I wrote this ‘letter’ when I first arrived on the field and found myself trying to navigate all the different opinions around me. It’s completely tongue-in-cheek. Well, maybe not completely 😉
It’s pretty clear you’re doing this all wrong.
You missionaries living in guarded compounds, you’re obviously not really invested in your community. You alienate your neighbours with barbedwire topped fences.
You missionaries living in houses and apartments in local neighbourhoods, you are risking the safety and well-being of your family. Thank God for those missionaries in that guarded compound nearby that welcome you with open arms and shelter you in times of trouble.
You who buy imported western food; don’t you know how important food is to a culture and that by avoiding it you are avoiding connecting with your host culture?
You who buy food from the local market and street vendors, don’t complain when you get typhoid or amoebic dysentery. It’s your own fault. You know how unsanitary all that is.
You who use cars and drive everywhere you go, how will you ever become part of your community if your neighbours only see you coming and going through tinted windows?
You who walk or bicycle everywhere, your community is embarrassed to have the only missionary without a car. If you had a vehicle you could use it to better help the community.
To the missionary full-on embracing your new culture and abandoning your own, you’re “going tribal” and that’s a pretty foolish thing to do. You’re headed towards a cultural identity crisis.
To the missionary clinging tightly to your home culture, opening up those clenched fists won’t make you un-American or whatever. You’re alienating yourself by not loosening up.
You who go on furlough every summer are basically telling the people you serve that your vacation is more important than pastoring that young congregation, translating scripture, or helping the suffering community through that health crisis. Your actions don’t match your message.
You who wait years and years before taking a few months away are going to have a nervous breakdown. Missionary burnout is well documented and you jeopardize the long term work.
To the missionaries who own modern appliances, what a frivolous waste of donations. You should be living at the same standard as the people you serve.
To the missionaries without modern appliances, you are frivolously wasting time doing things the hard way when you could be spending that time ministering instead.
You who attend language school, you are probably substituting a classroom for relationships within your community.
You who learn language on your neighbourhood streets, your approach takes forever and if you just went to a school it would be a much more efficient use of time. You could get to actually ministry sooner.
You who attend the expat church on Sundays, think about the message you are sending to the local Christians. It might not be with words, but with your actions you’re saying there’s something wrong with their churches.
You who attend the local church are neglecting worshipping in your own language and culture. You hypocritically insist the local Christians should worship authentically in their own cultural way, but you don’t do it yourself.
To the missionaries who send their teenagers off to boarding school, you are risking the emotional health of your kids when they are already at their most vulnerable ages.
To the missionaries who home school their teenagers, you alienate them from all their friends who have all gone off to boarding school and you’re risking your child’s academic development.
You who pastor and translate and evangelize but don’t include seeking justice and meeting physical needs because that’s just not your ministry, aren’t ushering in God’s Kingdom here on earth.
You who spend all your time doctoring and building clinics and teaching new farming methods are forsaking the gospel and might as well just be humanitarian workers. There are more important and eternal things at stake.
You who hire house helpers, gardeners, and cooks should be ashamed of your colonial attitude.
You who do it all yourself without house helpers, gardeners, and cooks, are pretty selfish and stingy for not providing employment when you clearly have the funds to do so.
To the missionary already decades in the field, your methods and mind-set are outdated.
To the brand new missionary, you haven’t been here long enough to understand the complex layers of this culture and in your zeal you’re making some really stupid and damaging mistakes.
Hope this helps and you feel suitably convicted.
Thanks and yours truly,
Judgmental, but totally righteous, Missionary Me