Confession #91: I Don’t Want to be a Missionary Anymore (unless you do too)

Jillian-medical-clinic-northern-haiti

There are many things I know I am not:

A historian

A theologian

An athlete

There are many things I try to be, although I daily fall short:

A leader

A writer

A mentor

There are things I dream of becoming:

A fluent Creole speaker

A mom who loves cleaning, baking, and handmade crafts

A person who inspires

But here I am.- sitting on my porch, basking in a pool of my own sweat no thanks to the Caribbean sun, and wondering if/when I should wash my dirty dishes today. Not leading, inspiring, or mentoring anyone, not speaking any Creole, and defiantly not calling my kids over to make Easter decorations for our house.

I’m what most people call a “missionary”. Yet, most days I am not so sure if I want that title. Being a “missionary” comes with expectations- expectations from supporters of how I should act, expectations from friends and family of being a super Christian or something, and expectations from locals of having unlimited money, resources, and an obligation to help all.

I get it. Everyone needs a title, something to help identify what it is they actually do in life. I left my home in Tennessee, left my family, left my job. I moved to Haiti with a mission. I live on the financial support of others. Therefore, I guess “missionary” is the obvious go-to response when someone asks me for my job description.

But sometimes, I wish it wasn’t.

Sometimes, when someone asks me what I do, I wish I could simply say: I work with teenagers who grew up without families and help them develop the necessary skills to heal their pasts and prepare them for their futures.

Simple. Honest. And minus the exotic glamour of being an oversees missionary.

Thing is, I know a lot of people who do very similar things to what I do in America. Better, actually. But too often they don’t get the attention I do because they are on the home front, whereas I am in the 3rd world.

Or take today.

Today I slept in because I was awake in the wee hours of the morning cursing the blind rooster next door who thought the sun was rising at 1:00am. I ate breakfast, homeschooled my little ones, and then ate lunch. Thanks to city power gracing us with its presence, I was able to do laundry, plug up my refrigerator, and pump water. Then I returned some emails and updated our organization’s social media sites, did my daily yoga, and then returned to the computer to prepare for an upcoming fundraiser. Then a girl came over to learn how to make mashed potatoes from a box she bought down town. We talked about school while we cooked. She thought the fake potatoes were gross. She gave them to me. And now I am sitting on my porch with one of our boys who just came over to talk to me while I wait for Hunter to bring me a double cheeseburger and ice cream. I’m currently multitasking: talking to this boy, writing this blog, and coloring with my kids. Have I mentioned I rock at the art of multitasking?

Perhaps describing every detail of my day was a bit overkill. But today, I didn’t feel much like a “missionary”. Today I felt like a mom, a homemaker, a fundraiser, and a friend to our teens. I didn’t have any grand adventures. I didn’t save any lives. I didn’t witness any miracles. I just lived life with my people. Simple. Honest. Nothing glamorous or exotic about it (unless you want to count the 1,000,000 mosquitos swarming around my house).

Some days, like today, being a “missionary” is simply living life with the people God put in place around you. Today, being a missionary for me was being a teacher to my kids. Today, it was taking care of things around my house so my family can live in the nice place God gave us. And it was being available for a few of my teens who needed some one-on-one time with someone who loves them.

I want you to know something: We are all missionaries. From the stay-at-home in Utah to the middle school teacher in Tennessee, from the minister in Pennsylvania to the social worker in Texas, from the poor college student to the multi-million dollar business man, from me in Haiti who works with teenagers to the brave men and women in Asia rescuing girls from sex trafficking. WE ARE ALL MISSIONARIES.

I don’t want to be called a missionary anymore. And my reason is this: I don’t want people to think I am better. I don’t want my role in the kingdom to seem anymore superior, because it is not. In the grand scheme of the church body, I am just the nail on the left pinky toe. I mean, probably. But we all are playing our part. All of us. Equally.

From now on, if you ask me what it is that I do, I am just going to tell you I work with 17 awesome teenagers who just happen to be Haitian. Sure, if you let me, I will also tell you all about the incredible organization I work for as well. But you probably won’t hear me say the word “missionary”. I just live life loving the people God called me to love. And I imagine a lot of you are too.

So either I drop the “missionary” title or we all need to start taking ownership of our various missions around the world- in our homes, workplaces, friend groups, and communities. God has placed us all where He desires us to be on mission for His kingdom. He has placed all the people He wants us to love in our path. He has given all of us a part in His body. So let us all be missionaries. Not just me, but you too.

~ Jillian

14 Comments on “Confession #91: I Don’t Want to be a Missionary Anymore (unless you do too)

  1. Well said, Jillian. 🙂

    But I disagree with your statements that you “didn’t save any lives [or] witness any miracles today,” for most likely you did! 😊

    We realize as we get older that it is exactly as you said, we “are all on various missions around the world,” and the things we accomplish daily that seem so insignificant and trivial to us at the time are actually steps on the ladder of God’s To-Do list for us.

    I daresay that helping a girl to realize that those boxed mashed potatoes don’t taste very good will save her from a failed supper for her family someday hence, and that taking the time to sit with the boy who needed to talk will make an impact on his life, too.

    Maybe, just maybe, we “missionaries” around the world actually do God’s work one “insignificant, trivial” task after another.

    The saying that was popular decades ago still applies today, even to God’s work, that we can each “bloom where we’re planted,” even on an ordinary Thursday when we “just live life for our people.”

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  2. Stick w it and you’ll find that missionary is the lowest rung on the ministerial ladder, the most dispensable, least respected, lowest paid. All ministry is everyday unto Christ, anything less is a job. And if you want to get real humbled, consider that you do not qualify as a genuine missionary until you have ten years under your belt.

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  3. So, if I bring you more peanut M&M’s when I come back next month.. Can I claim that as mission work? You and Hunter are doing what God wants you to be doing right now.

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  4. Thank you for saying what’s needed to be said for so long, and what I wish I could write publicly. I’m serving with you in SE Asia, and I’m thankful some of our mutual friends shared your blog. Excited to follow your story!

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  5. Love, love, looooooove this blog entry!!! I’ve been skulking around the edges, reading posts as I have time/opportunity. (I learned about you through Tanya’s sharing of your posts.)

    Anyway, I really NEEDED to read this today (and didn’t even know I did, until i did 🙂 )! Thank you soooooo much for your honesty and openness and willingness to share!

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  6. Hi, I don’t know you, but found your blog simply by typing the words “I don’t want to be called a missionary”. Today my husband and I stayed in our beautiful house that God has blessed us with. Our donated van, from the 80’s, broke down yesterday, so a friend came over to help my husband fix it. It was a simple fix and we are super thankful. After that, I made us all a tasty lunch, baked cookies (burned a batch), and we just talked. Our friend, who has the biggest heart and is super timid, opened up his heart and started to share with us. Somewhere in between, tears started to run down his face, but by the end of our time together he was smiling and seemed full of peace.Today was beautiful, yet I can’t fight the feeling of not having done enough with my day to earn the title missionary. However, I know my God loves me and has blessed me with His amazing grace. I could go back to states tomorrow, no longer be a “missionary” and His love for me would not change. There is a point in this jumbled comment of mine and that is to tell you thank you for writing this blog post. I am in Guatemala with my husband, we are both in our early 20’s. We have mainly been living from our savings and came to Guatemala for the third year in a row as ‘missionaries’ (this is month 5). These last two months I have not felt very missionary like, by that I mean to say I feel that I haven’t done enough to be called a missionary. On a daily basis I am not taking care of beautiful needy children, I am not praying for people like crazy, I haven’t seen crazy miracles in the last couple weeks, and my living conditions are great! There is an endless list of things I could be doing, but am not and people’s expectations of missionaries are too demanding…sometimes they don’t see we are just regular people who want to share the love of an extraordinary God while doing ordinary things, just in a different country. When it comes down to it, as you stated in your blog post, “I don’t want to be called a missionary anymore. And my reason is this: I don’t want people to think I am better. I don’t want my role in the kingdom to seem anymore superior, because it is not. In the grand scheme of the church body, I am just the nail on the left pinky toe. I mean, probably. But we all are playing our part. All of us. Equally.” This statement is so true and exactly what has been in my heart, so thank you for being able to put it down in writing. I know we serve an amazing, loving, and gracious God and He will help us see ourselves the way he sees us. Thanks again Jillian!

    Liked by 1 person

    • First of all, I’m so glad you found your way here. Second, thank you for sharing your heart and your struggles. Third, I know exactly how you feel. I remember my first year really having a hard time with the quiet moments of ministry. I was so used to participating with short term missions that I just assumed I would be on the go all the time, helping people, making others happy, and “saving the world”. As you know, that is not at all what being a full time “missionary” is about. And going in, nobody told me that. I expected to be on fire for God 24/7 and that just isn’t the case. Some days I get out of bed late and all I have energy to do is homeschool my kids and make meals for my family. And other days I am running circles around town for our ministry. But every day is different and I have had to learn to just let go of the guilt that maybe I am not the picture perfect example of what a missionary should be like…whatever that means. I am praying for you and please stay in touch!

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