Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Is 2DAY Gr8 4 U?

My big accomplishment for June was learning to send text messages. Ever the frugal missionary, I love sending a quick text for half the cost of a one-minute call. My kids have laughed at my early attempts to use this technology. I’ve finally figured out how to punctuate, but my spelling is often intrstng. It took me a while to discover why the word “can” always came out “2n” and “will” looked like “wik.” For a while I was convinced my phone was faulty. Now I love it.

For less than a nickel, I sent a text to my college daughter to pick up milk on her way home from class one day. It was cheaper than driving a separate car to the closest store. On a side note, I do miss the corner store (tienda) back home. As slowly as I thumb type, I might have walked there and back in the same time, but I digress (and exaggerate).

All this instant communication is in sharp contrast with the total lack of contact with my husband the past few weeks. He’s been in Mexico hosting short-term teams from the States. Last Wednesday I received a couple of emails from the church whose youth team was in Oaxaca, concerned about the 6.2 earthquake not far from the ministry site.

Since they were working in a secluded area lacking cell phone service and Internet access, I didn’t expect to hear back from my husband until later in the week. I’m used to that, but there wasn’t much I could do to reassure the parents back home. I was convinced the group was fine. (They were.) I later learned they had slept through the shaking; but they did not, however, miss out on the opportunity to update their Facebook status with such sensational news reports.

This incident got me thinking about the new generation of missionaries arriving on the field, both young and old. It must be difficult to adjust to the lack of reliable instant communication they are used to 24/7. What the old-timers consider a tremendous blessing, having even sporadic Internet and cell phone coverage, the new folks must perceive as a challenge.

Someone recently asked what the WORST things are about being a missionary--she wanted the nitty-gritty. The inside scoop. Before I share my response, I want to pose the question to you.

Maybe for you it is the communication issue. Maybe not.

I suspect the answers will vary depending on how long you have been on the field, so please include this in your comment.

First, I want to hear from you. Next week, I’ll answer the question more fully from my viewpoint as a (reluctant) old-timer.

IRL*Now I’m tri-lingual.


  1. #1- loneliness - not a lot of foreigners to develop friendships with...and harder to develop close, "real" relationships with the people you work with b/c you have to be careful what you say (I would say this would be somewhat true in any ministry position...not necessarily overseas)
    ...less freedom to move about b/c you feel more vulnerable (esp. with little kids- you stand out a lot and there are not playgroups,etc. or even church activities that provide childcare).
    4 years on the field (but grew up as an mk)

  2. For me it is knowing how to deal with the poverty. We work in the poorest country in the world according to the UN and the poverty is pervasive. Anything we do is like putting a band-aid on a surgical wound. It is hard to find the balance between becoming hardened to it and being super-sensitive to the needs. And then to find the right cultural response is also difficult.

  3. Hmmm. Having a hard time with this one. Been on this field 6 years . . . two years in another country with a different organization . . . and grew up as an MK . . .

    I think right now, the hardest thing is lack of maturity (Christ-like attitudes) in both missionaries and native believers. I get impatient with the pettiness of what is "SOOOOO important" when it really isn't, and I want to lecture when people come whining about what "others" should be doing when they are sitting on their . . . laurels? . . . not helping the situation.

  4. Where I live now, I have 24/7 instant access to email and Facebook and blogs. In some ways, it makes life harder. In previous assignments, I didn't have that access so I had no idea what the people back home were doing--they were living their lives in their context and I was living my life in my context. On occasion we'd share stories. Now that we are all living our lives together in cyberspace, sharing all of our random thoughts, I find it harder to truly live here.

  5. I have to agree with Beth and Elaine - I find it hard to keep up with technology (I have fairly decent access in Ukraine) and I find that there are more important things in life and so when others (expat and nationals alike) focus on this, I am disappointed.

    But if we are talking about the "worst"or the "hardest", it is saying goodbye. My struggle is a little different than Michelle's. I have very close Ukrainian friends and very close relationships with some of my teammates, yet God designed our lives in such a way that these two Ukrainian friends moved to cities far enough away that I see them rarely and that cancer came to three families who had to leave ministry in Ukraine. I've struggled with having lost people who were like-minded. I have other friends and continue in ministry, but as new people come and go, saying goodbye to people I probably won't have a chance to work alongside again is difficult.

  6. I'll agree with Lois. It is the having my heart pulled in pieces, learning to love, and facing the reality that I will always be missing someone that I love. Always saying goodbye. I so long to be "home" with everyone that is special to me in one place... while realizing that this is impossible until heaven... but it is the loneliness for good friends, the constant ache of missing others.

    I have been a missionary now for 8 years, but also grew up as a MK. I compare the fairly instant communication ability we have now to the long walk and/or drive to the center of town and the hour or so wait while attempting to get a phone line, and the enormously expensive few minutes of crackly conversation we might get on a good day when we did get a line. In some ways, we on the field were closer and more dependent on each other then. On the other hand, I have the privilege of maintaining contact with people now that I would have not been able to do that with earlier.


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