Learning a new culture makes our life a constant adventure.

Ten things your missionary IS telling you.

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

Joe Holman makes the point, “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’.
That’s the truth.
Before I understood that mentally. People told me it was true, but now I understand it experientially.
He says he’s not “at home.”
I take this to mean that he doesn’t feel ‘at home’ the way he did in his home before he ever lived in another culture. And, yeah, I don’t feel ‘at home’ like I did in my parents house in the fall… or at Christmas time anymore. But I celebrate that! I can see now how my heart was like the proverbial frog in the cooking pot as the temperature rises to boiling.
I was as happy as a clam in this world that is going to burn! My longing for home has been shifted to heaven, and God has used living in Mali as one of His main tools to do that good work in my heart.
I have a true home, and I want to go there so bad that I can taste it!
As far as ‘at home’ in this world goes, I am more at home in our little rented house in Kadiolo than I am anywhere else. We have made it our home, and it is most definitely our children’s home.
Then Joe Holman closes it out with,
It gets old being a stranger.  It is hard to not be in the group.  It isn’t fun to always be noticed.
Yes, sometimes it would be really nice to go for a walk in anonymity. If my wife and kids could choose the super-power of flying or being invisible, they would all choose being invisible. Not me, man, I so want to fly!
2.  It is lonely and your friends and family from the States have forgotten you.  
In my experience… life in Kadiolo is the furthest thing from being lonely. I don’t remember the last time I was lonely. There are a lot of people around me all the time, and the vast majority of them assume that I want it that way.
Maybe I could say I am lonely to be understood, but that isn’t limited to living overseas.
Joe Holman says, “the harsh thing is that they do not miss us.”
We’re all human. You get used to things. You get used to people not being there. It is true that people more-or-less forget you, but we forget them too… to some degree. We forgive you. Will you forgive us?
Our families haven’t forgotten us. We miss each other a lot, all the time, and we all say that obeying the Word is worth it.

I’m determined to live like I believe Luke 18:29-30 is true.

And he said to them,
 …I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, 30will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”
 May God’s name be proclaimed to the ends of the earth, and may He come again soon. That is what we’re living for.
3.  We are normal people.  
Joe Holman says, “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.”
Yeah, Heidi and I sometimes get the vibe that people think we live on the set of Little House on the Prairie because of our rustic setting. I suppose it is partly our fault. We are a little enamored with it ourselves. We love coming up with creative solutions to tough problems. Well, we love it now. The first five or six years were really tough, and we often felt helpless, but then again, so did Ma and Pa when there was a hail storm before the big harvest. Ha!
4.  We never have enough money but feel guilty asking for it.
I’ll let Joe Holman speak for himself here as I basically disagree with this point entirely.
Missionaries don’t ‘have to’ ask for money. Many never do. This can get a little messy. It isn’t like we want to hide what we are doing or what the needs of the people around us are. We want you to be engaged with what God is doing here in Mali, just like my legs want my lungs to be engaged, knowing if I am running to resting.
I am not desperate for money. God has provided for every one of our needs and, honestly, for every God-honoring want. I am amazed at His goodness to us in the area of finances.
It isn’t hyper-spiritual to talk like this. Jesus basically tells us to be ‘above money’ in Matt. 6:31 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
We have a command; don’t worry about it, and we have a promise; God will give us all the clothes and food we need.
Has it ever seemed like all I wanted was your money?
Yes, we use money, everyday, like you do; but, no, ministry never requires money. If we were absolutely penniless we would still treat people the way Jesus told us to, and we would still tell them the truth. Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn’t communicate the gospel more clearly if we had less.
I don’t hate asking for money. Do you hate hearing it when we do ask?
The reason I don’t often ask is because I am absolutely determined, like George Müller (great little audio biography here), that God be known as an entirely sufficient provider. If I was begging for money from you, no one would think I really believed God would meet all my needs. How do you make decisions about what you give?
5.  We feel like our children are getting shortchanged by our choice.  
Well, Joe Holman, I’ve got to disagree here too. Joe lists all the cool things he has seen other people’s kids doing on Facebook in the last week and concludes,
“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.”
The Frazee kids’ are living such rich lives!
They work hard because we need them too. We spend so much time studying the Word together. And they lead such a simple and undistracted life that just isn’t possible in American… as far as I can tell.
Since this is all about being honest… I mostly pity all you believers living in the States. I pray for you, and I call you to raise up disciples of Jesus against all odds!
6.  I took a great vacation but I cannot tell anyone. 
Holman talks about how great it is that we can share in one another’s vacation experiences through social media, but he says missionaries are excluded from that because people make comments like,
“‘I should be a missionary, then I could take cool vacations.’  Or, ‘Is that where my donations go?’”
Christians are guilty of trying to manipulate each other, and it isn’t becoming. Heidi and I work hard not to do this. Let people judge us, we will speak the truth.
Let us all agree to stop judging in this way. Do we share one Spirit or don’t we? And let us stop trying to manipulate other people’s judgement of us by shaping the truth like liars do. We have an advocate.
Ps 43:1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!
Eph. 4:25-26 “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

Did you know those two verses went together? Paul knows we speak falsely to one another in the Body of Christ, and he knows it makes us angry. This flows right into Joe’s next point.

7.  We hate being judged by a standard that our judges do not follow.
I have one standard, and you have one standard.
A.W. Tozer said it well in his book Knowledge of the Holy. 
“Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his listeners, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support. I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of. Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underprivileged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.”
(Sidenote: You should read the whole book if you haven’t already; super short and super powerful.)
If we have gone overseas with wrong motivation, it is likely that we garnered support from people with wrong motives.
We must look to the Word as our single guide.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he says, ” Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” So I’m not saying don’t judge me/us, but judge me by the Word. And communicate with me. If you see something on Facebook and it doesn’t seem in line with scripture to you, write to me right away. Don’t leave me in my sin because you are too uncomfortable to say anything. We all need some good judging.
8.  Saying good-bye stinks…and it is not the same in the States.
Drew left for boarding school a few weeks after we returned to Mali from our first furlough in the USA. I was overwhelmed more deeply than I think I have ever experienced.
In Joe Holman’s post, he mentions a time when he crossed paths with his son who was living in the US at the time.
“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!’”
These unfulfilled longings are what God is using to shape me and make disciples of my children. It is hard. We live with a longing that might be different if we lived in America… a longing to be with those we love.
My 7th nephew was born while I was writing this post. In all likelihood I won’t meet him until he’s two, and we have a toddler that won’t meet any of our family members until she’s three.
Joe Holman says this is the worst part of living on the mission field. I won’t dispute that. I say goodbye with courage and not a lot of emotion. When it really hits me is when I realize how long I’ve been gone, how much I have missed, and that I’ll never get that back. I don’t know my dozen nieces and nephews.
9.  Going to the States is hard.
All the things I cut my sin-nature’s teeth on are there: food, whatever you want, whenever you want it; women, even American “Sunday best” is more revealing than an average outfit in Kadiolo. And we struggle against so much more distraction for our children in America. It’s a dark place. We find it easier to be single-minded in Kadiolo.
Joe Holman says it is logistically tough, and it is, but I kind of like that part of it. I like the problem solving.
 It appears Joe has often been worried about money and pleasing people. I’m not worried about either of those things, and honestly, that’s what gets me into trouble when I am in the States. It offends many Americans on some level because I am not worried about money or meeting their expectations.
Joe Holman talks about the emotional difficulty of going to the States too. He says it is difficult,
“Because we discover that we have changed and that you no longer really want to be around us.”
In all the years we have lived overseas, we have only done one ‘real’ furlough. Many people ‘live on the freeway going 70mph.’ When I want to greet them as I am used to in Mali, it just can’t happen. They can’t squeeze me in. Their mind is too full, and it is like me being present has blind-sided them. So we shake hands at church, and that’s about it.
But then there is this beautiful thing that happens. You run across someone else who is reading their Bible and striving to live by it, and it is like they have been with you all along. You find that they struggle with the same things you do, and they have the same goals.
In those moments, your hope is strengthened because you got a glimpse of the Bride before the wedding.
There is church and then there is the church. You know what I mean?

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

I’m going to let you read this whole point from Joe Holman because, even though it is entirely based on lies, it is accurate.
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.
We have fought hard against feeling and reacting this way because it isn’t true.
Still, I do tend to write my letters with all that Christian talk. Writing that way is half motivated by my desire to be liked/appreciated by you. The other part of it is that if I said, “We went to church.” your picture of what took place on a Sunday morning would be very skewed.
We need you to extend grace to us as we communicate with you. Be gracious with our inability to communicate about our lives clearly. Forgive me for when I misrepresent myself. I am genuinely repenting and asking you to forgive me.
I have benefited from the writings of a brother in Christ, and I hope it strengthens us as the Body of Christ. But I also want to be gracious to him. A verse comes to mind: Job 6:26
New American Standard Bible 
“Do you intend to reprove my words, When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?
Joe Holman, it is my desire to build you up, not tear you down. I perceive that what you wrote grew out of moments of desperation. Keep up the good fight. Live every day more like Jesus, and live in the assurance of His promises.

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1 comment for “Ten things your missionary IS telling you.

  1. Dave DeWitt
    June 10, 2017 at 22:14

    Thanks for writing this, Jeff.
    I miss you, brother. And you, too, Heidi!
    I love everything you said here.
    It’s funny how we all say that we want to be known and understood, and then we ruin our chances at that, by being fake with each other.
    Don’t ever stop being honest, and trying to avoid and shed the pretense. It’s what I love best about you, ever since our days at Moody.
    Love you, brother!

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