In the Face of Deep Disappointment

“Men and women enter ministry for various reasons.  ‘Because I want to be a deep disappointment to others as well as to myself’ is rarely listed among them.”

~ Jeff Manion The Land Between

Why are you, as an international worker, doing what you are doing?

And do you feel as though you are accomplishing what you’ve set out to do? Or do you fear you are not only disappointing yourself, but others as well? Why?

I first read that Manion quote a few weekends ago. It isn’t even a key point in the book. but somehow reading it felt like blowing a tire (which we recently did… twice) on our Land Cruiser – and now I’m working to get that tire fixed and changed so I can move on.

Actually, I started reading this book several months back, but I got distracted and my enthusiasm petered out partway. So I set it aside and promptly forgot about it. Then a few weeks ago, my husband and I were having a “discussion-” tensions are running high and people are a little on edge in our corner of the globe these days- and? It tends to show. Tim asked me what I was reading to both encourage and exhort. Not really wanting to answer his question, I tossed the Manion book vaguely (but gently) in his direction, implying that I was… That was not exactly truthful, for I hadn’t actually opened the book for a couple of months. It wasn’t, technically, a lie, because I had started and not yet finished it and it WAS STILL on the table beside my bed, available for me to pick up and resume reading any day…

I still felt guilty.

So that week I picked it up again – this time determined to finish it, hopefully be encouraged and exhorted… and promptly lurched over that quote.

How much of your time  – as an international worker, parent of TCKs, home schooler, language learner, church planter, disciple, translator, expat spouse, blogger/writer, people rescuer, gopher, fund raiser, friend,  awareness trainer, child of aging parents far away, Jesus follower… place whatever label you want on any of the many things that you do and hats that you wear – do you spend feeling like you’ve not measured up, not done enough, caused more harm than good or failed God, others and yourself, all of whom expected, all of whom deserved, so much more of and from you?

When I first stepped foot on this continent, like most fresh-out-of-the-gate missionaries, I was gung ho and sure:  God was going to use me for great things. I was available, good at what I did and I had no doubt I’d really impact people in this community as I lived serving Him and loving others. The icing on the cake would be that we’d look like that cool missionary family who always at least seemed to have it mostly all together.

That illusion lasted all of about 8.3 days.

And actually, lately, I’m acutely aware of how I rarely ever EVER measure up…

  • in the eyes of my local friends and colleagues – to some impossibly perfect and totally hypothetical missionary created from memories of someone here before me… a “mythological” Gladys Aylward, Isabel Crawford, Mother Theresa and Helen Roseveare all rolled into one;
  • in my eyes – to my own preconceived ideas of who I’d be, how I’d act and how much I’d be able to accomplish and how quickly and efficiently I’d get it done; or
  • in the eyes of family, friends and partners back home – to some image I’ve tried to carefully craft so that others would be impressed and therefore want to continue teaming up with us.

Whether it be in service, in time available, in ministry, in language or in how I relate to the person standing beside me that moment, I  often wonder if I’m not just falling short of some impossible standard I’ve set for myself, I’m also disappointing others.

Such disappointment deflates because:

  1. I do care what others think. I do want people to be happy with me. I like it when others label me “competent,” and just maybe, they are the tiniest bit impressed, with me or my family or my ministry.
  2. Recognizing number one above spotlights clearly that I’m still wrapped in concern for my own reputation and how I present myself to others…

And maybe that’s the point.

I need to stop worrying and striving to portray an image of me that I want people to believe and remember

…so that I am completely available to “put on” Jesus and more truly represent Him,

after all, don’t I want people to believe and remember Him?

I adjust my perspective.

I admit that apart from God I am inadequate for the task.

I stop worrying about what other people think of me.

Instead, I begin to concentrate on obedience and what God thinks of me.


As an international worker, how do you combat discouragement and the fear of disappointing those with whom you work and those to whom you minister? 

Do you feel as though you are accomplishing what you set out to do? Or do you fear you are not only disappointing yourself, but others as well? Why?

– Richelle Wright, missionary in Niger, W. Africa

blog:   Our Wright-ing Pad    ministry:   Wright’s Broadcasting Truth to Niger     facebook:  Richelle Wright

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Richelle Wright

Disciple of Jesus, lover of God's Word, wife to one great guy, and mama of eight, Richelle has spent the past 13 years in Niger, West Africa. She and her family are currently in the throes of transition as they begin life and ministry (teaching, audio-visual production) in the Canadian province of Québec. ||

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