, but it's real for all of us. I'm sorry you can't see your kids, and that you missed saying goodbye to your parent. Very few things are more challenging than that kind of grief. But there are people in the USA who also experience that, who can't afford plane fare and who have to make the long drive for that - and also miss out. We were missionaries outside the USA long ago. After that, we returned to the USA as our mission field. But we are often more at home with the internationals we host. When you look out at the congregation listening to your missions report, think of us. May God bless you abundantly for responding to His call.

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  79. Thank you for sharing... know there are pastor's and their families struggling with much of those very same things. Watching members do things the pastor themselves can't afford. We have only had 2 real vacations in 20 yeara and we had to ask the church to help us afford the cost to stay on one of those, and we felt guilty for awhile. The other was some money came in we were not expecting.
    It is difficult to be in US churches preaching and teaching truth to people who are not willing to be true biblical disciples. It is taxing. We have heard stories with our missionaries and have said we wish we could go to a foreign land where people are ready and willing to hear the gospel and act on it. We just want to be around people who want to do something for Christ's Kingdom not warm a pew. With so much prosperity in the states, it is difficult for the pastor and his family who truly are devoted to giving themselves and try to live out the gospel, it is lonely.
    We personally have a heart for our missionaries. We have experienced loving and kind ones who we have gotten close to and arrogant untouchables. No matter what I think the truth is both have insecurities and feelings like some pastors. We need to unify together and find joy in serving and lifting each other up when we get a chance. I know we have been pastoring the current church for 5 years Nad my husband always tries to get in touch with our missionaries. There is one who will not contact us back. Even the sending church won't return our call. We still support them. We desire to get to know each one. The true ministry of Christ is tough!
    I am so glad you could share. Sometimes we don't see the struggles others have too. May the Lord bless your ministries.

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  80. We have been on the mission field for 30 years and have felt and experienced all of these things. Our four grown children are in the USA and our grand children are there, also. Good-bye is harder than ever. I really relate to the part of the article that says that people do not feel comfortable around us. Some of our churches - when we set up our display table (and we have some awesome stuff on our display table - after all it has been 30 years) - people literally leave the church looking the other way like they do not want to even think about communicating with us - or pick up a prayer card. That really hurts. We are in our 60's and thinking about retirement in another 7 years (at 70). I now understand why there are places like "missionary acres" - because it is probably more comfortable to pass your days with people who understand your life and how being green is OK. Thanks for saying what most of us would never, ever say. Missionary to Brazil


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  81. Veteran missionaries for 31 yearsMay 26, 2017 at 8:19 AM

    Joe,
    Thank you for putting on paper what the rest of us feel but can't verbalize so beautifully. The points you listed can all add up to one word: DISCOURAGEMENT. But missionaries who stay long term on the field have learned to move beyond all the loneliness and heart-breaks and keep serving the Lord. I would say we put all those things in a compartment and don't visit there very often, if at all. We have learned to put our energies into the work rather than sitting around thinking about all we are missing or how our lives are different. One point we have to disagree on is that our children were shortchanged by our choice to be missionaries. This is completely untrue and I believe our four sons would say the same thing. We never ever gave our children this idea because we served God as a family and loved doing it. We never yearned for home and what we were "missing" by not being in the US. As a result, we have 3 sons now serving as missionaries also and a fourth son who just completed his Bible college training and will most likely head in that direction also. All the sacrifices we have made as missionaries are nothing compared to what Christ sacrificed for us on the cross. Thanks for sharing your heart. We pray that your 10 points will be read by many and will open eyes to what is really in our hearts. At the very least, maybe people will be more sensitive to our needs and pray for us more fervently.

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    1. I completely agree to your response dear brethren. We really need to compartmentalize or even better 'detach' which only the Holy Spirit can help us and he really does. For me where i have been planted is 'Home'. Doing God's work is what thrills me and i have no time to dwell on expectations from people back 'there' from where i hail. The struggle that Joe and many of us face - spirit Vs flesh can only be overcome through spending time in the presence of the Lord in Word & Worship...and constantly pray for your donors and supporters no matter what as there is an invisible enemy who wants to plant thoughts in their head and corrupt their understanding as we are damaging that enemy's kingdom through missions... For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but... and the weapons we use are not carnal but divine to pull down such strongholds of negativity in the minds of people around us..

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  82. Joe, you are not the first to say or write many of these things, HOWEVER, thanks for having the courage to say them and then put your name on it! After 27 years on the field, it just doesn't get easier. Just today, I am remembering yesterday and thinking I never want to have to repeat it! We had more personal conflicts during the day that we have had in a month of Sundays, then at the end of the day, our daughter called form the states to talk to her mother about a pain she had. Well, 8 hours later and she is in hospital and having her appendix out. It never gets easier. Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. Kinda left us feeling like we should been married on a different day,...Any way. Thanks. I will be sharing this. Alan Hart, Mozambique, Africa

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  83. Joe,
    I had no idea missionaries felt this way! Every time I went to a missionary conference, I have thought that being a missionary must not be very hard. I guess the reality is that it's nowhere near easy. You have given me a LOT to think about! I will never view missionaries the same way I used to.
    Thanks so much for opening my eyes.
    Anonymous.

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  84. Joe,you nailed it! This should be shared with missionaries going on the field to prepare them for feelings they may encounter. As a former missionary for 10 years in Bolivia myself, this was the best analysis I have ever read.
    You described my feelings completely. I'm printing in case I can help some one in the future...

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  85. Thanks for being honest Joe. Been on the field for 10 + years in Asia. Each of the 10 points certainly has merit and that merit varies depending upon our circumstances. So here's a little feedback on ones that were a bit different for us:

    4. We never have enough money but feel guilty asking for it.

    We're with YWAM, so fund raising has always been a part of our life. Early on I had to get over begging for money. I realized that I was actually being sent out by our church and caring individuals as an extension of their lives. That I was no less of a minister, than the pastor at our church that the community was supporting locally. The rub was the "out of sight out of mind" feeling that you also mentioned. That tangible feeling creeps into our perception that we're second string, wherein fact we are at the vanguard of the stated mission of the church and the supply-line needs to remain intact at all costs.

    Now some might think, "that 'aint true with my church(es), I'm lucky to get 5 minutes with them when I traipse back home." But here's the key, the above is what I BELIEVE and it's what I take to the Lord as my offering when I'm weak, tired and wrung-out. He then fills me ever so tenderly in different ways. When the supply-line seems to be waning, the Lord is there and will answer. And perhaps that answer is, "your time is up, I have a new season for you." But in our case, He reminds me that He is in control and to rest in Him.

    Yeah my default is to be pretty frugal, but I've loosened-up to realize it's important to take breaks. We planned a 1 year sabbatical at our ninth year and it wasn't cheap either, but Papa came through, we just had to get over the fear of man thing and invest in our family which has paid dividends by both of our older boys doing their gap year as YWAM missionaries.

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  86. Here's the rest:

    7. We hate being judged by a standard that our judges do not follow.

    I grew up in a mainline denomination and your description on this point was perfect for that era. But we were sent by a small to mid-sized family oriented conservative church that took missions seriously for decades, so there was a culture of missions we could relate to, even though our particular calling was not standard, it was welcome. So yes, there was a strong concern that we were going to unreached and we have stuck to answering that concern through thick and thin. There has never been any "calling on the carpet" because we send monthly pictorial newsletters out and we get a month a year where the church is praying for us each Sunday and connecting with us more specifically.

    9. Going to the States is hard.

    For most, this is very true. We live in Chiang Mai Thailand, the largest hub of missionaries in all of Asia. So we see it constantly. Fortunately, we have supporter families that have been very gracious to us when we come back and allow us their summer homes up in our mountain community to stay in without too much having to unsettle, and when we do, we time our trips down the coast to visit others. So for us, we try not to do too much each time we go back. Sometimes we make the big road trip, other times, we stay put and recharge.

    10. I constantly feel like I have to prove myself to you.

    This "fear of man" root does hang over every missionary's head. Some more than others. Fortunately, we have a lot of supporters who give a little and a few who give a lot. So when one has to bow out, it's not that bad. Also, we started in missions after we built a home and had kids. So now, we have a small home in our home town that's bought and paid for and we supplement our budget with the long-term lease of our home. Plus we have something to come home to when we relocate back. Not to toot our horn, but having a home base is healthy for the family long term. Our boys pretty much know where mom and dad will land one day, and that their kids have a place to come to as well. So, we don't feel the pressure so much as others do from the practical side and also from the personal side, although, we do have to show what we've been up to, what we're up against and how they can pray for us.

    I hope or little stories here have been helpful to other M's out there!

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  87. What a great article! We were a military family for 21 years and know what it's like to be away from family in other countries but that's where the similarities end. Now we run a recovery ministry and can find the same need to prove ourselves and our needs for the ministry at times. You, and other missionaries, do what most do not want to do...get out of their comfort zone and leave their comfy lifestyle. You walk the walk of Christ who didn't even have a place to lay His head. On top of that you have human emotions that come out at times just like everyone else. Even the disciples weren't the greatest group of men at timez but Christ trained and utilized them to do His work. Thanks to all missionaries for stepping up to the plate and doing what many won't do. God will bless you for your work.

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  88. My wife and I are working in Guatemala and every single thing you wrote is exactly true for us. I am sharing this to our FB page. Thanks for writing it.

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  89. This article is really really good. Provides a lot of perspective that those 'back home' never think about. Being a Missionary is one of the most substantial sacrifices I can even think of. Few people who have never encountered the reality of it closely have even a basic understanding of its realities (my Brother and his family are Missionaries currently in the field). This very well-though-out (and brave) article provides a glimpse into the harsh realities of putting your Selfless Service to Christ before your own needs... every single day. I have the utmost respect for all who serve in the Mission field throughout the world. Truly, they are God's hands and feet and yet, ironically, they are held to a higher standard than anyone back home upon whom they rely to continue their vital ministry.

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  90. Have you had this experience? A returning missionary is a bum! I did. I was also informed by my congregation that I was NOT their missionary. I really think missionaries are better off as tentmakers. Then you are no one's employee but God's.

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  91. Have you had this experience? A returning missionary is a bum! I did. I was also informed by my congregation that I was NOT their missionary. I really think missionaries are better off as tentmakers. Then you are no one's employee but God's.

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  92. Have you had this experience? A returning missionary is a bum! I did. I was also informed by my congregation that I was NOT their missionary. I really think missionaries are better off as tentmakers. Then you are no one's employee but God's.

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  93. The fact that so many here posted as Anonymous tells a lot. There are many struggles that our supporters will never understand. I'm retired now, after 30 years of being overseas. And I wish some things would have been different. I wish I had taken more time to spend time sitting with Jesus, reflecting, in solitude. I wish I had spent more time with unbelievers. I wish I had rested more and taken vacations each year. I wish I hadn't been so sensitive to the thought of being a failure.

    I spent a lot of time driven to produce results, to impress my co-workers, and my supporters. Since we had monthly reports to the mission headquarters and to field leaders and monthly reports to supporters, it was difficult not to focus on results. We had an annual conference of all mission workers, an annual meeting with field workers and an annual strategy meeting. And of course the biennial support-raising trip. Not to mention involvement with the local church. I left the USA for evangelism, but so much of my year was spent with Christians.

    I understand very clearly why accountability is necessary. I thought about it a lot and I couldn't personally find a way around all the meetings.
    But now that I'm retired all that has changed. I have many hours to spend with God. And many hours to spend with unbelievers and new believers. I see God working in a way now that thrills me. I'm not going to draw any conclusions here. I'm just stating my experiences.

    And I no longer have to hide my vacations (cheap as they were.) Now I tend to holiday with my unbelieving friends, because...what a fantastic opportunity!! I have dear Christian friends and I have unbelieving friends and the quality of my time with them only God could create.

    I urge the dear people who have posted before me... use every chance you get to be in God's presence and to hang out with you believers. Maybe you'll find a way around the suffocating number of meetings on the field and in the USA, to do more of the ministry you love to do. Maybe you'll find a way to experience the love of God so deeply that the fear of rejection by home churches, mission agencies and individuals can't take hold of you. The Lord Jesus Christ is offering a life that you're made for. And you'll love it. I hope you find that out sooner than I did!!

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    1. PS No, my supporter, I do NOT want to live in your basement for 2 months of deputation. I love you, and I love your heart of generosity. But, no.

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  94. You nailed it. I am an MK (still can't bring myself to an adult acronym like ATCK haha!) who grew up in France for 16 years. My dad was one of the pastor missionaries that you mentioned. The experience for me of being a PK/MK, and the pressure of all of these things that you mentioned, compounded with my dad's adultery with a female supporter, all have led to my feeling of disgust for missions for myself. I feel jaded and unable to imagine choosing this life for myself. I am now married to another MK and have three children and still struggle with disillusionment with my faith and missions in general. We support many missionaries but cannot see ourselves ever choosing this path. Business as missions seems much more appealing to us, after our combined experiences with fundraising, support-raising missions.

    Also, growing up in a country where I physically blended in was different than your experience and all those who live in a country where physical differences are apparent, YET I struggle in both settings with expectations to understand cultural context, whereas in both I feel inadequate.
    There are many things I love and cherish about being an MK but it's true that I compartmentalize this part of it because it's so hard to explain and so ugly...

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  95. I agree on all points. I've been a missionary for over 20 years. We also 'hide' our vacations or trips because we know some will judge us. I can cry when our donors feel the need to manipulate us. (For example, we have to host/entertain them for 4-14 days). Our oldest child is 9, and most of her life she has been wearing used clothing. Nothing really wrong with, but yesterday I bought her brand new Sketchers running shoes, (70% off!!). I felt very much guilty! I think 'guilt' is something every missionary frequently deals with. Thank you for the great article!

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  96. Wow! What an incredible article! This puts into words the feelings I've had as a missionary but never have been able to put into words myself. Thank you for writing such a beautifully worded article that gives such great insight into the life of a missionary!

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  97. Empathy by the truck load.

    Joshua, serving in Kenya

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  98. Thank you for your honesty. My husband and I operated a retreat facility for missionaries for 12 years and then became missionaries ourselves. I agree that missionary life gets lonely. I also agree that friends forget and move one. We haven't experienced the control issues from missions boards or supporting churches, but have heard difficult stories like you shared. Your blog served as a reminder for me to pray for other missionaries. Sometimes we get so caught up in the work that we're doing that we forget others might be facing the similar issues. Who better to remember missionaries in prayer than other missionaries who can understand and have compassion. Blessings.

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  99. Great article! I'm an MK. Let me just say being a missionary is your choice. Being an MK is not a choice.

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  100. I have lived in SE Asia for 25+ years. People tell me that I don't need so much money because things are cheaper here. When I came here (before internet), one minute phone calls to the States cost $2. Cars are still more expensive here than in the States...please note that I do not call the States home. I too am afraid to post this for fear some of my supporters will be offended. But God supplies my needs. I do get jealous when I see people take vacations. I took a one week vacation within my country of ministry a couple years ago. I get away for a weekend in the capital (of my country) about 4 times a year. I would love to go on a cruise. I suppose I could. But at the expense of what? Not helping out others who have needs as well. I know people in the States have expenses, but what happened to even a small $10 gift even once every three months.
    Going to the States is a marathon run for me, not a vacation. I might get a few days off, less than a week, but I drive more than 1,000 miles.
    Thank you for your article. I apologize for the rant. But I teared up when I read your article.

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  101. I relate to what you're saying. I haven't experienced any pressure or anything negative from supporters or friends in the States. But, I find myself putting lots of pressure on myself to perform. It's a combination of my work ethic and my American view of time/tasks. I also worry about posting too many pictures of me having fun! It has been an internal challenge for me to learn how to be a missionary and not an American. What I mean by that is that missionaries serve and Americans work. God has blessed us with a home church and pastors who encourage us to find balance between ministry and family, so we can build a sustainable long-term life.

    The transiency of ministry friendships is tough because relationships dissipate into long-distance with a simple good-bye. I have a motto, which is to love the ones I'm with.

    One of the most difficult transitions is going from having a support structure of friends, Bible studies, and church events back home to starting from scratch in a foreign culture.

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  102. Wow brother! We have never met but, we belong to the same family. I have been on the field for 8 years in central America and totally relate. Thanks fir sharing this and writing what I think many of us M's are afraid to write. It is hard to feel misunderstood all the time, to feel like an outsider, and feel forgotten. It is even harder to share how we really feel when just sharing this with some people Will end up being the last nail in the coffin with our relationships. I personally know a few pastors that would relate to many of the things on the list, especially feeling like they have to constantly impress. It really makes me think that there is something fundementally wrong about the church in the USA that both pastors and missionaries struggle so much feeling ostracized and stressed/depressed. If I could add anything to what you wrote, besides saying that I totally agree and relate, it would be to say that God has acted miraculously and inspite of all these things, consistently provided, comforted, and guided. He is soooo good, it really makes up for everything else! And, being so in need really makes us that much more sensitive and dependent on Him!Often I feel like he has given me the privilege of understanding just a fraction of his suffering as the 'original missionary'. Also, we are in great company - fellow missionaries - and every prophet from the OT knows what it is like!

    Thank you brother and please pray for us too! God bless you!!!

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  103. I've been a Missionary to Croatia for the past 17 Years... I am Married to a national, have bilingual, biracial Children... I completely relate... being Married to a national doesn't really help... doesn't make me theirs but then Americans and other missionaries here don't really consider me a Missionary anymore. My Children have a hard time with English and Croatian Because neither is exactly perfect... It's hard. Reading this rang such a chord in my heart. Thank you for Voicing this!

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  104. Joe, I work for a mission sending organization and wonder about sharing this article with people who travel with us on short term trips. Would you be okay with this proposal? - Bill E

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  105. Thank you for sharing this very real take on missionaries, having left home in Jan 91 convinced I was called into missions but not being able to raise sufficient support to actually go, then ending up working at the home office instead and meeting a missionary coming to work in my home town and getting married, having laid aside my own vision and staying home, taking on my husband's instead. I had to deal with the disappointment of not going because of lack of support.... I had written several letters to family friends my church, not one response, I'd had 2 supporters,my poor mother and the husband of a missionary friend that kept me alive while serving locally. People do not understand missions sadly...
    In YWAM a MK (missionary kid) shared that people sent them all kinds of junk they did not need or want, old clothes, used tea bags......
    Now my husband after 22 years was led to return to his first world country and all you share in that regard is exactly our experience, even going as far as his family being uninterested in him..... Along with that we have been separated for nearly 8 months because I was requested to leave while they decide whether or not i can join my family of nearly 18 years, even though our daughter is special needs. So my husband is green and I and my daughter are yellow amongst a blue people who really do not want us there it is extremely difficult, had we known this we would not have opted to go but I guess this is the reason God keeps all the details from us.... Before this my husband was praying that he might share in the sufferings of Jesus,I knew better than to pray that but that did not exempt me from doing so,after all He left His home in glory and put aside His Deity and came to the Earth to His own who both knew Him not nor did they accept Him but rejected and crucified Him, He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief therefore surely He has born our own sorrows, having qualified by going before us, And been given a Name that is higher than any other that at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.... So what I'm trying to say is,...painful as it all is for us, Jesus knows it all and He sees and understands, our reward is not on this earth but will stand the test of refining fire with an eternal crown of Glory for the King of Kings!
    Oh and please understand Joe,I am not preaching to you but rather encouraging myself so that I can go on.... Bless you for sharing!

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  106. I understand now why Paul was a tent maker, that might be the ideal model for all of us.. God also calls people into business to support His work and His people so do not feel you have missed it if as an MK you cannot get yourself to be a missionary, your parents calling is not yours, do what your hand finds to do and do it for The King! Bless you.....

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  107. My husband and I are post-career missionaries, but we are stationed in the U.S. and travel outside of it, so I don't deal with EVERYTHING you are dealing with. We did live in South Asia for 4 months and that gave me just a tiny taste of your life. Your post brought tears to my eyes. THIS. IS. SO. TRUE. Thank you for your honesty. Thanks for letting us agree with you even though we can't express it to our support team. <3 God has a special blessing in store for you in Heaven.

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  108. I have been a missionary to Ecuador for the last 20 years. I came as a single and married a native. Even with that factor, I can still relate to all that you have said. I just went home for a couple of weeks. I cry everytime I leave. I was blessed to spend some special time with my brother. He seems to be sensitive to me in that he tried really hard to make the time count. God must have a special award in heaven for missionaries. His grace is still sufficient even though it is hard.

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  109. I have read all these comments and would just like to say that I am not a missionary in a foreign land but I am a missionary supporter. I try to write at least once a month to those we support. However, I find it difficult to know sometimes what to write about because a missionary's life is so different to ours. What would you like your supporters to write about so that you know you are not forgotten?
    Muriel

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    1. Muriel, as a former m who lived in a closed Muslim country for 6 years, I can tell you that the "out of sight, out of mind" from friends, family, and church was one of the most difficult factors to handle. It's true that you can't relate, but writing about what is going on in your life (including what God is doing, saying, etc.), indicating that you have actually READ their newsletter (most people don't seem to), and telling them how you are specifically praying for something that caught your attention would be truly helpful. Most people, if they even open a newsletter, don't respond. It feels like you're throwing effort and money into a black hole.
      In addition, I'd encourage you to do a little research into the place where they live. Ask a question or two about something, or just tell them what interests you in what you learn about the history, landscape, or people. Don't expect a lengthy reply, but know that your words of engagement will bless their hearts.

      We did have a woman in our church who was very quiet, whom we didn't know well at all. She became one of our biggest communicators and prayer supporters. She was kind enough to buy a new, high-quality coat for our toddler when we moved from Texas into a record-breaking, snowy winter location! We didn't realize how much of a sacrifice that was for her until we visited her quite modest home on furlough. But the biggest impact was from her communication. It was never long, but she consistently emailed a thoughtful response after our newsletters, sometimes waiting several days while praying over some of our requests. Her name was Terry, and though she is with the Lord, I remember her ministry to us.

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  110. This left me sad, frustrated and glad I read it. It shed light in the dark places that needed to be seen. Thank you!

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  111. 25 years on the mission field and have as yet to wait for an official visit from our pastor from our sending/home church. As a matter of fact I have not even had an email from him asking how we were. Almost nobody as written to us after the first couple of years, in spite of our monthly newsletters. Most of our support 95% comes from people outside our home/sending church. Churches have gotton new pastors who have new visions and our support stops. It has taken me many years to learn that it is not about church suport but individual support. In the end, the King will reward us.

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  112. Awesome blog! Been a missionary for 12 years and relate to every word. Sure we know what the Bible says and yes we live by faith but we are still human and we still have feelings. Thanks for putting it into words. Loved it!
    -Johnson Brazil

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  113. Wow, hearing you. We are at the beginning of a similar journey
    and know that your openness is already helping us.

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  114. Well written article. I am a missionary serving 28 years in Belgium and I can relate to most of what you've written. It is a gift from God that we are able to serve Him overseas, and such a blessing to serve people of such different cultures and language groups than our native ones. But, it is also a sacrifice. Please don't feel sorry for us missionaries or MKs, but try to reach out to accommodate us better. I belong to a wonderful missions-sending organization who has recently told us to take a vacation and to budget for it. What an understanding, supportive group they are.

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  115. Spencer Van Der Walt

    After being a missionary for nearly 20 years (16 in India) I can probably identify with nearly everything mentioned in this articel. But this is the conundrum we as missionries face: if we send this to our churches, supporters, we might be percieved as feeling sorry for ourselves! Eventually I take these things into my inner room and just lay them at the feet of my precious Jesus. Truly, the pain, the brokenness, the hurt and so often the feeling of being forgotten by everyone else no one will really and truly understand, BUT He does. He knows it all and when this life comes to it's conclusion He will wipe away every tear and every hurt and without a shadow of a doubt it all will be woth it! Truth be told, I wont change this awesome calling for anything in the world even when most people don't understand, even when family and friends see it as a "cop out from this world" or call us "professional beggars". When I meet my Saviour face to face everything else will not matter - etrenity is a long time!

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  116. I am not from US but I am a missionary serving from Africa serving in Afica. I almost cried when I read your blog. Thank you for letting us know that we share the same feelings with many other missionaries arround the world. My church abandoned us while we were at the mission field, a family of four, imagine such sadness.God helped us to overcome but the scars are still there as a reminder for us that, Him alone who sent us can understand well our sufferings. God bless you.

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  117. I am not from US but I am a missionary serving from Africa serving in Afica. I almost cried when I read your blog. Thank you for letting us know that we share the same feelings with many other missionaries arround the world. My church abandoned us while we were at the mission field, a family of four, imagine such sadness.God helped us to overcome but the scars are still there as a reminder for us that, Him alone who sent us can understand well our sufferings. God bless you.

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  118. Joe, I actually disagree with a lot of what you've posted here. But I understand. I've been there. I've complained. I practiced complaining way too much for too long. There's a poverty/Puritan spirit around anything missionary. So I empathize. But now, after 30 years of faith missions, falling all over myself trying to justify why I have new shoes or a car that doesn't have rust holes through the floor boards (I was given a car like that, and leaves blew in my face when I turned on the heat), I disagree with the poverty spirit. I have a warlike spirit about money now. If I go to war, I do not want old equipment or holes in my shoes. I want the best I can get for the price. I will not apologize for it. I'm on a mission, and it's war. So, I no longer feel guilty asking for financial support. I ask God first; then I ask the friend or even the new acquaintance, to join us in the war. I do not feel lonely. If I am alone, I cherish the time to rest and get restored for the next huge wave of ministry activity that keeps me so busy that I can't even cut my toenails. I understand loneliness in ministry, however. People are not quick to understand who you are and why you live the way you do, in the USA or out. I've lived in India, and I've lived here in this affluent beach community in South Jersey. Either way, people are likely to think there is something way more spiritual about you, simply because you have the title "missionary." People stop cussing when you walk in the room. They get quiet because they don't know what to say. They don't even want to grab a beer for fear you might catch them at a weak moment and begin confessing their sins to you or something. LOL. My children don't feel slighted in the least. My daughter played in the dirt and sold black rocks outside our Delhi flat so she could by sweets. Our three kids look back at our wild schedules and many travels with appreciation, even though they had awkward times trying to fit in with friends. Their peers could not begin to understand what it was like to live in India or to know people on five continents. It made them better people, with a much richer appreciation for life, for friends, for belongings, for clean water, for air conditioning, for the vast and multicultural family of God. We have traveled much, but we have vacationed very little. While in South Asia for extended ministry engagements, we cut out a few days to go to Penang to the beach for my wife's 40th birthday. On another birthday, between meetings, we stopped over for a night in Paris. We don't regret the travels or the lack of "vacations." My wife and I still hope to visit Italy. We had planned to go for our 25th anniversary, but then Mary's mom needed us to stay with her. We'll go another time. That's life; not just for missionaries.

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  119. Hey! I wrote about something like this recently, too! And blogs like yours have opened the way for me to be able to post blogs as well. My humble thanks.

    Blessings,
    Serving in Chile

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  120. As I read this blog, all I could wonder is "Joe are you really supposed to be involved in Mission Work?" I don't know what you do in your mission work, but you appear to be very disillusioned. My husband and I went on a mission trip for 1 year. We came home so disillusioned with Missions in general from what we saw during that time. The missionaries pretty much hung out with themselves most of the times, singing and praying and making small jobs into big jobs, and putting a huge emphasis on food and learning all the cultural foods etc. If anyone actually had a conversation with a non believer, it was a huge deal. Everyone (the missionaries) would all get called together and told the exact conversation as it had taken place. We frankly couldn't wait to get home and return to the secular world, where contact with nonbelievers happened every day in natural ways during our work.
    Maybe God is wanting to move you into something else Joe as you don't appear to be settled and happy with your life. Just a thought.

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    1. I'm sorry your experience with missions was so disillusioning. There are all different kinds of missionaries and mission organizations-what you've written is thankfully not what I've seen (I've spent my life overseas). Also missionaries are normal people, so they definitely mess up and do some things badly, I've met some pretty dysfunctional people both overseas and in the U.S.
      I do want to say that Joe started this post with disclaimers, and stated that what he is sharing is not the whole picture. It's just something that is not talked about as much as the other stuff and sometimes venting is important. By the responses to his writing, it's obvious that what he has written has resonated with and encouraged many.
      Again, I'm sorry your experience was so disheartening.

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  121. Joe, I am in Zimbabwe and have lots of missionary friends who serve in my country--- well said! I wish their supporters can all read this. I also think the cost of living in a foreign land in maybe 4 times compared to that of locals--- children have to go to different schools which are always expensive, accommodation options are limited--- can only live in expensive places. A friend who supports missionaries mentioned that Missionaries 1. give Information, they Inspire and don't usually go to the next stage Invite people to support-that is ASK and quantify the need.
    Thank you for being very vulnerable.

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  122. I wish this would be posted up on all church bulletin boards. I have lived in America for over 20 years now, and while I love the people here, I miss my home and family, that never gets easier. I have great respect for missionaries, we need more of them, everywhere. Yet I am discouraged to see how cavalierly the American Church treats them. It is a disgrace that they should have to spend so many years on deputation, then having to regularly drive all over America on furlough to try to keep up the minimal support they get. I have also seen the pain caused to my daughter who was attacked by 'armchair quarterbacks' for not doing missions in exactly the way the people in America thought she should - while she was on the frontlines at risk in a closed country. She was sick, her laptop stopped working, she was chased by a Muslim man, and Americans back home thought that would be a great time to publically chastise her on FB for not using their preferred methodology. We have too many willing to take on the roles of Job's friends, when we need to be encouraging and strengthening those on the frontlines instead. As a supporter of missionaries, I am glad when I hear of them going on vacation, all soldiers need to go on leave and R&R.

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  123. I've been back in the U.S. for a few years now after serving on the mission field for 22 years. I have to totally agree with everything you said, it's right on! Thanks for expressing our feelings and the "dark side" of our missionary lives.

    - Dan

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  124. in Thailand for 11 years and a lot of what u wrote rings so true. Our advantage is being solely supported by our home church in Finland (the typical model there) so it helps a lot in terms of expectations and the like. However the green man syndrome is undeniable: we become chameleons who adapt to all situations yet are not fully at home anywhere. But i think one of the main chellenges is really even seeing those friends that have remained friends. Living in the tension of cultures, learning the good/bad, becoming an analyst of cultures and learning to apply all that into a new package of you really
    makes for a challenge when returning home or being on the field and meeting people who have never had such experiences. Many conversations and the worldview/mindset behind them are so far from where we are.

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  125. Very interesting read. I can relate to much of it. Born in Thailand and raised in Asia, boarding school at 6, the whole works. My wife also is an MK. Now we have been here in Papua, Indonesia for 22 years. The first 14 we were tentmakers and we lived off our "business" and didn't need to rely on supporters, no home church, etc.. of course our income was about 1/4 of the other missionaries so we got all their charity but we didn't have to deal with the "home" issues as america has never been home.... think it is much harder for 1st gen missionaries than 2nd. One friend challenged me to read the Gospels and see how Jesus treated different groups of people. Interesting how he handled the religious of his day... and how they related to him. Condemning, judging, critical... the educated, religious, economic elite... I realized I was one of those Pharisees... judging and condemning and criticizing... but mostly judging the judgmental people, criticizing the critical, etc... About 8 years ago we walked away from it all, the mission community etc... and have found great peace. 95% of our time and relationships are with nationals in our discipleship communities and we aren't lonely, we aren't criticized or judged but feel normal and loved... but yes, "not one of them" and never will be but found a comfortable place... OUr kids go to school with all Papuans in the school we run, they are in a new category beyond how my wife and I grew up. Their closest friends are all locals but we are providing an international standard education so all are moving a bit to the middle. We are very aware that they are giving up and sacrificing but we believe it is a good sacrifice...giving up something of lesser value to gain something of greater value... maybe in 10 years they won't agree? I don't know. I think for us it has come down to expectations and we realize that American is the greatest at creating unrealistic expectations that lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.... as we chose the disciplines of joy, gratitude, etc... we find peace. But there hasn't been a week this year that I haven't wanted to pack up and leave. There hasn't been a day that I haven't been frustrated by the culture, the problems, the way things are and there hasn't been a day I haven't sinned...there are regularly deep relational disappointments, going back to America is pretty empty apart from a few friends and close family. People put us on a pedastal as superhumans or demonize us...can't see us as normal humans just like them... I wonder where my children will find a place in this world.... so, appreciate your article, your honesty and can resonate with a lot of your journey. thanks for sharing.

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  126. Just substitute Australia for USA. Mad for God - into something you loved doing, but stressful.Unsure income.Doing your own Or. Etc.Under scrutiny all the time. Wrecking indigenous cultures. Too socialist not Christian enough too Christian. Ooh the fun.

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  127. I'm sorry your experience with missions was so disillusioning. There are all different kinds of missionaries and mission organizations-what you've written is thankfully not what I've seen (I've spent my life overseas). Also missionaries are normal people, so they definitely mess up and do some things badly, I've met some pretty dysfunctional people both overseas and in the U.S.
    I do want to say that Joe started this post with disclaimers, and stated that what he is sharing is not the whole picture. It's just something that is not talked about as much as the other stuff and sometimes venting is important. By the responses to his writing, it's obvious that what he has written has resonated with and encouraged many.
    Again, I'm sorry your experience was so disheartening.

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    1. Whoops this was in response to someone's earlier comment.

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  128. Just wanted to say, I especially loved reading #4. Hard for us to vent about that one! Thanks for sharing!

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  129. Now matter hiw switched on to missions home churches are they will never have empathy with you or understand you. Some are generous some dont get it some take up large monthly mission offerings with your presentation but give you little. God is rewarder of thise who seek him, what great life stories we have, what exciting lives we live a life of diverse miracles, i love it, its hard but thrilling. God will reward i know we have been blessed financially but to this day mission funds are hard ti find. I feel like shaking those churches to wake up and give but we cant. Hey i know one missionary who spent 17 years in the mountains in the southern Philippines suffered terribly but returned home with 1'ooo,ooo US in his bank, tru. Im green no one understands me at home the price we pay hey but my green friends have epathy and my best friend Jesus who was rejected and despised by men has empathy with me.
    BlessingsWaynei Downie Philippines
    Www.impacrmission.net

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  130. I like the way he phrases things and wholeheartedly agree with his upfront disclaimers. My situation is so incredibly unique that I don't usually even put myself into this category. Even so, I relate strongly to a few of these. Mostly stemming from money or relationship issues:
    -If I had more I could do more. Why don't they give? Why did they stop? Is it ok that I like to eat out when I KNOW what that money could do instead? Feeling guilty for being horrible at communication with people on BOTH sides of the world. If I was better at ________, then God could use me more or kids wouldn't starve. OR WHATEVER. Am I allowed to want to adopt a kid or two when that money could impact so much else, elsewhere. And so on and so forth.

    Basically, I believe these are questions that introspective people of faith ALL ask of themselves. Am I living up to the purpose God has for me. Sometimes. Sometimes I need massive Grace. And I often need to remember that God loves me without "performance" just because I am His daughter.

    (All that being said, the CD vs. Dental type thing gets me every time. And I hate asking for money. And I feel guilty for not doing it better. And I have always heard the snide comments about travels and such, but usually don't care. I think harder for me is "belonging" and also "longing to be" in both worlds. I am homesick for everywhere. I truly have my heart split. And THAT is something I am trying to figure out.)

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  131. Thank you so much for this post. I have been a missionary for almost 17 years now serving all of the world. I met my wife on the field, had our two kids in the Middle east and now after 17 years are planning our return "home". I have had so many furloughs over the years I can't really remember them all, but what I do remember is pretty much summed up in your post. People that are close to me have heard me say at the time of good bye that I am dead in side after so many years of saying good bye's. This is partly true, but the reality is that I just internalize my feelings. I can't do one more flight sitting there crying as I think about the grandparent, parent, family member or friend that this might be the last time I see due to health realities and age. I can't allow myself to feel this or I'm afraid I will walk right back off the plane and just stay. The reality is I know that God has called me to a place and a people and that is what get's me back on the plane each time. I want to be at the center of His will, but as you say it's not easy.

    What makes it even harder is when a church that makes up 20% of your support, you know the income you use to continue in ministry, put food on the table to feed your family, a roof over your head finally answers and says "oh yeah, sorry but we no longer support individual missionaries so we won't be supporting you anymore." This happened 2 days before getting on a flight to return "home" (the ministry home) after a 3 month furlough.

    According to what people in the USA think we haven't been on a vacation in 10 years... that's because after my sister in law wrote and asked how I enjoyed the vacation they paid for I decided I wouldn't make that mistake again. My wish is that churches back in the USA would hear what you and every comment in this feed have said... and DO SOMETHING about it. We are one body and the missionaries in the church are part of this body. If the church wants to see lives changed they need to start right at home. Praise the Lord there are some church's that are making changes in the right direction, and I pray more follow.

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  132. I understand you points. But in all honesty, I don't care - very much. I understand the "person-behind-the-counter" that is frustrated with the numbskulls that come up to them and say inane things or take out their frustrations on the PBTC even though the PBTC has no say in company policy. I say to you EXACTLY what I say to them: If you don't like it, don't do it! If you do like it, QUIT WHINING THAT IT ISN'T PERFECT.

    Again, honestly speaking, why did you write this? Do you want sympathy? OK. You got my sympathy - to a point. But I MUST come back to 1) YOU chose this and CONTINUE to choose it, and 2) You could quit ANY TIME YOU WANTED. So, again, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH with yet ANOTHER list of "oh poor me"? And PLEASE, spare me the "I couldn't quit if I wanted to. God called me to do this." IF THAT'S ACTUALLY TRUE, then quit whining. Because whining is EXACTLY what this is. You cannot have your cake AND eat it too.

    The Missionary SYSTEM is set up to "extract funds" from "back home", and yet you complain that no one wants to be your "friend" because they are afraid you will ask them for MORE money. Gee, I wonder why they have that 'fear'? It's a rhetorical question.

    The existing Missionary SYSTEM is a "profession" with a specific BUSINESS model. There is NO WHERE in the NT, including Paul's writings that EVER even SUGGESTED, let alone stated outright, that "missionary" work was supposed to be a "profession". ON THE CONTRARY! Paul made it VERY clear that "missionaries" were SUPPOSED TO WORK for their 'keep'. Modern-day pharisees have CREATED the profession "missionary" in which the work Paul admonished to those that chose to do this, was "missionary" work. BALONEY! Get a JOB. Do as Paul said and DON'T TAKE A WIFE AND HAVE KIDS if you're going to do this.

    As for "we never have enough money". "Good grief" falls WAY short of what I would say if we were face to face. EXACTLY WHO DO YOU THINK IN THE world THINKS THAT THEY ever HAVE ENOUGH MONEY! That comment was profoundly childish and illustrates either some REAL evil, (putting a guilt trip on people), or profound lack of understanding of the human condition! So, you're either a scheming scumbag, or an adolescent whining "this is not fair TO ME".

    You've chosen a tough PROFESSION. Good things (and bad ones) are done by missionaries. Part of the tasks of your CHOSEN PROFESSION is begging for money, being a 'stranger' in a 'strange' land, and all of the other whines you list above. Either you wrote the above to solicit sympathy and thereby increase the effectiveness of your begging, or you are genuinely whining. Both purposes are "bad".

    I'm sorry - genuinely - that the PROFESSION you have chosen "ain't what you thought it was going to be". Welcome to the the world of adulthood. DAMNED few people don't have a list JUST LIKE YOURS to whine about. The truth - again - is that my heart has been hardened toward the likes of you NOT because I don't want to part with my time or money, but because I BELIEVE that what you are doing is CONTRARY to what your masters like to beat you with: "The Great Commission". You were suckered, and now, either you are trying to sucker "me", (pure evil), OR you're whining about your poor choice of a profession. A PROFESSION that neither God OR Paul commanded OR even suggested. The TRUTH is that ALL of us are "missionaries". YOU wanted to make it a "job" that you get PAID for. The rest of us HAVE JOBS we get paid for, AND do "missionary" work AS GOD BRINGS THE NEEDY TO US.

    Quit whining.

    Paul

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  133. I say bless you. This is a very helpful read as someone who is a sender and has seen the trauma and sometimes ptsd our missionaries come home/back with. I didn't read all the comments, but it shocked me how cruel some of them were!! I appreciate someone transparent enough to say what many probably feel.

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  134. Thank you for your honesty Joe. Your blog has really moved me.
    I spent 10 years as a single missionary in Peru, and can relate to many of the points you raised. While many of my friends still kept in touch with me it was my own family who made little effort. They wrote very infrequently and almost never called. It was horrendously expensive for me to call them in NZ, but I made the effort on special occasion, though this was rarely reciprocated. This was enormously painful and I felt I was "out of sight out of mind" a lot of the time.
    I remember once coming on home assignment via Europe for 3 weeks on a probable once in a lifetime trip. I stayed mostly with ex missionary friends and kept costs to the minimum. Despite this, once I was home, a friend's husband commented on how they had helped fund my vacation that they probably couldn't afford. This was so embarrassing and hurtful, and it's only now reflecting on this, that I realise just how deeply it affected me.
    I was fortunate to have a loving home church who made sure I had somewhere to live while on furlough, and a car to drive about in. One church member even came and mowed my lawn each week, which was really kind.
    Something I struggle with now that I am no longer a missionary, but a "normal married woman with 2 children" is that many former supporters, who I thought were friends, no longer keep in touch. It feels like I am no longer seen as spiritual enough for them to take the time over. This has been very painful and something I still grieve over.
    Your blog has been really helpful Joe and I had my husband read it with me. I think it has really been an eye opener for him, so thank you again so much.

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  135. Joe is clearly not looking for sympathy pity or empathy andi think it is an insult to assume he is just because your own experience defies his and most others.... If you seriously have empathy for missionaries translate that into hard cash or something useful, after all missionaries are not exempt from blessing others too or tithing, spread the blessings around. And Joe's not saying that either, I am!

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  136. Joe is clearly not looking for sympathy pity or empathy andi think it is an insult to assume he is just because your own experience defies his and most others.... If you seriously have empathy for missionaries translate that into hard cash or something useful, after all missionaries are not exempt from blessing others too or tithing, spread the blessings around. And Joe's not saying that either, I am!

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  137. This is to the person that posted as anonymous on June 5, 2017 at 2:00 AM please check your heart my friend.

    As Paul says, the Lord has commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel (1 Cor 9.14). The teaching is very explicit. There are many examples of this principle being practiced in the Scriptures. Here are just a few:

    First and most significantly, Jesus’ ministry was funded by some of those who heard Him (Luke 8.1-3), and He taught the disciples to rely on others while ministering (Matthew 10.5-15).

    Second, Paul requested that the Roman church financially support Phoebe, one of the ministers at Cenchrae. (Romans 16.1-2)

    Third, Paul himself received support and was grateful for the support he received: Philippians 4.10-20 (people frequently assume that Paul always supported himself by making tents. Actually, that was the second-best option for him. See Acts 18.1-5, where Paul began by making tents and quit as soon as it was financially feasible to do so. See 1 Corinthians 9.1-18, where Paul’s whole point is that the Corinthians owed him support: he concludes the letter by telling them that he hopes to stop by and that he hopes they will provide for him to finish his journey in 1 Cor 16.5-6. Also see Romans 15.20-24, where Paul asks a church he has never visited before to fund him on his journey to Spain.) In addition, Paul explicitly teaches in Galatians 6.6 that Christians are obligated to provide for the needs of ministers.

    Fourth, the apostle John encouraged his friend to support a band of missionaries in 3 John 5-8.

    Fifth, the whole Levitical system in the Old Testament (the Levites were ministers) is predicated on the financial support of ministers by the rest of God’s people (Numbers 18.21-24 is a representative example). See Nehemiah 13.4-11 for how outraged Nehemiah was that the Levites had to go earn wages in another fashion.

    In summary, there is an extremely strong Biblical case for missionaries raising financial support from the Body of Christ.

    and Joe thank you for your honesty.

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  138. So true So true!!!! If only Supporters could understand. Many will read and still never understand!! Missionary to northwest Europe and always miss judged. Fell you brother. Keep up the good work!!

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  139. Can't help crying reading your blog. This is a sad reality in the mission field. I haven't gone to cross cultural yet, only had local exposure with the tribe and now pioneering a church ministering to the less fortunate. I believe when the universal body of Jesus Christ will just work together and be united for His great cause regardless of denomination,we could have made great impact on this world for the kingdom of God. It is my fervent prayers that the body of Jesus Christ will be zealous and supportive for all His workers in the field. We are not all called to be sent out to other countries but we all have the same mandate from our Saviour to share the Gospel. We can go there by supporting mission work especially to the unreached, we can be there by supporting them in our prayers and be an advocate to rally with them and being one with them, feeling their pain, their struggle & hardship. I lift up everyone in the field in my prayers, supported financially if the Lord will enable me and yes rally for them having a monthly interdenominational gathering of prayers for missionaries and for the persecuted church even that seem to be a struggle, attendance is dwindling. My experience is much less in degree in what you have experienced in the field My prayers and my heart goes out to you and everyone out there in the field who continue to labor to advance the Lord's kingdom here on earth, and prayers will continue to echo in eternity to engage in God's purpose for all men. May the Lord will awaken His body in these last days. God bless us all.

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  140. I am fighting back the tears as I read this article. A coworker of mine gave me the link (I work at an International School in China.) Although I can't relate to all of them, there are still a few that hit home for me, especially the one about saying good-bye. I have worked in China for 6 years, and have always had a love/hate relationship with the month of June. Yay for the end of school and summer break, but also yuck since people that I have gotten close to leave to return to their home country. Now, it's my turn. I have less than a week left in China before I return to the US, and saying good-bye has been hard to those I have already said goodbye to, and will continue to be difficult over these next few days. It was good reading your list and knowing that it's not just me going through the feelings of hating good-byes, having a hard time going "home" for a break, having friends that don't understand what you've been through, etc. Thank you for posting this. It was just what I needed for where I am currently.

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  141. As someone who intends to someday work overseas, thank you for your honesty.

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  142. Joe - we miss you and your sweet family... enjoyed having you stay in our home years ago. Will never forget the wisdom "Fish and Company... 3 days". Blessings in Christ!

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  143. Thank you for sharing! What a Transparent, Raw, And Brave Sharing from the Heart ❤️����✝️
    Our young, newly married Daughter and Son-in-law just returned from a 6 month Missions trip in Northern Thailand and it was a Life sacrificing, Life Changing experience for both of them...and for us as well. Both my husband and I, and our Son-in-law's parents went to spend 12 days with them and we experienced and witnessed so much of what you were speaking to.
    As a parent of children who are interested in Missionary Life I would like to ask you this one question if I may...Why do you not end your service and go back to live in your home country? This might seem bold but I really need to know. Private message me if you would prefer...thank you, Carla

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  144. Our family came to Puerto Rico 5 years ago. I can relate to all of these! Thank you. At the moment, we are scheduled to visit the U.S. in 5 days and only have 7 out of 20 days of lodging covered.. Despite multiple shout outs to our many "friends." Wishing I could just cancel the trip home to be honest.

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  145. Oh my word. This is the number one most accurate article I've read concerning the life of a missionary. I moved to Haiti as a 20 year old, fresh out of school. When I return to the States for fundraising and support, people make frivolous comments about the pictures I have posted of riding motorcycles down the mountains or the days I have taken off from typical seven day work weeks to spend some time on the beach. They know nothing about the nights I spent crying on my roof because of the overwhelming feeling of being completely alone. They don't know about the times that I've been caught in extreme traffic while trying to simply buy groceries because someone has gone on a shooting spree in the streets again. They are only privileged enough to hear of the good, positive moments, because if they knew of the others, it would be much more discouraging than encouraging. It hurts to once again see faces that had previously promised, "We'll keep in touch every week!" but have not kept their end of the deal. Or, again, those people who have pledged support but have totally stopped and then give you what seems like some lame excuse, but you are expected to smile and say, "Don't worry about it! I completely understand!"

    Missions is tough. But at the same time, I absolute love it.

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  146. This was brilliant.... and after how many years, you're still getting comments. It was so helpful to read it... and I can't post it, believe you me...

    I've got a few heroic supporters... and getting enough supporters has been a joke... though I've been learning that God gets me out of every single corner and has carried me "all the way until you have reached this place" Deuteronomy 1.

    The goodbyes... terrible. The begging for a place to stay when I travel, especially to my home town, omigod. My parents moved out of the area, my sister has no spare room, and the judgment I get for still not commuting an hour from my parents' to my own home zone... over a dangerous mountain road that people get killed on constantly? Right. You want me spending support dollars on that kind of gas and total physical exhaustion? No thanks. Somebody's gotta have a spare room. A few times, I have stayed with practical strangers. Thankful for every way in which God has turned strangers into friends.

    And who is this commenter who crazily asks why you don't just pack it up and come home? Come on!!! God calls. We are compelled by the love of Jesus to respond. We love our work and our life. But there is a cost. And it's not easy. It's called sacrifice and that's what we all have to do if we really want to love as Jesus did.

    Anyway thank you and of course, just one more "anonymous" because we all know what people will say if they see what we really think about this.

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  147. This was heart-breaking to read. I honestly don't want to admit how much I relate to this. But it's true, I completely relate and I've only been a missionary officially for 3 years. Wow! God gives us so much grace.

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  148. Hello Holmans, and other missionaries,
    I was glad to read this article. I have been glad, over the years, to see a breakdown of what it costs to get a missionary on the field and how foreign governments to tend towards lots of fees and taxes as a way of state revenue. It helps to know about cultural expectations of the locals, too. An example I learned was the expectation for employment by the missionary and that it can easily hinder the work if the missionary doesn't hire a house staff - they think you who have so much are greedy not to give them employment that they need for food. These kinds of things help us back in the states. I have been a pastor's wife for a little over 20 years. We have experienced 2 purposeful missions frauds, and one couple that seemed to be unequally yoked. It was cause for concern - who wants to export falsehood? That can make a careful scrutiny very painful to a real missionary, though, and I am grateful for these poignant reminders. I wonder if we have too many people in the church who are not actually really believers. We have told them that they are, and so they think they are, too. And maybe we wanted the numbers ourselves..... that which is born of flesh is flesh. I know that in our church family the unbelieving spouses of 2 men hated giving money to anything of the church. They resented the loss of what they viewed as their own (never mind it was the husbands' personal money, even as the wives had personal money), but they both called themselves Christians, smiled a lot, "acted" a part, and so on before they left the church and their husbands to pursue worldliness. Another woman, a church boss with lots of money, sat as treasurer when we first came. She viewed the church money as her own, and had never even really let go of the money she had actually given. I can't imagine what that kind of person says to a missionary. I've heard one of my own family members begrudge money given. Here in the states Christianity is part of a cultural heritage for many people still. There has not been a salvation from sin, which would transform the heart, but there has been a training in righteous principles, wrong inclusiveness and sloppy terminology. A person with no change of heart may not even be aware that he should battle judgementalism, armchair quarterbacking and his appetite for more things. He will not be aware that we do not employ missionaries - they are the part of the body that goes out, not an entity the body hires. It is a yoked partnership, not a business. Accountable, yes, as each member ought to be to each other and to the whole, but not "employed" as a christian worker anymore than any of the rest of us. Maybe the wrong is not that we ask missionaries to give an account of their evangelism, etc, but rather that we don't each have to come before the group annually and give an accounting ourselves. That was an eye-opener for me - we would love our missionaries better, wouldn't we, if we had to do as we expect from them? I very much appreciate this article. Thank you for writing it.
    C.K.

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  149. Klaus W. MüllerJuly 6, 2017 at 2:38 AM

    Hi Joe: My daughter, herself missionary in Germany together with her husband, sent me the link: I read it, I translated it into German, I summarized it, I used it in an academic article - and I want to ask for your permission to publish it. I do not grill you on an academic fire. I am supportive. Actually, your blog is published and can be quoted and used. I congratulate you to have formulated the ten points, and I belief you really like to be a missionary. I believe you are not totally frustrated, you have not a negative attitude, but realistic, because there is still a lot of love between your lines. The reason behind your difficulties is not your philosophy of life, but it's the theology of supporters, Christians, pastors who teach churches, and theology professors who taught pastors. I am teaching Missiology since about 40 years, my wife and I have been missionaries in the Pacific for 11 years before that. I am still professor at different seminaries and Universities. I always have taught and written about the background of missionary life and service. Thank you for the ten "things". This is a contribution to truth.
    If you whish, I send you my article (in German): Warum Missionare lügen. Der kritische Umgang mit der Wahrheit bei der Berichterstattung und Geschichtsschreibung, privat und öffentlich. (Why missionaries lie. The critical use of truth in reports and history, private and public.) I deal with the background of the real problem. Please write to me: mueller@forschungsinstitut.net

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  150. Hello Joe - I was an MK in Bolivia in 1960's. As a kid I LOVED it but as I read this I know what you have said is very insightful. Also very well written. I would that all Missionaries old and new could read this. Some of what you wrote even as a teen I faced - my parents being in Bolivia and leaving me in Bible School in Portland OR and just longing to talk to them and not have to wait for a letter, and not really fitting into US society as I had a different mindset from them. Thanks for this article.

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  151. Article is almost 3 years old, not much has changed and its still getting fresh comments. Love the article, every one touches to my deepest being. We had a kiwi on our team. Took up the slogan: it's a hard life. Great guy.

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  152. I have been a pastor for almost 18 years, majored in Missions and been on several short term missions trips. Thank you for writing this. I have a new perspective for those who will come to our church for support and prayer, and even those who don't. Ministry is a challenge, and then to have the cultural and economic and social challenges you do, my prayer life will be even more earnest for you, and my wallet and heart even more open than ever before. Thank you!

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  153. I just spent several hours reading the 173 comments on this article, and I feel like I’ve had a visit with family! Then I spent more time thinking how I could make a comment, and if I even should. My story is very different than most, but at the same time I share just about everything on your 10 point list, Joe.
    In 1999 I came to Uganda, East Africa, as a nurse, to work with a fledgling church ministry short term (meaning 2 months to 2 years). I am still here, nearly 20 years later! I did not go to Bible school. I did not raise financial support, and still don’t. I live in a small village 50 miles north of the capitol city, and work with a rural village church and pastor. I lived 4 years in “staff housing” for a native ministry’s clinic and school, without electricity or running water. Eventually I bought an acre and began building my own place to live, as God provided. That was when the bonding with the local people became serious, because they were no longer afraid when I left on furlough that I would not return. I am the only white person anyone knows of who has lived in a village with the people.
    I always felt strongly to not speak of money on furloughs or in newsletters. Nor do I ask for speaking engagements. I go where God leads and provides for me to go, through relationships. I have spoken in churches, schools, nursing homes, prisons. A handful of people send monthly financial support and usually one or two churches. Some friends contribute only at Christmas and others only when I am in the US. My house in Uganda is made with handmade mud bricks. I started out with 2 rooms I lived in for 6 years, with no indoor facilities. To save space, I slept on the floor until I added a 3rd room after 6 years. It was about 10 years before I got limited solar electricity, and 16 years when I got my first refrigerator. Five years ago I got running water (a rainwater catchment system) and indoor plumbing. Living by faith takes patience!
    I have taught village level health care in 5 villages, worked in a rural prison ministry, taught medical interventions to pastors twice a year in an urban Bible college, spoken and taught at various seminars, women’s groups and schools. Now I teach Bible in our village church, work with income generation projects of various types, do some demonstration agriculture projects, and have taught the pastor how to drive a car. We hosted a medical team and later on, a teaching team as well.
    The denomination I came to Uganda to work with destroyed the original ministry here, via control issues, causing the eventual loss of 4 missionaries. Shortly afterwards, my own sending church, which had hired a new, young, inexperienced pastor for missions, fired me and gave me 6 weeks to return to the US. That was because this man, who had never set foot in Africa before, insisted I change my entire approach to missions and adapt an American style – which I knew would not work in Africa. A different church that also supported me picked me up as their first official overseas missionary, so I remained in Uganda. Later on, from church growth and staff changes, that church nearly ignored me to death. In both situations, my income was dropped by half.
    So while I have had good family and friends backing my work here, my church support has been mostly unsupportive. Out of sight, out of mind, for sure. It caused me to become depressed and last year I attended a burnout recovery program in the US. I was also able to later attend a great seminar by Dr. Darrel Whiteman called Anthropology for Missions, and learned that when a missionary takes a more anthropological position, the Western missions mentality will find fault and often hostility with it. He said, “You will be like a fish swimming up stream.” I have worked alone, but with my Ugandan friends. For a number of years, I realized I actually had no white friends here. Just black ones, so I guess maybe I’ve become “gray”!
    I love being a missionary, always have, always will. I thought I’d never get to be one, but God opened the doors for me in spite of the odds.

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    1. I read a few replies near the end here. Yours is good, it shows what happens when people get in the way of what others are trying to do. Allowing those who have no clue to overpower experienced people is a sin IMO. You are the kind of person I would give to Margaret. It is the least we can do for those who have given up so much to reach the lost. Can you give here how someone could contact you?

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  154. I have never served away from the states but I would respond with "then we need to do missions differently" I love what Steve Saint and those who participated in The Missions Dilemma have to say about doing missions differently. If what you have posted is the truth (and I sincerely believe it is in most circles) then it seems to me that the whole approach to missions is part of the problem of the ineffectiveness of the church as a whole in the USA. Blessings to you for being bold and honest enough to tell the truth.

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  155. My daughter and SIL are missionaries. Their experience follows these ten points to a certain degree.
    My husband and I have followed and financially supported many missionaries over our lives, but I always felt something was missing. Then one day, I got involved in a Christmas holiday program for foreign students. Our part of the job was transporting them to the central site where they would hear the Gospel as they studied parts of the NT. There was also some tourism arranged for them. It was a great program. But as I said, I felt something was missing.
    It is one thing to know the Gospel and the Scriptures and another thing to live them.
    I have found the missing piece that I've been searching for all my life through an organization called Soma. How to be a missionary where you live -- this organization opened my eyes in a way no teaching (and I was blessed with many fine teachers/pastors) had, to my blindness, my selfish nature, and to a way that the church can and should do missions in their locality. I'm not saying no to overseas missions, don't misunderstand. I'm saying yes! to them both, but I am hoping and praying that American Christians will catch the vision and give all they have to it on their own turf.
    I'm overseas permanently. I'll be growing where I'm planted. Check it out at www.wearesoma.com. This is the beginning of the Second Reformation!

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  156. My daughter and SIL are missionaries. Their experience follows these ten points to a certain degree.
    My husband and I have followed and financially supported many missionaries over our lives, but I always felt something was missing. Then one day, I got involved in a Christmas holiday program for foreign students. Our part of the job was transporting them to the central site where they would hear the Gospel as they studied parts of the NT. There was also some tourism arranged for them. It was a great program. But as I said, I felt something was missing.
    It is one thing to know the Gospel and the Scriptures and another thing to live them.
    I have found the missing piece that I've been searching for all my life through an organization called Soma. How to be a missionary where you live -- this organization opened my eyes in a way no teaching (and I was blessed with many fine teachers/pastors) had, to my blindness, my selfish nature, and to a way that the church can and should do missions in their locality. I'm not saying no to overseas missions, don't misunderstand. I'm saying yes! to them both, but I am hoping and praying that American Christians will catch the vision and give all they have to it on their own turf.
    I'm overseas permanently. I'll be growing where I'm planted. Check it out at www.wearesoma.com. This is the beginning of the Second Reformation!

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  157. We have served over 20 years in French speaking nations and point # 9 perhaps was the hardest for my children. On the field, they were called yankees and in the States they were called froggies. The sense of being "green" in a blue or yellow culture is one reality that is not always easy for MKs. However, our children have been enriched by their experiences that have given them a broader view of the world. Two of our children are living overseas, one married to a French man and the other serving as a missionary in France.

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  158. As a veteran missionary I identify most with No. 6. After taking a Galapagos cruise during our first term, at least one supporter dropped us and we heard some snide comments. They didn't realize that since we were Ecuadorian residents, the entire trip, including the flight to the Galapagos, was just $400 each. So glad we didn't miss this opportunity, but wish I didn't include it in our prayer letter.

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  159. Yes, yes and yes. We are working as germans in an international congregation in germany (25 different nations, most of them from the african continent)..by the time we are no longer white, but black...
    what we miss most is a church and church people and church leaders who are humble and respectful and who, first of all, listen and listen and listen again and don't talk or even judge, but they don't...and the experience is that you no longer feel at home in the your church because you are not white any more....and there are really few friends left...sometimes is helps to meditate luke 9:57-62, but not always

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  160. Wow Joe - so many comments over so many months! You really touched a nerve there... I want to join the many others who have thanked you for your raw honesty and for putting into words what so many others feel but don't dare say. I too am a missionary of long standing (in Asia) and was also an MK in Africa. Right now my husband and I are starting a new ministry - putting training for new missions recruits on to an online platform. Along with mobilising and training, we also want to talk a LOT about effective missionary support, handling culture shock in the new culture and reverse culture shock (or 're-entry stress') on returning home. We want to teach church leaders and ordinary believers how to do missions support well, and advocate the raising of support groups or PACTeams for doing that. Joe, I want to ask - would you be OK with me quoting this blog and do you have more you would want to say on the subject, if given the chance to reach a wider audience? Very happy to engage, if so. Love and blessings and thanks again - not only for your honesty but also for your faithful service for the Master. One day we all will be 'home' with Him and hearing His "Well done", which will make everything else pale into insignificance. But for now, what you are saying is so important for folks to understand...

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  161. I am an MK myself and a church planter based in Mexico. The Lord has taken us to several dozen countries on 5 contenents. We have worked with many missionaries in different cultures. Your article is 100% right on! Be blessed! ¡Bendicones, hermano!

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  162. My wife and I live in Croatia and minister throughout the Balkan countries(Southeast Europe). I don't know that I agree with a lot of what you say. I was a missionary for 4 years here in the Balkans back in the 80s. Then because of hyper inflation and a war we had to go back to the states. We were cared for by our church until we got on our feet. Our church had a well managed missions dept. and covered their missionaries real well. We were treated like heroes. We planned to only be in the states for a year. That year turned into 25 years. We raised our children, built careers and served in the church where we could. We continued to dream of going back to the field. We felt our careers were to prepare us for greater challenges on the field. I personally felt trapped in America because my heart was in the Balkans. We continued to pray for the Balkans and stay in touch with the people there. We made new friends through email and took short term trips back there. We always were telling our kids we would some day return. Now we are back in the Balkans and we feel well equipped. Yes we see some friends in the states slipping away but hey, they would have slipped away anyway. Hey we have eternity to get together and laugh about old times. (And especially to remember how we prayed for each other and boosted each other toward our destinies) We are watching God open doors to ministry when we are ready for that ministry. The money always shows up although it is usually at the last minute. It is fun turning yellow. We expect things to be changing in the states. Some donors dropping off and some being added. One church minimizing in their giving and others being added. Key people coming into our lives that like what we are doing and asking to be a part of it. I do miss my kids and their families at times. I know they are safe in God's hands. The Lord has chosen that I can only mentor them from a distance. The money we have to spend making our rounds in the states can be dis-hearting when you know the needs of the field. I do enjoy encouraging others to be missionaries. I often talk to churches about how God given burdens can form an exciting destiny. If a mission board is not excited about the work we do then we bless them and move on. The stories I have to tell them are truthful and not boring. I am having a great time on the mission field seeing His purposes unfold and if they don't get excited also then I'm sorry. We believe God is giving us nations and to lay those before the throne keeps us excited. God makes the negatives into positives.

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  163. I can agree with parts of the blog, especially when it comes to saying goodbye and finding it hard to go home. But my struggle with going home is not because our friends don't want us around because they plainly do. My struggle is leaving wonderful work we have been doing in Asia and going home to raise funds. But the other points, quite honestly, have not been my experience. Some of it would be due to the fact that we've never had any children, though.

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