Struggling Missionaries (or, Does our Suffering Help the Cause?)

by Levi Benkert on January 1, 2013

Something has changed. I am not sure exactly when it happened, and only in looking back can I see that it did.  But there is no arguing it; things are different now than when we first got off that plane. Back then we were fired up – and ready to take on the needs of the poor even if it meant that we had to sacrifice anything and everything of our own. We had just sold the sum of our earthly possessions back in America, and it was time to give it all for those in need.

That was almost four years ago.

Four years of power outages, bad roads, no money, missing home, water shortages, mystery sicknesses, car trouble, and countless cultural frustrations that brought us to our knees daily.  As evidence I submit the following, a photo of our first “kitchen” in Ethiopia.

Now, though, things are easy, or at least easier.

We used to wash dishes in tubs of cold, cloudy well water; we now have a $50 instant water heater next to the sink in our indoor kitchen. We used to spend hours waiting for taxi’s; we now drive a new (if you can call 1997 new) car that rarely breaks down and even has seat belts for all of the kids. We used to run out of water a few days a week; we now have a tank on the outside of our house that keeps the showers on even when the city pipes offer up nothing but air.

Not that life is all perfect and roses now. We still live in a foreign land, and people yell “Ferenj” (foreigner) at us when we walk down the street. Our skin is still the wrong color. We still can’t get Oreos or chocolate chips at the supermarket. On the other hand, we don’t even like Oreos anymore. You don’t miss what you can’t remember.

Part of me, though, feels that with this shift we are not here for the same reasons that we came for.  Even though I know that is not true. If anything, we are exponentially more effective today than when we first arrived.

We came to help orphans. When we got here we had to work at helping just one child. Now we help hundreds.

Less complications = more help.  Right?

The truth is, though, I kind of miss the struggle. I miss the closeness to God that I felt when I was hurting for the least of these. I miss feeling like I was doing something of value just by being here.

But should I? Was I ever really helping the kingdom more because the couch legs were falling off? Was I somehow holier when I smelled like a tribal person because the water had been out for two weeks?

People keep asking me when I will write a second book. My first was about how we sold everything to move to Ethiopia, messed up our perfect lives to rescue children who were being killed due to a tribal superstition, and nearly lost ourselves in the process. The second book, if I were to write one, would be boring as all get out! I am left to wonder what part of this change our lives has gone through is good.

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Today with this post I want to pose a question to all missionaries, missionary hopefuls, and missionary supporters.

I want to open a discussion about suffering and productivity. I honestly don’t know where I land on this. Some days I am all about making our home as comfortable as possible so that we can “last” longer in this place. Other days I am ready to give it all up so that I can help more people who have nothing themselves.

When visiting friends I can see that every missionary has a different point of view when it comes to how much is “enough”. I know it will never be the same for everyone. Still, I am left here wondering: is there a right and a wrong when it comes to how we should live as missionaries?

Okay.  Enough said by me.  What do you think?

  ——————————–

Levi Benkertlives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with his wife and four children where they together created a ministry called Bring Love In that unites widows from the local community with orphans from the government orphanages to create new families.  He wrote a book called No Greater Love and writes a personal blog at www.LeviBenkert.com

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  • Shannon Kelley

    Ah! This is a hard question that I’m not sure has one easy pat answer but here is what I will say. I lived the first 6 months in a nice house in Haiti, guarded by a fence, all the amenities since it was a guesthouse, etc. We lived like Americans in Haiti. Then we decided (well, God did) and moved us about 10 hours out into a village that has nothing, not even a road into it-you have to drive through a river to get there. And we actually made the choice to live as closely to Haitian’s as we could. To be WITH them. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and brought me to my knee’s. It gave me a better understanding of the culture and how to serve correctly because now I have been there with them to a degree. It made me realize that even after I stripped everything away to be like them, I could never truly understand…because I still had a passport in hand, I could choose to leave any day. They couldn’t.

    We live in a Haitian house with no walls built around it for security, no running water, no electricity unless we drive 2 hours for gas for a small generator to run. And as HARD as it is I am now to the point where I would choose this over having American conveniances because I see the blessing and reward in it. We are part of the community here now because they saw us everyday at the well with them. We have friends. We are WITH them in life. And that speaks so much more than we will ever realize.

    I’m not sure what all the Bible says on this matter but I can’t get over the fact that when Jesus visited towns or went to a place He didn’t go in and build this place that would be more “convenient”, He stayed with friends or locals, He dined with the sinners. Comfort wasn’t even on the radar, only being with the people and speaking into their lives were.

    And yes, that is hard to do. Even now as much as we try here, we will always be somewhat separated but after living on both sides this last year I know, truly know, that being with people in the struggle allows us to reach them and serve with them so much better because we are with them instead of putting us on a pedestal to reach down to help them. In a little way, isn’t that what God did too? To help us, He sent His son to suffer and live with us so He could better serve us?

    GREAT POST! Love that it got me thinking and putting words into thoughts on how and why we live like we do:)

    • Shannon Kelley

      Love all the comments and just gives a glimpse at the complexity of this subject. I think Richelle said it best with “The right/wrong comes in living obediently to how God specifically directs me, my family, our team.” I was really thinking about this more last night because I do truly
      believe that the way we are doing it is the way God called us to but
      that is in our specific context, in the country we are in that has a
      HUGE history of aid and the fallout of it, in a little village where we can do this in terms of security, etc. There are places in Haiti we couldn’t do this because of security, there are countries where living like locals wouldn’t matter a bit. But I also think I forgot to really convey that in my eagerness of posting the above comment. Eagerness because this last couple of weeks have been a turning point for me in embracing how we live and learning to thrive in it rather than suffer through. (Which is totally a God thing!)

      So, all that to say, I believe that God has called us to live intentionally with less so that we can identify with our little village in Haiti and walk with them and for alot of the reasons listed above. But I also have no idea about other countries, their history with missionaries, the security aspect, etc. It all boils down to what Richelle said, the right thing to do is what God is calling you to do. 🙂

      • Cindy Leknih

        I do think the key is listening to God and obeying Him. Being proud of suffering isn’t very humble. Missionaries abroad do at times have it hard, but so do American Christians in the USA. We’re all in this together and should all walk humbly and honor each other.

    • Wow, Shannon– I loved reading this comment. I loved the perspective it gave me and the picture I have in my head of where you guys are living and the work you are doing there. . . . . I must admit, it does sound SO. Hard.
      But so deeply good, too.

      Levi, great post! I agree with Shannon- you really got us thinking here in a profoundly practical way. Loved it!

  • Tanja

    When we first arrived in West Africa, our conditions were very difficult, too. Not quite as bad as washing the dishes in dirty water, but still quite a step (or giant fall) down from what we are accustomed to in Europe. And while living like the locals certainly has a lot of positive sides when it comes to identification and closeness to the people, on the other hand, one has to know one’s limits and what is most effective within the parameters of OUR calling. Let’s not compare ourselves to “all” other missionaries and set a standard that applies for “all”. Each case is different. People and ministries are different.

    We were counseled by several “old” missionaries before we left home to make sure to invest emotionally and financially in making a “home” on the field where we could go to withdraw, to feel alone and to recharge our batteries. I have found that this was, for us, a wise decision. I don’t know if I could have lasted very long if I had to spend all my time drawing water from a well and walking to each place we need to go. Now we have a car, and a water pump, and a solar system, and we are much more effective in doing the kind of ministry God has set before us, than what we would be if we didn’t have those things. It should be said that we were called here to serve as capacitators for the churches in the area, and to do our work, we use both the car and the house grounds.

    My conclusion: suffering doesn’t enhance ministry automatically. Identification with the locals certainly can. But again – we are only people. Let’s allow each other to work and live in the way that we are most effective in our ministries, hopefully helping us last many more years in the field than if we were to give up more than we felt we could, and end up burning out prematurely.

    • Levi Benkert

      Tanja, I agree completely! Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. “My conclusion: suffering doesn’t enhance ministry automatically. Identification with the locals certainly can. “

    • Excellent conclusion! People and ministries and cultures are different. Absolutely! The counsel you received was exactly what we were told and I too would not have lasted long if we had not followed it as well.

  • Suffering comes in a myriad of shadowy shapes and shifting forms.

    Must we invite the guilt and pride that comes from qualifying things as “wrong” or “right”, respectively, when assessing strategy and technique?

    • Levi Benkert

      I believe yes! We must seek the Lord on all things, and we must examine our hearts. It’s not guilt, or condemnation, but rather seeking to do his will. What do you think Angie?

      • I think when we bring definitive terms like “right” and “wrong” into assessing strategy and technique we set ourselves up to walk a very fine line.

        It is very easy to slip over into the side of pride and communicate to everyone around us that this is THE right way to, for example, help orphans. Which can quickly become a statement proclaiming to others YOUR method is WRONG. Wrong is a hairsbreadth away from a correlation to SIN. Which is automatically associated with guilt and condemnation. When in fact our original intention was to simply convince ourself that we have, as you say, sought the Lord sufficiently and discovered what the “right” way for ME to follow Him happens to be at this point in time.

        I believe that in seeking to do His will there is freedom for individual expression. Sin DOES exist. Yes. The bible clearly states that in a number of ways. The evidence of sin is clearly all around us. Yet, I do not believe that EVERY choice we make can be classified as “Sin” or “Not sin”, which in my mind translates to the moral arena of “Right” or “Wrong”.

        One of the most fascinating attributes of carrying the image and likeness of God is our ability to create. Do you think God whispered in Adam’s ear the specific name of each of the animals? Or was Adam’s will involved in that mandate? Do you think every note of Handel’s Messiah was penned under specific inspiration of the Holy Spirit guiding the hand? Or might there be room to assume that personality, talent, and just the whim of the composer played a part in the creation of that piece? And why can’t we bring these same thoughts into the world of missions?

        Yes, we seek the Lord. Yes, our motivations must lie on the foundation to doing His will. But I think it becomes an insult to the uniqueness God put in each one of us to enter into the tedium and finite thinking of evaluating EVERY decision on the scales of right and wrong. There IS a moral aspect to human existence that cannot be denied and must be respected. I do NOT think that missions strategy and technique can be measured ENTIRELY against a morality meter.

  • What a great question! And I think it is a good one to ask because as much as I would like to think… and hard as I work to try and not compare myself to others… or others to me… it is such a natural tendency that will not always be avoided. Thus this is a good issue for me to answer in my individual life as well as in my ministry.

    I DO think there is a right and a wrong – but it isn’t black and white.

    The right/wrong comes in living obediently to how God specifically directs me, my family, our team. The fact that it isn’t black and white comes in recognizing that God doesn’t seem to direct and organize cookie cutter lives, paths or ministries. Each one is as unique as the mix of individuals He brings together to do His work. And as I grow and change and hopefully become more like Him, as our team changes (by comings and goings or even family additions), why wouldn’t I expect God to direct some change in what His ministry through us looks like? In my heart, expecting things to remain the same usually indicates arrogance: I’ve got it all figured out, I know the formula and I can handle this stuff pretty much on my own with only token dependence on the Lord.

    Paul obviously experienced the gamut for he talks about being content in whatsoever state he was in. Let each each one give as he has determined in his heart, without sadness or constraint (a word that can have the idea of restricting and holding back… but just as equally being compelled, forced or pushed or pressured). Those are words to a song we often sing in our national church during the offering time… I wonder how often we think about those words, not just as it relates to financial giving, but to every imaginable sort of giving?

    Right now, we live in a more comfortable situation than we’ve ever experienced. I feel spoiled sometimes. But God clearly led us here for this time, this season, so I’m trying to choose to treasure and be thankful for this amazing gift in this moment. But we also sense Him clearly leading, perhaps to a physically much more challenging place, one that will, probably, include more “suffering” in the not too distant future.

    I also have to ask myself if maybe a struggle with our present position/level of “suffering” isn’t part of His way of trying to move me out of a comfortable place to one that will require more dependence on Him.

    • Levi Benkert

      I agree with you, God led us to this season as well. But it still feels strange!

    • Shannon Kelley

      Oh Richelle!! I love all of this! Thank you for this! I quoted you in my other comment, hope that is ok:) Seriously, you made me think and learn as I try to love and dive in to this time of our lives. Thank you.

      • Shannon, I’m so thankful for missos willing and willing to let God enable you to do what God has called you to do. Sounds like He’s leading you down a pretty amazing road!

    • In my first year on the field I sat in the home of an Embassy family with Richelle. I remember feeling so encouraged when, in the middle of a conversation similar to this one, Richelle said, “Running your air conditioner is NOT a sin!” I was struggling with the heat at that point. I was listening to the AMAZING misso women talk about NOT running their ACs. I was so encouraged to hear that if I turned mine on, it didn’t make me a bad missionary.

    • Rachel Swift

      Thank you for this. I completely agree with you.

  • Karina

    We have been told by certain locals in our community that if we as foreigners tried to live like the locals we would lose a lot of respect from them. They assume we have money because of our skin color–therefore if we didn’t hire staff (offer jobs to people that need them) and if we didn’t spend our money, hopefully stimulating the suffering economy here, we may also be contributing to an already suffering community. As locals, they will never see us foreigners as one of them. We just never will be. No matter how hard we try. We have a nice home, with nice things, and a nice garden. Sometimes it is difficult to navigate through feelings of “guilt” when we drive around the community littered with poverty and difficult situations, only to come home to the beauty in our home. But I think we have it, so we can share it. I have told this to our staff over and over again during the holidays. When we were able to bless them with gifts, we were able to tell them why. Nonetheless, a tough topic – no easy answers here. Perhaps there aren’t supposed to be? 🙂 Seek Him.

    • Levi Benkert

      Karina, I have heard the same thing several times. But I wonder if it is really true. What would a local feel if we were to live closer to their “level”, would they despise us? I am not sure…

  • Jamie Jo

    So much collective wisdom here, I don’t have much to add. One thought is that even when God might call you to live a simple, rustic life for the sake of the gospel, it’s nice to have other missionaries or ex-pats who are settled in nicer homes who will make you welcome. I’ve been on both ends – the no water, no amenities, struggling in the village position as a young newcomer to the field, and now the settled-in-my-own place as an older missionary, rustic by American standards, but certainly plush compared to so many others.

    If God allows us to be settled and have more “stuff” – then we must hold it all loosely and be willing to share what we have. I find that I am the owner/lender of things like the 40-cup coffee pot, the Igloo cooler, the table cloths, the large folding tables and chairs, etc. Someone has to own things that we all need. Others might condemn or criticize my choices, but I like to think that many are benefiting from what God has allowed me to accumulate over the past 20 years or so.

    I love Angie’s quote: “Must we invite the guilt and pride that comes from qualifying things as
    “wrong” or “right”, respectively, when assessing strategy and technique?” Well said.

    • Jamie Jo, this is so true. We need to own w/ open hands so we can lend to others in need or in want.

      • I agree completely with this. Hudson Taylor was known for assessing his belongings every six months and get rid of anything he did not use in that time span. He gave it away because someone could be using it instead of gathering dust in his possession.

  • Funny. My first experience oversees was living in a remote village without modern conveniences of any kind. Seems to be a trend on this thread. After that experience, I didn’t understand missionaries who lived with a higher style living. Sure I could picture having running water or electricity, but those who drove a nice car, lived in a nice house, watched TV, and ate at western restaurants I didn’t get. Now three and a half years later, I get it. Today I speak the language, I have lived without air condition for three and a half years, and sometimes the locals and their religion and their language just makes my skin craw. And I’ve seen that whether I live poor “like” them or live richer, that the locals will still beg me for handouts and still gossip about missionaries. And yet those who want ot love me will still love me no matter what. Just living without anything western from the sake of it doesn’t make sense anymore.

  • This is a wonderful conversation, I love reading the comments. Thanks for raising the issue Levi! Just to add a few thoughts – something we have to consider regarding how we live is what that choice would mean for our kids, particularly our daughters and that is specific to each country. Also, we consider our role as those responsible for other expat staff. Sometimes those without children can live places our kids wouldn’t be safe and those places really wear on our coworkers. So, at various times, it has been valuable to have a place they can ‘come out’ to, especially since there aren’t many locally available places they could get a rest. Another consideration we have is that we try to live at a standard similar to those in jobs similar to my husband’s. As a university professor, there are local expectations for how to live. That has been a useful guide. Also, and I will just come out and say it, we have to consider my sanity. I’m weak. This is the hottest country in the world. Life outside our walls is hard and beats me down every day. After ten years without a generator, of watching my kids do homework by candlelight, of not sleeping through the night and soaking through sheets, of being physically too exhausted from surviving to do anything more meaningful than lay on the cool(er) floor tiles, I put my foot down. It was leave or get a generator. We decided on the generator. I wish I were stronger. I wish I suffered with more joy and less complaining, that I was better at living like Jesus. I’m thankful for grace.

    I am yet another person who has lived on both ends of the spectrum and a last thought is that I think this is an issue that ebbs with the season of life. Like I said, considering kids, coworkers, finances, our capacities, etc. As those change, so do our thoughts on how to live.

    • Rachel, I really appreciated your transparency in this comment.

      So much of the time I feel like one of those weak, wimpy missionaries that can’t handle real misso life. I believe part of our struggle with these missionary lifestyle choices comes from looking at others and comparing ourselves as well as comparing ourselves to some missionary “ideal” we’d concocted of what we hoped we’d be like before we actually stepped foot in our places of ministry. Then when someone makes the comment “Oh, I could never do what you do, give up all you’ve given up, live without the way you do, etc…” while I might smile and make some comment about the Lord’s enabling and it might make me feel good for a second, it doesn’t last and it only feeds into that comparative mentality. Then I end up feeling like a hypocrite because I can always think of someone who’s sacrificed/suffered so much more than I have.

      For me, at least, it somewhat boils down to is am I trying to live up to the expectations I have for myself or that I’m convinced others have of me or am I trying to be obedient to my Lord? And then offering grace and encouragement and liberty for others to do the same, even (or especially) when what they are doing doesn’t look the same.

      It’s like walking a balance beam…

    • I agree with the view of choices made and the affect it would have on children. This definitely played into some decisions we made. Especially when those children will eventually grow up and move back to their first world country.

      • Interesting that the weight seems to be put on ‘the wives’ sometimes, and their struggles or sanity. I wonder why that is? Probably not true in all cases. But my guess is that it has to do with the home and the kids. I wouldn’t have struggled so much without electricity if I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night with scared, sweaty children who still had to go to school in the morning, or watch those same children to their homework by candlelight. And the home is what we often think of in this topic of living standard. But no one faults my husband or calls him a wimp for purchasing a reliable, air-conditioned car (for which I am so grateful)!

        • Wonder why it is that the standard of a missionary is automatically put at the lowest standard and yet the people sending that money, who have that opinion, don’t put themselves at that ‘lowest’ standard. A person gives to a homeless shelter yet they keep their standard of living themselves. They don’t go live as a homeless person just because they are ministering to the homeless by supporting them financially as a ministry. There are a few who feel called to live with/like the homeless to minister to them but do all who work with the homeless do that? No. But so often missionaries are expected to do just that.
          The amenities we utilize as we are on the field are just tools to get the job done. Would an airline mechanic go to work in North America here with just a hammer and a screwdriver? No. He keeps/uses the tools necessary for the job he is doing.
          I had a veteran christian missionary tell me that she tells her girls not to ever feel guilty for asking for good appliances for their kitchen (top of the line cookware, kitchenaid mixers, etc.) because they are tools necessary for the job they do. And don’t their husband’s have good tools out in the garage and don’t feel guilty about buying a good reliable brand?
          Our home is where we do our jobs so it makes sense that our home and the condition of it is of importance to us. We don’t fault pastors for having a good computer and a large library to assist them in their jobs do we? Those are tools they use to accomplish their jobs. They need a vehicle in good condition to visit their flock. We don’t require that they use public transportation to do it, do we?

    • I also completely agree with being honest about our ‘sanity’. If we had gone and lived in a squatters village I would not have made it a few weeks. (Being completely honest.) So often the “sanity” issue and depression issues are glossed over and the wives are seen as unspiritual if they have any struggles at all. I think Laura can vouch for my being totally transparent on this issue here on her blog. 🙂

  • I fall firmly on the “make things as comfortable as you can within reason”. I think some degree of comfort and ease and not having to find everything a struggle every day does free you up to focus outwards on the work and on others during this middle-season of your ministry time. I think the early struggles can indeed drive us closer to God, but I also think we wear out faster if we’re in “struggle” zone all the time. For everything there’s a season. This seems to be your middle season. A season of being relatively comfortable where you’re at, feeling like you know your way around, doing the work. The “giving it all up” and season of change and struggle will come again in time.

    • Aha, I see lots of others talking about seasons too (I didn’t read the other comments before I put mine down because I didn’t want to filter my first reaction this time around)

  • God convicts us each differently. Each stage of life and of ministry brings a different set of struggles. After being here almost 7 years, it is a struggle with having 2 children in our passport country. Not being able to easily communicate with them as internet is so much better than it was, but no where near desirable. My mother’s heart wants to know they are safe so I am leaning on HIM.

  • My first reaction before reading any of the comments below:

    Having been to a developing country (the southern Philippines) and lived there 6 years; We followed advice from several people to just bring everything with us. This included packing up everything we already owned into a 40 foot container and shipping it. We filled it with everything we had except appliances. Beds, mattresses, quite a bit of furniture from IKEA (because it was flat packed and fit into the container better that way) a kitchen table and its chairs, wardrobes, dressers, and chairs, desks, loveseat, and futon… everything. And all our junk too: books, stuff from the ‘junk drawer’ (you know you have one somewhere in your kitchen), unfinished cross stitch projects, art supplies, you name it we pretty much took it. The reasoning we were given was it is our home and why shouldn’t we feel at home in our home just as we would here in the states. We took the advice of missionaries who did it by taking nothing-they recommended taking it all in retrospect to what they did. My Aunt and Uncle had lived over seas for years and her view was to take it all with me because it is still “your home.” And why live like you are trying to deny that you are American/Canadian, etc.

    I am glad we took ‘most’ of it. I should have left the extra ‘stuff’ behind (half finished projects and junk) I would still take the furniture and kitchen utensils and decor- I did take stuff to decorate with and am very glad I did.

    Now all that said, I know many missionaries that are happy living with next to nothing. Going to the field with very little but clothes in a trunk.

    We found that we were more effective because we could come home and relax and let the stress of the day go a bit. We felt safe and sickness was kept to a minimum.

    As for seeming “more dependent on God” or more of a closeness to God… I get what you are saying now that I am living in the states again.

    However, as I began to type that last sentence my husband just gave another viewpoint; When you had cloudy water… what were you praying for? God blessed you by giving you the more modern things of the water heater to sanitize/wash dishes etc. God blessed you! He answered the prayer. Why would someone intentionally go with out/give it away when God provided it? We need to see God’s blessing because he has provided those things.

    If you are a foreigner you are automatically a target. Having a safer place to live is necessary. what good is a dead missionary? (meaning from a ‘normal robbing’ or having your house broken into not a from a ‘martyr’ standpoint of persecution because of your beliefs) If you can live in a safer neighborhood or have the dog to keep the compound you live in safe, why wouldn’t you?

    Having better shoes- protection of our feet = better health. A sick missionary stuck in bed -when it can easily be avoided- isn’t out sharing the gospel.

    Decent transportation to get you around makes more sense. Those you are working with would do it if God provided the means for them wouldn’t they?

    Many nationals expect the foreigner live different and it is almost condescending to them when they know you have the means to live better. THEY would if they could wouldn’t they?

    If you don’t feel at home in your house, there is never relief from stress of the culture being so different from our own. Continued stress leads to depression and burnout eventually.

    If God provides it and allows you to have it … why would you not put it to use?

    Something that I noticed in reading many missionary biographies is that many of them took what they had with them. William Carey didn’t go empty handed nor did he live in a hut. Neither did John Paton- even though he had to build his own house when he got there. He even took his KILT!! When there wasn’t clean water he dug himself a well because he knew if he wasn’t sick he was more effective.

    There are many differing view points on this and I don’t think any of them are particularly wrong or right. I think Romans 14 does speak to this issue. As does Colossians 2:18-23.

  • Gramps Curtis

    I believe it has something to do with Ditch Drinking…. really.

    I am not a missionary in the typical sense of the word. I’ve never been outside the US, so I know little
    of the sacrificing in body and spirit you are speaking of. But the Holy Spirit led my 72 yr old pacemaker-assisted heart to you this evening, as I asked God here in my southwest Ohio home for someone I could
    encourage. I am a retired computer programmer, but more importantly, I have been (still) a born again serving Christian for more than half a century. I am an author that provides at no cost, non-technical computer flavored resources (“tech trash”) for reaching youth, and involving the silver-haired generation to mentor them. You will
    see I joy in showing youth workers the computing principles in scripture (as promised by 2Tim 3:16,17). My website library is ChurchKids.org. Again, this is not some sort of a sales ploy. I am only introducing you to
    resources God has been preparing for your use for over 30 years (of my life). This is a singular comment I’ve not sent en-mass.

    I have no quick answers or polished pep talks for you, nor would I pretend to. I can only share my heart as
    you have done in this blogpost and others. While I have no ‘on-the-field’ credentials, please don’t shun my words.

    One of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from the scriptural accounts of God’s nation Israel, has to do with
    Ditch Drinking, beginning a little before 2Kings 3:16-27.

    While I can give you more detail of the event just saturated with lessons for you and I, I’ll be brief here.
    For part of the event, the Jews only knew about their thirst, digging their graves(they thought)(ditches) they hadn’t known about their enemy army watching them and their tiresome job of digging. But you see, God ALWAYS has blessings in our lives and future, more than we quickly see, that would certainly blow our mind.

    I have a thought. I wonder if you can get a glimpse of another of God’s blessings, not seen at your first
    glance. Take a close look into the eyes of one of your orphan children… deeply. It may be possible to see a reflection of yourself in them. Maybe your tedium is teaching one of God’s children how to fight not becoming weary in well-doing. While your daily agenda isn’t launching rockets, maybe it displays your greater value and thankfulness to God for the privilege of molding futures.

    I would like to continue writing to you, if you don’t think it’s boring.

    Jim ‘Gramps’ Curtis
    Hillsboro Ohio USA
    grampscurtis@gmail.com

  • grampscurtis

    I just ordered your book and know it will be a blessing and give me deeper insight to what a missionary is, when the lights go out.

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  • Right and wrong? No. The point of our suffering is the sanctification. As we sanctify, God will use us more. So we have to endure the suffering and God will bear the fruit through it.

    We also have to remember that God is as concerned with us as he is with those whom he is reaching through us. His goal for the lost Ethiopian is the same as his goal for you – to transform both of you into the image of his son (Rom 8:29).

  • Melissa Bjorgen

    Wow,
    what a great blog and some great questions. When John and I realized
    that were”suffering for suffering sake” our hearts changed. We were suffering in our circumstances just to say we were suffering. That’s not a right attitude. We changed the way we live in our remote village to help us have longevity here. What a careful and prayful balance it is! I have seen some women on here post about depression and I just want to put it out there that a few weeks ago I started a blog for women in ministry suffering from depression at http://www.joyunspeakable.wordpress.com. I am dealing with it myself and it is nice to have a support group.

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  • disqus_OhfcLJnmtz

    Sustainability. I am the young, single, male and I lived the last 3 years with not enough. I had a blast and served the Lord but also had an unhealthy degree of stress in my life. Yea, being dirt poor works for a while but I think it leads to burnout. There are people who want to give generously, who want to be involved with international missions but can’t go, who want to serve orphans in Haiti and plant churches in China. We should seek to involved them in God’s redemptive work rather than be miserable to feel more hardcore. Great post and great conversation.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOYCE

    Hey Levi, that is a question my wife, daughter, and I have wrestled with as all missionaries do. We have had the privilege of joining God in what He is doing in Tanzania (4 years) and in Recife, Brazil (4 years). We now live in Seoul, Korea and hope to be here a much longer time. I remember my missions professor shared with us that no foreigner expects a missionary to live like them; they would think you are crazy. But, his advice (and what we have learned from experience) is to live simply and to always ask the question: do locals feel welcome in my home? If people feel welcome and are frequently in your home, I do not think we even need to worry about how we are living, whether it is right or wrong, as long as people feel love and enjoy being with us, that is all that matters. CHRIS

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