Monday, December 8, 2014

Missionary Myths Debunked

Hey y'all, I know you're thinking that a missionary is some super-human who can bring thousands of converts to Christ per year with a smile on their face and joy in their heart. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that isn't true. I am here today to debunk a few myths about missionaries, a fog which seems to hang around the minds of some people who have never seen the mission field for themselves or heard the nitty-gritty of service abroad. 

1. Missionaries do not take vacation

2. Missionaries do not drink alcohol
3. Missionaries are busy 24/7 with ministry opportunities
4. Missionaries have no savings or retirement accounts
5. A missionary's success is defined by how many converts they have

Now, I know you are probably thinking, I don't think ALL of those are true. But there is probably at least one on that list that you would expect to be true. So for the sake of time they are numbered and you can jump down to the one you'd like to hear about.

1. Missionaries do not take vacation

It is part of life to work hard and then take a break. And the cost of traveling to other countries in Europe is about the same amount as traveling to other states in the U.S. So, it does not take a huge amount of financial planning to save up for a weekend trip to France or Hungary. In fact, I took one last week.

I have been afraid to post online the places I've been going for fear that people will think I'm spending money frivolously. In truth, many people I work with take trips all the time, and it is de rigueur for someone to travel to a foreign country on a 3-day weekend. It is way more expensive to travel home, and I know missionaries who travel to the U.S. twice a year! 

No more fear. I am posting the places I go and people I see. Last weekend I went to France to visit a friend there, and the flight cost about the same as gas money for a 6-hour trip across Texas. 

I had my first French crepe! Delish.

2. Missionaries do not drink alcohol

Question: What was Jesus' first miracle?

A. Causing lots of fish to be caught in a net
B. Turning water into wine
C. Casting out a demon
D. Healing a leper

For those of you who chose B, great job! Jesus did in fact turn water into wine as the first sign of his ministry. He even got nailed for this by the Pharisees. Jesus said in effect, 'What do you want from me? John's disciples didn't drink and you complain, and mine do and you complain.' 

'For John the Baptist has come neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, He has a demon. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Behold, a Man Who is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of tax collectors and notorious sinners.' -Luke 7:33-34
Creating beer is a huge source of pride for the Germans, and the Austrians love their young wine. They do not eat and drink frivolously. It is a past-time that's part of their culture and they have a different attitude towards drinking than Americans. Many, and I repeat many, missionaries in Europe drink. And yes, I do too. 

3. Missionaries are busy 24/7 with ministry opportunities

After being legalistic most of life, I have learned the value of sitting back and waiting for God to show me what to get involved in. I am surrounded by busy bee teachers who do tons of ministry and have little left for themselves or family at the end of day. I don't think that's ideal, and I have the rest of my life to figure out what to do with my evenings. I have gotten involved in a bible study at school with some 6th grade girls on Tuesdays and that's great, and I do the Starbucks bible study with Max on Thursday nights. And for now, that's enough for me. 

A teacher I work with has battled with sickness for weeks, and he said the doctor told him if he could take it easy he would get healed. But this teacher has been stressed and was talking about that and then he said, 'Who isn't stressed?' Secretly I was thinking, 'Me.' I don't wanna say that their work isn't important because it is, but I don't feel called to give up my evenings for the sake of the school or to look good. God has given us what we need for life (if we allow him to) and godliness without us trying to earn it ourselves. 

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that are requisite and suited to life and godliness, through the full, personal knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence. -2 Peter 1:3

4. Missionaries have no savings or retirement accounts

Now, I'm not saying missionaries are rich, but they are usually good stewards of what God and others have given them. It is wise to save for the future, like the busy ant saves its food in Proverbs. There may not be much to work with, but to give up and decide to spend all you have is simply foolish. The verse below shows that is God's blessing for a man or woman to enjoy the possessions and money he/she has, not longing for more. 

Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions, and the power to enjoy them and to accept his appointed lot and to rejoice in his toil -- this is the gift of God. -Ecclesiastes 5:19

In talking with older missionaries, I have found it's not uncommon for them to have savings plans and retirement accounts. Some of them even play the stock market with their savings in order to boost it since they don't start out with much. After seeing how the Austrian government takes care of its citizens so well, I wish the U.S. government could do the same. But unfortunately that's not the case.

5. A missionary's success is defined by how many converts they have

I have felt the pressure since I started sending out support letters to have some type of results for the work here in Austria. Three converts this year! But to be honest, that's not the type of results I see. And Europe has been described as a missionary graveyard. That's because people have already seen it, heard it, and don't want much to do with Christianity (which can't be that different from the Catholic church, right?). They also value longevity, and it takes a long time to break down people's walls here. I'm talking years and years.

So, I am finally learning to relax. The work I do here is valuable even if I don't see immediate results. After all, if the soil is bad then the seed won't grow. I feel like I'm a planter or toiler in the soil, maybe a waterer, but not a harvester. Not yet, anyway.

And now for some pictures! 

I had the chance to visit my friend in Toulouse, France. Here are some pics from the city.

I also had the chance to go to a Christmas market near the Mondsee (moon lake) near Salzburg, Austria. 

They had great places to warm up. It was about 35 degrees.