Alternate title: “Missionaries are like Manure”
Musicians love music. They make their own music but they revel in the music others make, too.
Artists love art. They create their own pieces but they thrive on experiencing the creations of others.
Technicians love techie stuff. A game designer plays hundreds of hours of games on a plethora of gaming systems.
Following this reasoning we could conclude that missionaries love missions.
When we were in missions school one of the teachers told us that the top three reasons missionaries leave the field are: money matters, sickness, and relationship problems. He went on to expound on the difficulties missionaries tend to have getting along with others. The famous quote we took away from that class made me laugh.
“Missionaries are like manure. Spread them out and they do some good. In a group they are just a stinky pile of… crap.”
I didn’t believe it. Until I saw it with my own eyes. Missionaries fighting against missionaries. Mission organizations undermining other mission organizations. The saddest? People who had given up everything they once knew to help the people of a foreign land, leaving earlier than planned because they couldn’t get along with their team.
I closed myself off from relationships with other missionaries. I could count on one hand the number of other missionaries I allowed myself and my kids to have contact with. It was fabulous for language learning. I connected really well with the Bolivians. I think God was cool with it for a while, for about five years, in fact.
Then I felt urged to consider the possibility of opening myself to relationships with other missionaries. Upon reflection I saw my reasons for not making friends with missionaries tainted by an ugly shade of pride. My miss-goodie-two-shoes mindset kept me away from problematic relationships, but it also validated my sin of pride. I was so proud of myself for not getting trapped in a pile of manure that I began to judge those who worked on mission teams. I criticized the workers bound to the conditions imposed upon them by their overseers. I puffed up our independence.
Knowledge puffs up but love edifies. I have to love other missionaries, too? Yes.
Bit by bit I began making friends with other missionaries. I quit ducking away from the foreigners at the market. I stopped crossing the street if I spotted another pair of blue eyes.
This stirring started about six years ago. Guess, what? I am still on the mission field.
I am so glad that God’s gracious treatment of resentment removal has been fun. It’s been so good to get to know other workers. Our family has benefited. Our mission has benefited. I am most grateful for the personal benefits I have undeservedly gained from friendships with other missionaries.
What’s your experience with relationships with other missionaries or foreign workers? Are you guarded or welcoming with other ex-pats? As passionate, dedicated, people of mission how can we build healthy relationships with others? Are missionaries like manure?
- Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America