The Real Life of a Missionary
I have been reflecting on our life here since we have been back in Haiti, and I wanted to share some thoughts that I’ve had about being a missionary in Haiti. To some people, moving to Haiti was brave and there is an almost romanticized view of what being a missionary is. To others, moving to Haiti was stupid and even worse now that we have a daughter. I have even had someone tell me that I am wasting my degree from Georgia Tech by living here and not making the kind of money I could have (little does he know, if using a Georgia Tech degree means making money, then I “wasted” that degree years ago!). The truth is that being a missionary is a combination of both of those 2 things with a lot of average thrown in for good measure. Let me take some time to explain what I mean.
Before I start with the explanation, the truth is, it took me a long time before I even began considering myself a missionary. When people would ask me what my profession was, I would usually just kind of awkwardly answer that I live in another country and run an orphanage. I never used the word “missionary.” It seemed like that word was reserved for great men and women of the faith, and I am not even close to that. When I was a pastor in the states I always knew I was undeserving of the title, but I always knew that it was what GOD wanted. When we moved to Haiti, I always just felt like GOD wanted us to take care of our children. We were not missionaries as much as we were just people who loved a group of children like they were ours and we were created to take care of them. Recently, however, I have realized that just like GOD called me to be a Pastor, He has called me to be a missionary in Haiti. While I may not be good enough or spiritual enough to earn the title missionary, GOD has given it to me and I am honored that He has done that.
With that said, let me tell you why the people who romanticize being a missionary are right to do just that while the people who believe life as a missionary is too difficult and that people who do it aren’t quite right are correct in their beliefs as well. It is because life as a missionary is extremely “not boring.” Notice I use the term “not boring” rather than fun or exciting and there is a reason for that. On the flip side, notice that I use the term “not boring” rather than hard or difficult and there is also a reason for that. Life here can be fun and it can be exciting, it can also be extremely difficult and trying, but the best term to describe life as a missionary is “not boring.” Please understand, I am not using the phrase “not boring” to wholly describe a missionary’s life. I am only using it as a way to describe our lives on the mission field compared to our lives prior or compared to the everyday living you can find in America. I understand that we have the awesome opportunity to serve our Lord and that our lives are full of joy, peace, and everything other good thing because of Him and I am not describing only the life of a missionary but of every Christ follower when I say that. The point of this blog is to show the reality of life as a missionary even amidst the joy of following Christ.
For example, the other night we were sitting around with the kids talking when one of the kids said something they should not have. That simple moment turned into a teaching opportunity for all of the children around. Yesterday, we celebrated Herbison’s birthday with cake and coke down at the kids house and there was this family feel to our gathering that is hard to describe unless you have been with these kids for years like we have. These are the times that you live for. When you are able to make something simple like playing basketball with the older boys a time where they feel like someone truly cares about them or when you can sit down with them and tell them that no matter how old they get I will always be there for them. These are the times when you look around and think, there is no other place I would rather be and no other profession that GOD could use me like this to make a difference in people’s lives.
Then you have the other examples. Like today when I went down to buy water and after paying for it, it took the employees over 20 minutes to find the key to the water container. Or when something really simple like paying for school turns into a 5 day affair where nobody shows up at their office when they should. There is the frustration of leaving your wife and daughter at home to go run 4 errands that should take about 30 minutes but as you leave you know that you will not accomplish anything and it will probably take you about 2 hours to not accomplish those things (which, by the way, it did take 2 hours and I did not accomplish anything). There is the frustration of not being able to fully understand what people are saying (because they speak another language), how people are living (because you have never been in their position), or why people believe what they do because you truly are and always will be an outsider. No matter how long we live here or how well we get to know people we will always be the Americans and we will never truly fit in. These are the examples that make missionary life difficult.
The truth is, like I mentioned before, the best way to say it is that the missionary life is “not boring.” To do simple tasks like service your car, buy clean water, or find diesel for your generator can turn into an adventure. While things that should be really difficult and really adventurous could take 2 minutes and be over before you know it. There are ups and downs just like in everything else, but there is a big difference. Being a missionary is not a career choice or simply a job, it is your life. You have to be willing to give your whole life to the people that GOD calls you to and you have to be willing to go without rest and without privacy most of the time. You have to be willing to be completely exhausted and then get a knock at your door almost every morning before 7 am no matter how many times you tell your security guard 8:00 is the earliest you want visitors. But you also have to be willing to have one of the coolest, most adventurous jobs in the world because you truly never know what is going to happen next. Being a missionary is definitely not boring no matter how you look at it, and I cannot wait to see where GOD takes us next.