Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Am I Alone in This??

This week I literally have nothing worth saying. I started out answering a common question we have all pondered, and in the process of answering it, became too emotionally involved and found that I need more time to search my heart for a proper response that is not silly or trite.

The question, just to get you thinking, is this:

"How do you respond when your closest friends and your own family seemingly do not support your ministry?"

Mind you, the question is not necessarily about finances, but also in prayerful support, visits, and emails. Each of these could take up a whole blog post. What I want to somehow acknowledge is that yes, it hurts when we have certain expectations that are not met. It would be easy to give some platitude about "trusting God and looking to Him alone" or to just be silly and quote a phrase I heard from a movie I never saw: "Maybe they're just not that into you." However neither of these approaches quite address the issue.

A friend just recently told me about the frustration of sending emails before a furlough asking people to let her know if they want to get together while she is home. Then no one responds. How can that not be received as a personal wound? We could explore lots of reasons why people don't call, don't write, don't offer hospitality, don't give a love offering or pledge monthly support. We could give all our friends the benefit of the doubt, saying each one has their own ministries stateside, or outside ministries they support, but does that erase the effect on our hearts?

What about when you desperately need a certain amount of money for a critical need, and you think you have plenty of friends that surely would each give a small amount until the need is met, and then no one does? How do you keep trusting God and not feel resentful that people do not respond? They don't send an email assuring you of prayers, they don't send a check, and in fact you wonder if they even read your emails. For many of us, this is reality.

We all have seen what loving supportive friends look like, and we all long for that. Some of us are blessed with a bunch of them. Others are not.

I'd like to hear from your own experience on this subject. Feel free to write your story anonymously in care of our editor, Cindy.

IRL*sometimes the closest to you can seem the most distant.


  1. Nope, you are not alone in this. And, it is not "as it should be". I do think the key is... at least for me... is how I handle the disappointment. What are right expectations? Why am I hurt? ... these are heart questions with no easy answers. And, not become resentful, as you pointed out. Appreciate you posting about this difficult issue. I will be looking back for others' comments.

  2. Something that just came to me this morning is that we should adjust our thinking and not expect anyone to "get" the way we live, and certainly not to respond the way we would in similar circumstances.

    Being "women of the harvest" we become accustomed to being on the giving end of things like airport pick-ups, overnight hospitality, meals, financial assistance, lending a hand) that we forget that something that is no big deal to us might be perceived as a huge imposition to someone else.

    Our friends could be thinking we have a lot of nerve to ask, let alone expect such huge favors of them.

  3. Ok, I just wrote a looooong comment agreeing with you and giving my perspective and it disappeared. Grrr!

    It is really hard. I have to keep reminding myself that I am trusting God not them. They are human and sinful and fail, but God is bigger than all that and it is HIS work, not mine.

  4. This is quite likely *not* the right place for this, but -- I DO want to get together with you in TX!! But for several weeks now there's been something wrong with my email acct. I can receive emails, but I cannot send them. MADDENING!!!

    I DO get the way you live, and I hate my silence, and so I'm grabbing this opportunity to squeeze past my email blockage and say COME SEE ME.

    And you don't have to ask -- you can stay here, your family is welcome, and I'll feed you, too. I'll haul you all over town, I love thrift-shop shopping, and I hate the mall but I like you so I'd take you. :) I do love me some Target, so that'd work, right?

    Let's see if you can email me via my son's school account, which is josiahm at northstar-academy dot org


  5. @Beth: sorry about the glitch with your comment. Try again if you ever feel inspired. I agree with your stance.

    @Tristan: Hi! You are the poster child for the generous friend who "gets it!" I'll write you at their other email.

  6. We have a funny saying in our home, "the key to happiness is low expectations!" Now, this can actually be an unhealthy coping mechanism... but in some case SO helpful. Jamie Jo, I think you are right... having very low expectations for people's ability to "get it" is probably one really helpful way to walk this journey. They can't get it... cuz they don't live it. I don't get a "doctor's wife" or an actor's life. So, they simply can't get it. Which is all the more important to have fellowship and friendship with other "women of the harvest".

  7. I like that saying, Stephanie, and I agree that our fellowship here is all the more sweet because of these common issues.

  8. I do laugh when my non-missionary friends are shocked when we have guest that are coming to live with us for a month.

    "How can you stand someone that long?!"

    "It is so much work!"

    To us, it is not unusual. We shuffle the bedrooms and beds, and just add more food in the pot - nothing special, nothing hard. We like guests... but we also ask them to wash dishes! :)

  9. Boy this hits home with me. We were on furlough about a year ago and we had the WORST time trying to make appointments with churches and get together with supporters. Honestly, I am not sure I can remember a time where a supporter made the initiative instead of us contacting them. And my husband got so discouraged with trying to contact people that he just gave up, and said, "They know we are here. If they want to see us, let them get ahold of us."
    We held two open houses at our main supporting church, the one my grandpa used to be a pastor at, and where we went to throughout college. We sent out over 200 postcards inviting our supporters and friends to these events. How many people showed up? About 20, to the two events COMBINED. So discouraging. Oh, and we got about 5 minutes in one service to share about our ministry. That's it.
    A friend of mine (from the same home church) is a missionary in Haiti. She often writes about how she LOVES her church family and how supportive they are of her. The SAME church! I don't know what the difference is, but we definitely do not feel the same way that she does. I really wish we did. I am just jealous of her, that's all!
    I get jealous when I hear about others receiving care packages from churches or small groups, because I honestly don't remember the last time we got a care package that wasn't me asking a friend or family member to buy a list of items and send them to us.
    But I will stop my whine-fest now. :-) You hit close to home here. I don't know how to get our friends and supporters to feel more involved with us. Maybe it would mean seeing us more often? I don't know... hard to do when we only get one 6-month furlough every 3 1/2 years... and we don't exactly have a list of people wanting to come see us. Well, I am sure we do. But the likelihood of any of them coming is very slim, when the cost to get out here is about $2000/person! Not exactly conducive to having frequent visitors!

    So, all that to say... I know what you mean!

  10. I thank God for a supportive family, but some people that were key in my spiritual development have surprised me in their lack of care. Former church elders, Youth Leaders, etc...
    I heard once that we often expect them to care about what we do, when they too have been in the thick of ministry in the US for the same amount of time as we've been gone. We need to make a point of asking about their work and their ministry.
    A missionary can never think that their only field is in the 'other' country. They must also be prepared to minister to people in our home country too.

  11. I read the comments with just as much interest as I did your blog post. I especially liked your comment, Jamie Jo, about not expecting people at home to "get" our life. And I like Stephanie's comment that she just doesn't "get" their lives either. This view point helps me to take things with a grain of salt.

    I also have realized when I go on furlough how overwhelming hosting is for people back home. Even having someone over for a meal is a big deal. I've learned how to host people and cook meals for a crowd on the field!

    I send out an e-mail prayer update and rarely get any feedback on it, but I try to remember the sheer number of e-mails people get in their inbox...

    My heart does go out to those who are frustrated and feeling lonely and unsupported. There are no easy answers.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...