Wednesday, August 11, 2010


“They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike.
You can lose your mind!”

This silly song has been running through my head for days. If you were born before 1970, you might recognize it from watching reruns of the black and white TV series called “The Patty Duke Show” about two identical cousins. Yeah, like that is even possible, right?

What triggered this endless tune was a comment I saw on the WOTH Writer’s Blog where one of the readers coined the term “Missionaryesque” in her comment. She inspired a topic that could be a future book title: Missionary Stereotypes and the Women Who Defy Them.

When I first landed in Guatemala in August 1986, my mental image of a true missionary was pretty much everything I wasn’t. She was quiet, even bordering on mousey, very subservient and a bit plain, with no trace of make-up or styled hair. I also had vivid impressions of the taboos—things she would never think, say, or do. Where exactly these ideas came from, I have no idea, but it didn’t take me 24 years to figure out that a “typical” missionary is as fictional as identical cousins.

One of the greatest blessings of attending the WOTH Furlough Retreat last summer was getting to meet 99 unique women with diverse talents and personalities. If you look at the photo from my very first IRL blog, you can see that each one was a true beauty from the inside out. Some were enduring epic battles, and still managed to glow as we worshiped God together. I noticed that same quality at the infamous women’s retreat I helped organized this past spring. A group the world might not glance twice at, but who possess a deep inexplicable beauty and charm.

What I propose this week is a “Women Who Defy” Hall of Fame.

I want you to nominate a woman missionary and tell us how she has touched your life, how she is different from any other “woman of the harvest,” and how she does and says things that defy your earlier impressions of how a missionary should act. (For security reasons you might not want to include their full name or country of service.)

As I’m cleaning house, packing bags, saying goodbye to my two college kids again, and then returning to Mexico on the 16th, I look forward to taking a break from the blog and reading your nominations. Please submit them to and we’ll start posting them next week. I’m counting on you to provide the content for next week…so please defy the stereotype and contribute!

IRL* Debunking Missionaryesqueness


  1. I was inspired by Lil Howland, a single woman, to redefine what a missionary looked like and acted like. She laughed often and sometimes rather loudly. Lil and her cronies did a spoof of the typical woman missionary that made us laugh until our sides hurt. She dressed elegantly. She had a crystal chandelier in her dining room. Ironically, she died of eating bad food in the US, not during her 30+ years in a underdeveloped country, defying health stereotypes.

  2. Hey, Diane! What a coincidence, Lil is one of the ones who came to mind when I wrote this piece. You really need to send this to the editor. I remember when Hannah was a baby (after three boys), people gave us hand-me-down froo-froo girlie clothes, and someone referred to her as "Little Lil." Oh, and didn't she have a hair dresser come to her apartment to do her hair once a week?

  3. One of the people who inspired me was also single, too-loud, laughed too hard, but she also loved us well, was interested in the kids, played hide-and-seek with us, played practical jokes on us, and is still caring for us as we transitioned our of MKs into missionaries ourselves.

    I have lived and walked among giants and wish I could tell some of their stories, but I can't. Yet among them all, there is not one who is the stereotypical "missionary".

    Yet, when I was home, someone said of someone else, "Oh, she's your typical MK" to me. Meaning that she was shy and socially awkward. Excuse me?! What am I then, your non-typical MK? She is that way because her mother raised her that way, but most MKs I know could knock your socks off! Maybe it is because most of them end up back overseas and the very few remain behind that people in the US think that the few "different" ones they see are normal!

  4. I think that being ourselves on the field is not only right and good for us, but will also be a blessing to the nationals we live amongst. God knew exactly how He created us to be and it was His idea to send us, so I conclude from that it is best to be ourselves on the field! I like being "as Kim as I can be" in Jesus!


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