10 Things I Love About Being a Missionary

My Dream Life

I used to want to raise a tribe of kids on a big farm. (I know nothing about farming, but hear me out.) I thought I’d can peaches, attend church ice cream socials, and push my kids on tire swings. I thought life would be slow and sturdy as oaks growing by duck ponds.

Instead, I have made our home in cities during protests and dusty villages during droughts. I’ve lived in places with weird ice cream flavors and no churches, places where canning jars are unheard of and peaches are expensive. Instead of growing like sturdy oaks, my children grow like palm trees, flexible and accustomed to extreme and unpredictable weather. 

The funny thing is, even though it’s nothing like I dreamed or planned, I kind of like this life that God picked out for me.

Amy Medina once posed this question: “Missionaries are supposed to suffer… So Am I Allowed to Buy an Air Conditioner?” Lately I’ve been asking myself a similar question. Missionaries are supposed to suffer… So am I allowed to enjoy being a missionary? Can I like it? Love it?

Today I want to celebrate my crazy, unique, difficult, rewarding job. The missionary calling opens up so many opportunities for both blessings and challenges. Here are ten things I love about this life. 

Even Though…

10. Even though it can be hard when things change so frequently, I find the constant need to problem-solve mentally stimulating. My brain loves variety and learning new things, and in this job, I get both.

9. Even though it takes a lot of time to fundraise, I like leading our prayer support team, helping them to understand our host culture and to know how to pray for them. I love that I get to help others be a part of what we’re doing.

8. Even though parenting overseas sometimes feels as complex as sending someone to the moon, complete with the scary-looking math diagrams, I love that my kids get to grow up in a multicultural environment and learn a language other than English. I also cherish being the main one to shepherd them as they deal with various TCK challenges.

7. Even though flying in airplanes scares me, and we have to fly a lot, I love that plane tickets to neighboring countries are relatively cheap, so we can visit some of the places we read about in books.

6. Even though I’m an introvert, I like that this job pushes me outside my safe bubble. I love that I’ve met so many amazing people. I love that I am consistently required to look outside myself and understand those whose experiences and thoughts are different from mine.

5. Even though I always miss someone, I love that being highly mobile reminds me to cherish the moments I have with people. Interactions are all the more precious, and I am often reminded that it’s important to be mindful and present.

4. Even though being together a lot as a couple can drive us crazy sometimes, it’s also one of my favorite things about this job. Sometimes it feels like my husband and I have squeezed 30 years of marriage into 16, just by sheer hours spent together. Most of the time, that’s a good thing. Practice makes better!

3. Even though it’s hard when people come and go, I love getting to meet other missionaries. None of us is perfect, but so many of those we meet are trying their best to grow in loving and obeying Jesus, and they inspire me.

2. Even though I sometimes have to do things that I don’t feel like doing, I love seeing what God does with my bumbling, imperfect, hesitant obedience. I like knowing that He has a plan, and that I might actually get to play a tiny little part in that plan. I sometimes feel like I’m a smudge in a giant masterpiece He’s painting, and that thought both inspires me and helps me not take myself too seriously.

And the #1 Reason I Love Being a Missionary…

One of my favorite Bible passages is Isaiah 53, where the prophet Isaiah tells of the suffering of the coming Messiah. Verse 11 has been especially meaningful to me over the years. Here it is in the New Living Translation:

“When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.”

Perhaps, if Jesus were to make a list like mine, He would say, “Even though I had to be betrayed, to suffer physical and mental anguish, to bear the sin of the world and be separated from my Father, even though I was betrayed by my friend, even though I had to be tortured on a cross and die, I love that I get to spend eternity with the human beings I created. I love that I get to redeem people. I love that I get to transform pain into blessings, and ashes into beauty. I love doing miracles. I love loving people. I love changing the world.”

When Jesus sees the result of his suffering, He is satisfied. He loves what He does. He loves to take a vacant lot and fill it with treasure, a desert and fill it with flowers, a person like me and fill her with faith.

So, the number one reason why I love my job? Because I love watching what Jesus does with brokenness, and hardship, and difficulty, and doubt. I love being a coworker with Christ. Yes, some days it’s crazy hard. But being a part of something bigger than myself is an experience I wouldn’t trade–not even for canned peaches and ice cream.

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Abigail Follows

Abigail Follows has lived on three continents and understood the life stories of friends in three languages. She has served as a missionary since 2010, alongside her husband, two energetic kids, and cat, Protagonist. You can read more from her at Whatsoever Thoughts, or check out her book, Hidden Song of the Himalayas.

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