Awkward Missionary

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

After you are away from your home culture for 6 years you start to acquire some strange personality quirks...

Isolation. Even though we live in a large city there are times here of extreme isolation. It could be also because I am a mom of small children and that keeps me at home, but there are times when everyone is traveling, your husband is working like crazy and all you have for company is your littles. Though their cuddles help make it through the day. 
Because of this sometimes the craving of an understanding ear is so desperate that when you finally get one, you rattle on and on for a few hours until your visitors awkwardly excuse themselves to go home and you realize you didn't ask them any questions about themselves! 

Polly want a conversation?!
"Where are you from?" Seems like a pretty quick harmless question. But when you have been an expat for a while it can cause an awkward stutter as the person decides what the appropriate response is depending on the context. This is an even harder question for missionary kids to answer; one day this will be my own kids figuring out how to answer. This is what usually goes through an MKs head... 'Are they asking my nationality, cause that's ... Or where I am currently living which is ... Or are they asking where I grew up which is ... Or do they want to know where we usually go back to on furlough...' 
What we know is a normal question in our 'home' culture, makes a missionary / kid seem just a bit awkward.

Goodbyes. You get really good at saying goodbye, but you weigh the effort of making new friends when you know they will just turn around and leave in 6 months - 2 years. We have 3 really good friends that will be heading out from Congo in the next few months. I am so happy for what the next stages of their lives are going to look like but the gap they will leave and the thought of filling it is just plain exhausting... So if you meet a missionary that seems a bit standoff ish they may be evaluating their emotional reserves and seeing if they have enough to get to know you better.

Saying goodbye to the Burtons just a few short months ago

Compassion Fatigue. Life in Congo is hard for no one more more then the Congolese. Life for a Congolese in Kinshasa is hard. People move from the villages to Kinshasa for work and to get away from rebel groups, but there is less work and life in way more expensive. There are just so many needs. We are often getting asked for way more then we can afford. But we do our best to balance our giving so we can give to those in need and not just those that are taking advantage of the system. But some times it get tiring; and where before there was compassion and mercy in our heart, judgement and bitterness takes root. One month we give out significant school debt to our guards so they can send their kids to school and lament about how we have to stretch thin for the month. One guard hasn't been able to come to work because his wife is constantly ill and I give the rest of my grocery money for that. I lament about having to stretch thin my meals for guests. I judge someone for the nice cloths they wear as they ask for money and wonder why they didn't use that money better instead of having to ask for more money now. 

God snaps me back to reality. 
His reality of compassion, mercy, and Love. 

I stand in my kitchen as my guard thanks me for helping him pay for extra medical care for his wife. I encourage him because I know taking care of someone with mental illness is hard and against the norm in this culture and he says to me. "No, thank you so much because you know... 
I really love my wife"

Ugh. My heart drops down to my stomach, my judgements and laments of my own problems wash away. 

He goes on to tell me that he was sick years ago and she was at his bedside making sure that he would get better and now it's his turn. He says "when she is well, and thinking straight; we are just so happy. She is a good wife, I don't want another. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to take care of her."

I am humbled. "But many who will be first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Matthew 19:30

My guard, doesn't have much, but I have never seen any one so content with what they have. He doesn't judge me but rejoices in our successes and loves my children as his own. I have everything, and am not often enough content. 

One day when I get to heaven, I expect and will rejoice to see my guard as first beside Jesus because I have every confidence he will be and you know what, I will be happy to come in last. 

So I may be awkward, and not have it all figured out, but that's a small price to pay to be used (and corrected) right where God wants me. 


  1. Wow.....tears are running down my face. Thanks for sharing. Does not matter who we are we all have something. By helping others our something does not seam so bad....Thanks for the reminder.

    Ephesians 3:19-21

    You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God.

    Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory belongs to God in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time and eternity! Amen.