Newsflash: We’re Not Better Because We Live Overseas

by Laura Parker on June 26, 2013

I read a lot of missionary blogs.

When someone comments from Peru or Vietnam or Sudan, I click, and I read. Because the world fascinates me. It is a big, beautiful place, and God is doing amazing things on all corners of it. Absolutely.

But, as I have read missionary blogs, and as I have watched videos about world races, I am struck with the subtle arrogance of the Western missionary’s language. Things {something} like this are all over our websites and newsletters:

“I knew that there was more to life than the 9-t0-5 in America. I was just a businessman, and now I get to be so much more.”

“I felt God calling me into a bigger story. One that wasn’t so comfortable and easy.”

“I am living a good story, because I am moving overseas to Africa.”

“I’ve spent my whole life in the normal, but now I am embracing real adventure.”

“There is desperate need in India, and I finally get to become Jesus’s hands and feet.”

Okay, friends.  Put yourself in the non-missionary’s shoes. What does this kind of language communicate? Reading our overseas blogs from North Carolina or Colorado or California, what are we saying to all of those who aren’t choosing to live in a foreign country?

That their story isn’t good because they aren’t feeding African children?

That they can’t see God work in miraculous ways in the West?

That there is something selfish about simply rooting where you are planted?

That God doesn’t show up in dramatic ways in the “normal,” that there isn’t need in the States?

That their Christ-following is somehow, less?

This is wrong. All of it.

Because yes, the video of the white guy with the poor kids and the inspirational music in the background is dramatic and inspirational, but his story isn’t better by any means than the housewife who is trying to flesh out her faith in the same hometown she grew up in.

It. is. not.

Despite what our media sells us. Or our Christian circles tell us. Or the popular communicate in their highly-edited videos.

Following Jesus and loving others well can happen anywhere. Is hard anywhere. And can speak transformationanywhere.

And, so, friends who might read here and who aren’t choosing to live overseas, let me officially apologize– on behalf of myself and on behalf of all the missionary-media you’ve seen.

If the power of your story has felt devalued because you have chosen to do the hard{er?} work of staying and loving others right where you are, I ask your forgiveness.

Because a good story most definitely does not require a passport.

And, to my missionary friends, please, please, forthelove, be careful in your communication. Be careful that you are not subtly telling your followers, your supporters, your friends back home that they are less.

The choice to usher in the Kingdom deserves respect, wherever it takes place.

*Version originally appeared on LauraParkerBlog, March 2012

*****

Do you communicate, or believe, that the “more Godly” move is an international one? How does that attitude play into our communications with our support back home? Or even our sense of pride?

Laura Parker, Co-Founder/Editor, Former Aid Worker in SE Asia

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About Laura Parker

Living on three continents and moving 15 times in 15 years of marriage, Laura is no stranger to transition. Recently living in SE Asia with her family, Laura now serves as the VP of a counter-trafficking organization which her husband began, The Exodus Road. Laura is the co-founder and editor here at A Life Overseas and writes at her blog, http://www.LauraParkerWrites.com.

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