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!