Questions For a Missionary, Part 2:

What is the hardest part about being a missionary? (Come back later for the best part about being a missionary.)

I get this question a lot and it’s a hard one to answer. I can’t really narrow it down to one thing so I’m gonna share three areas with you.

The first (and most obvious in my opinion) is that it is really hard to be so far away from my family and friends in the states. There are more than 8000 miles between Chiang Mai and California and that is a lot of space to miss someone! I could probably go on and on about all the special people in my life but I’ll narrow it down for you. I miss talking books with mom and watching her do crafts. I miss discussing everything from a bible passage to the winner of American Idol with dad. I miss Dave, Danielle and Cole Gleason and the way they make me feel that no matter where I am in the world, I’ll always have a home with them. I miss Steve, Jessica, Haley, Nathan and Jacob Banks and how every time I walk through their door, I’m reassured that they love me and are proud of everything that I am. I miss the SD Wild Women (Wendy, Erin, Katie, Hilary and Tam) and all the laughter I associate with their names. Around them I never have to think about who I am trying to be, I can just be. Speaking of Tam, I miss her like Reepicheep missed his tail, like Voldemort misses his nose, like Bill would miss Ted if one of them got stuck back in time. And I love her all the way to the lost continent of Atlantis and back. I am blessed by so many incredible people in my life and it’s hard to be 8000+ miles away from them!

The second thing I’m going to mention kind of goes along with the first, but at the same time, it’s completely it’s own. Sometimes being here in Thailand is incredibly lonely. As you know, I have amazing friends in the states. I also have amazing friends here in Thailand but the past 5+ years have been the loneliest of my life. Ask almost any missionary and they will tell you that people constantly come and go in this line of work. It may be nationals that you build relationships with and then they move away for school or jobs. Or it may be fellow missionaries that come for 1 or 2 months or years and then head back home. Either way, you get used to people leaving you and it’s hard. A few years ago, I decided not to get close to anyone else because I was tired of the tears that came with always saying goodbye. Around that same time God put Aon and Ya in my life and blew that plan out of the water. Let me tell you, God knows what He’s doing! They were my first friends here that didn’t have plans to leave eventually and they were exactly what I needed. But I still get lonely. I’m surrounded by missionaries who are married couples (because honestly, what kind of crazy person moves to the other side of the world by themselves?) or college age students who are doing a short term mission trip. And of course, I’m surrounded by Thai people. But no matter how well I understand the culture or speak the language, I’m still separated and will never fully fit in. It can be hard.

The third thing is probably the hardest because I experience it on a daily basis. God gave me a really big heart when He called me to love people. I’m a thinker and I tend to get emotionally involved in almost everyone. I’m continually in contact with people who are living in extreme poverty, people who are dying, children who have literally been thrown away, people who don’t know God. Everywhere I go in this country, I sense an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and every lost person I meet breaks my heart. I spend a lot of time processing and praying at the end of each day. Because the truth is, I will never be able to reach and help every lost person in Thailand. And even though my head knows that it is not possible, my heart wants to try. It’s hard but I wouldn’t trade the bazillion broken hearts I’ve felt during this adventure for anything in the world!

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Questions For a Missionary, Part 1:

Why did you decide to be a missionary?

I always smile to myself when people ask me this because it wasn’t like I woke up bored one day and thought, “Hey, you know what would be fun? Mission work!” It is good that isn’t how this journey started because if it was, I would be sorely disappointed. This life definitely has it’s fun and amazing moments but it also has it’s challenging moments where the easiest thing to do would be to throw in the towel and head back home. Luckily, overall the work is rewarding and fulfilling enough to make all those hard times completely worth it. But I’m getting off subject and I honestly can’t promise it won’t happen again during this post. 🙂

I remember being five years old watching my dad and deciding that I would be just like him  when I grew up because he had the coolest job in the world. Dad was a pastor and even at a young age I was able to grasp the idea that in a single two-hour slot on a Sunday morning, he influenced and helped hundreds of people. I wanted to do that. So I decided I was going to be a pastor when I grew up.

Around the age of ten I started to notice that there were not very many pastors who were women. I remember asking why but never got a very clear answer. I began to realize that this subject was a bit taboo. Not wanting to rock the boat, I decided to pick a different dream. That year in school I had the coolest teacher who taught me to push beyond what I thought I was capable of and discover that I could do anything I put my mind to. I wanted to challenge people the way that teacher challenged me. So I decided that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up.

When I entered I high school it became very clear to me that I hated school. It just wasn’t my cup of tea and the thought of having to go back to school every day after I graduated, made me physically cringe. So being a teacher was out and I spent a couple of years floundering, not knowing what I was going to do with my life. I knew that I still wanted to help people the way dad did but I wasn’t sure how to put that into practice. My junior year in high school several missionaries visited my church for the annual WOW week. I sat and listened to their stories and a little spark came to life in my heart. Throughout the rest of my high school career that spark grew and grew. Even when I was in bible college, that spark, which was a full on flame by then, was growing. But I never wanted to commit because deep down, the thought of being a real missionary terrified me. So I didn’t know what I was going to be when I grew up.

In the spring of 2002 I was feeling very lost. I’d gone through some hard stuff that left me not wanting anything to do with serving God or responding to His call on my life. And yet through a series of events put into motion by a great friend, that summer found me in Mexico, building houses with Amor Ministries as a summer intern. I was surrounded by poverty like I’d never known existed and every day I was helping people in a tangible way. I found God that summer and He confirmed my calling. So I decided that I was going to be a missionary when I grew up.

I worked with Amor Ministries until the end of 2005 and I’ve been in Thailand now since the beginning of 2006. There are times when I hate being called a missionary because it has a reputation that isn’t always good. But there is never a doubt in my mind that I am where I am supposed to be. God called me to love people and I will continue to do that every day of my life, no matter where in the world I end up.

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